Parents still spank childrenI thought spanking children went out with leaving toddlers in strollers outside grocery stores while parents went in to shop — which is to say sometime in the 1960s or 70s.
By: Bonnie Erbe, The Dickinson Press
I thought spanking children went out with leaving toddlers in strollers outside grocery stores while parents went in to shop — which is to say sometime in the 1960s or 70s.
Yes, to those incredulous members of the millennium generation, once upon a time cities were safe enough that parents really used to do that in America! I remember shock jock Howard Stern talking about how his mother used to do that with him as a child. I even remember my friends’ mothers leaving their children in strollers outside, while they shopped inside the five-n-dime in the Bronx where I spent a small part of my early childhood.
But just as times have changed so parents can’t leave toddlers outside the store while they go inside, we have also learned that violent punishment is no longer acceptable, beneficial or excusable. And yet, a new study produced by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that more than half of mothers admit to spanking their kids:
The news gets worse: “Of 2,500 moms surveyed about spanking, more than half — 54 percent — admitted to spanking their child at least once or twice in the past month. The researchers then asked the participants questions about their child’s aggressive behavior — including bullying, or mean, destructive behavior — when the children were 3 and again at 5 years old. Those who had spanked their toddlers had more aggressive children by the age of 5 — the children were more likely to argue, fight, destroy things and bully others.”
Why isn’t it obvious to parents by now (not just mothers, but fathers, too) that violence begets violence? It’s really not rocket science. Just as young children who watch parents engage in domestic violence are more likely to become abusers or to enter abusive relationships, children who are slapped, kicked, punched or otherwise physically abused are more likely to engage in abusive behavior later in life. The APA survey found more than half of mothers admitting to spanking their kids, while another source notes that surveys find as many as 90 percent of parents admit to spanking their child(ren).
My father was a first-generation American whose parents came from Eastern Europe and whose father became a Cuban citizen before finally gaining entrance to the United States. My father described to me how, as a child growing up in Brooklyn, his father used to whip him with a cat-o’-nine-tails for some transgressions which were never explained to him. He was also whipped when he was unaware he had done anything wrong. He said in his neighborhood in the 1940s, every immigrant family had a cat-o’-nine-tails in the living room and they were used often.
Just as we have recognized that level of brutality for what it is — unnecessary and actually counterproductive cruelty — I had hoped by now that spanking had gone the way of the whip. But if someone asked me to guess how many parents still spank or beat their children (and I don’t think there’s much of a difference between the two) I would have guessed 180 degrees in the wrong direction. I would have guessed 90 percent don’t spank and 10 percent do.
I hope the media promulgate this study’s message far and wide, especially in outlets frequented by less-educated Americans. The message needs to get out: if everyone stops spanking children, we’ll all enjoy a much less violent existence.
— Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail her at bonnieerbe@CompuServe.com.