This post was first published on Vie de Cirque in 2015. I am reposting it in light of the recent policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending that parents avoid corporal punishment to manage challenging behaviour.
A Facebook Friend (who is also a blog reader, hi!!) recently posted the meme above on her timeline.
As a result of spanking or in spite of it?
Hitting children is not new and the world has kept on turning, I’ll concede the point. But I always get a chuckle when people claim that despite something “they turned out all right”. From politicians to policy-makers, business and community leaders, from the smallest to the largest units, people “who turned out fine” are having the babies, making the decisions and overall having a direct impact on the world we live in.
The numbers are in and can we really pretend that “we turned out all right”? Whether you lean left or right, it’s hard to argue that everything is all right with the world today. As a society, we’ve been unwilling to care enough about the consequences of our purchase decisions to pay for their actual cost. From environmental degradation to sweatshops, if our wallets are happy, we’re content to let “others” live with the consequences of our actions. We have a hiccup of remorse when tragedies like the Rana Plaza put us in front of our lifestyle choices but not enough to change anything. That would require sacrifice. And sacrifice is hard, especially when it involves others. We like the kind of sacrifice that get us ahead somehow. Like saving money, or going to school. Paying $200 for a pair of ethically sourced shoes? What’s in it for me?
Any minute increase in the price of gas or electricity sends us writing to our MPs. Heaven forbids we should pay the actual cost of our endless thirst for energy. We want the SUV and the soaring two-story windows in a sub-polar climate, how are we supposed to have this without energy subsidies? We subsidize the rich and the poor equally in the name of an infantile understanding of fairness. We hate to pay taxes, yet expect Cadillac entitlements on a K-car budget. Let the others pay the taxes. We shake our heads in contempt at governments’ willful blindness on debt, deficits and quantitative easing, yet we run our personal spreadsheets according to similar principles. We vocally take financial institutions to task for raking-in record-breaking profits while doing the same thing with our personal money. Let them share the banks’ obscene profits but not those of our favorite sports and entertainment personalities. We elect tax-cutting governments, then turn around and require social services. We suffer from a collective inability to be consistent with our political and economic beliefs. It’s all about me: my money, my entitlements, my job, my lifestyle, my stuff. We lean left when the State giveth and right when the State taketh away. We are unable to see that our day-to-day decision-making reflects that of the world leaders and financial planners we so adamantly denounce for their self-serving ways.
We were spanked as children and turned out all right, yet incidences of mental illness and addictive behaviours are soaring, not only amongst ourselves but in our children as well. Schoolyard bullies and victims grow into workplace bullies and victims. We profess zero-tolerance as harassment and belittling reduce our neighbours and colleagues to rubble. We reach deep into our reserves of righteous indignation when a child dies at her own hands but we look the other way when the hazing happens in our own backyard. How many parents of bullies were spanked as children and turned out all right? How many bullies have grown out of attachment voids passed down generations? Meanwhile, social and medical academic literature has been linking addictive behaviours to unmet attachment needs since the ’70s and we keep spewing nonsense about “turning out fine.”
We are not fine. Our marriages are not fine. We are unable to put others’ well-being before our own, even when research consistently shows that children are wounded even by the most amiable of family breakdowns. Whenever someone declares that they were spanked as children “and turned out fine” I always want to start a game of 20 questions: oh yeah? How’s your relationship with your teenagers? How many relationships have you left? How’s your relationship with your boss? Your colleagues? Authority? Your faith? Are you still with your spouse? Is it possible that the voids in your life might have been left by unmet attachment needs? Would you entertain the idea that being hit by your parents might have had an influence on your inability to persevere through challenges or — the opposite — to leave abusive relationships?
We suffer from that psychological condition known as “respect for others” which causes us to share heartwarming viral stories about disabled people beating all the odds while we terminate our disabled pregnancies in ever-increasing numbers. With the growth of prenatal diagnosis and the expectation that “the government” will take care of our medical needs, the primary care of physically and mentally disabled people has become a matter of choice. We call ourselves tolerant, fighters, believers. But when our turn comes to rise above, accept difference and take a chance at love when love is scary, we refuse. Today, 9 out of 10 pregnancies of children affected by Down Syndrome are terminated. The psychological condition known as “respect for others” doesn’t extend to our own children, which we are not quite ready to love unconditionally. We tolerate difference only in the most limited sense of the term: to allow the existence of something that we do not necessarily like or agree with. We celebrate difference on the outside but on the inside, we believe that the disabled life is not worth living.
In a recent ad for a radio segment on Alzheimer’s disease, the announcer declared: “Alzheimer’s: first it robs you of your memories, then of your physical abilities, and eventually of your dignity…” Your dignity, really? Doesn’t our dignity come from being human or does frailty rob us of that too? Is the indignity of the aged and the ill such an accepted fact that we no longer pretend to respect them? Our psychological condition known as ‘respect for other’ is an exclusive club where the “other” worth respecting is young, healthy and suitably well-off. The poor and the downtrodden need not apply: we’re so full of “respect”, we no longer have room for compassion.
So stop with the memes already and go hug your kids. Your parents’ smacks are not genetic, you don’t have to pass them down a generation. Let’s see if love can build a better world than spanks have.