Friday, July 6, 2012

It may be time to rethink spanking our children

Prior to the nineteenth century, it was permissible and expected for a husband to “physically correct” his wife.  Men were the head of the household, and many beliefs (including some interpretations of Christianity) believed it okay for a man to lay his hands on his spouse.  As with other despicable acts, many supporters of “domestic discipline” used the Bible to justify their actions, specifically those verses that focus in on the various roles between a man and a woman. Ephesians 5:22-24 says:

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands."

Many Christian scholars and representatives say that men who use Ephesians 5:22 to justify their behavior are taking the Bible out of context and should love their wives as they love themselves.  However, there are some out there who still believe that it is the man’s duty and right to correct their spouse, like the Christian Domestic Discipline (CDD).  The CDD even goes so far as to explain when and how to “correct” the Christian woman:

Rebuke and Lash.  This is the harshest discipline a husband should administer, and it should always be done privately and with Godly, Biblical love.  Usually, exhortation will have already taken place before this method is used, but there may come situations where this is the first step.  The rebuke and lashing should be administered with a calm heart.  Talk to your wife, let her know you are serious, and tell her why she is to be disciplined physically.

The website goes on to explain how to “administer physical discipline” explaining how to place the woman, where to strike, and what to use (i.e. hand or strap).  

Of course, the CDD is an outlier.  Starting in 1850 when Tennessee became the first state to outlaw domestic spanking, the rest soon followed.  Popular opinion on this issue changed.  This led to political changes.  Today, domestic spanking no longer exists.  Any form of physical contact is correctly called Domestic Violence, or ABUSE.  

There have been many advancements made in the areas of Domestic Violence.  We know that this type of behavior not only has physical consequences, but mental as well.  Victims of domestic violence can suffer from stress, fear, anxiety, depression, various panic disorders and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Victims of Domestic Violence are at a higher risk of committing suicide.  

I think we all can agree that Domestic Violence is a terrible thing and thanks to scientific advancements and change of opinions we have a better understanding of the effects of physical abuse.  Gone are the days of one human being physically correcting another human being… unless of course you are a child. 

While public opinion changed men beating their wives, the public hasn’t quite caught up to changing how children are disciplined.  

Like spousal discipline just over a century earlier, many parents (especially Black parents) correct their child’s behavior by using physical contact.  And, just like spousal discipline, many proponents use the Bible as justification.  While “spare the rod, spoil the child” isn’t in the Bible, it’s roots begin in scripture: 

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Proverbs 13:24
 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

Now studies are showing that the same physical and mental issues that come from domestic violence are showing up in children that have gone through physical discipline.  A new study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that a child who is spanked, slapped, grabbed or shoved as a form of punishment runs a higher risk of becoming an adult who suffers from a wide range of mental and personality disorders. Physical punishment, short of physical or sexual abuse, psychiatric disorders include: depression, anxiety disorders, mania and drug or alcohol dependence, paranoia, antisocial behavior, emotional dependency and narcissism.  Because there are many other environmental issues that can lead to mental disorders, the study checked and found that there was still an increase in mental disorders even in families where no dysfunction or parental mental illness is evident.  

The parallels between spousal discipline and child discipline are remarkable.  Both used physical contact to “correct” unwanted behavior, both have used the Bible for justification, and both lead to physical and mental disorders.  Yet we’ve evolved to acknowledge one as domestic violence.  The other, well, that conversation never occurs because we would never want to tell another parent how to raise his or her own child.  

Study after study has shown the impact of hitting children.  Yet, we seem to be shackled by “it happened to me” or “it’s not the same as domestic violence because they are children.”  If we are being honest, there really isn’t an excuse for hitting a child that wasn’t used (or couldn’t have been used) to justify hitting a woman.  If it isn’t acceptable to hit a woman, how can we justify hitting a child?  Let’s be clear: I am NOT talking about forgoing discipline, I’m asking the question: “why isn’t corporal punishment a form of domestic violence?”  Yes, I believe there is an extremely fine line between child abuse and corporal punishment, however, we’ve erased that line when it comes to domestic violence, shouldn’t we reexamine our position on spanking children?  

The evidence is there.  We’ve corrected our wrong behaviors in the past.  Do we have the courage to do it again?  We have to unlearn what we’ve learned.  You substitute spouse for child and what is the difference between the old laws of the 19th century and today? 
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