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Some Thoughts on Spanking

I am thankful to have raised two very fine human beings, now in their thirties, under sometimes adverse conditions of low income, others attempting to interfere in my parenting methods, and my own very brutal upbringing, without resorting to any kind of physical punishment. In fact while doing my parenting with my own two children I discovered that the less punishment of any kind used and the more patient, loving teaching I used, the better their behavior and the more attached to me and empathetic toward others they became.

A parent has an interesting and often conflicting duty: keep the child safe, but paradoxically let the child explore the very challenging, often dangerous world around them. If I distract the child by making myself part of the danger I am not going to be a very effective teacher, guide and protector of my child. If I teach my child that the world, and parents or adult caregivers are dangerous people then I teach my child that being dangerous yourself is a way to survive. Or, and most sadly, I will teach the child that passivity and compliance are all one has to survive with. The child either grows up being me or in reaction to me. In either case I have crippled and limited my child no matter how wonderfully obedient he or she may seem.

We will get the world we believe in, and if we believe that children must submit to harsh authority and that they are basically evil and must be controlled then we will get a world of people who behave as though this is true. Where families raise their children with love and gentleness and do not call them names and yell at them, where they are not slapped, pinched, punched and whipped, we have children who are confident in their ability to manage in a world they see as full of exciting choices and fulfilling experiences.

Any thoughtful person looking at the belief systems of those in prison or in our mental or social services programs gets the point. Our prisons are full of those who believe that to be dangerous is how to survive in the world. And our mental health and human service systems are full of those who have only passivity and compliance as their coping method. Researchers have given up on trying to find violent offenders in prisons who were not spanked or beaten or punished as children. If you are a parent who spanks think about how you were raised and what you may be visiting on this child you beat that they will do to theirs and theirs to theirs. It is a harsh legacy that, I have come to believe, will destroy our planet in time.

It is the child who is raised with love and attention who I expect will view the world assertively, with courage and thoughtful examination of the universe on their own who I want to govern in my place when their turn comes around.

Personal note by the author:

At 63 I have lived a life that moved inexorably toward protecting children. From a violently abused child to a protector of children and a parent who refused to use physical discipline with his own children seems in retrospect a natural and logical progression.

I have worked with emotionally ill teenagers, taught parenting and taught pre-service training to foster and adoptive families. The issues of loving attachment and healing discipline are central to my teaching. My own children are in their thirties and still my babies in my mind, kind, loving, interesting and adventurous people who have faced their own hardships and come through in ways I have to admire. The only credit I can take is that they did not have to look over their shoulders in fear as they tended to their childhood development.

As I come to retirement my intention is to turn my focus to more effective ways outside the state sphere of influence to persuade parents and other givers of care to children not to do to them what was done to me. I barely escaped and had it not been for all the other caregivers who loved me the one who beat me could have caused, through me, terrible harm to others. All my work is dedicated to Emma and Harry, who loved and protected me. And for them and the children who can't escape I have to do this work.

I maintain a website for the state listing adoptable children of minority origin, and a website for my wife Ann about homeschooling, as well as a website for our local foster parent association.

See also: Northwest Adoption Exchange

Copyright 1998 Don Fisher.