Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Neighbor Spanks Her Child

So we don't live in the best area in the world. Not even the best area in North-West Baltimore. This might be all the background you need to guess our neighbors' 2-year-old gets spanked a lot. A recent study showed a link between spanking and lower IQ, but really, there's a chicken-and-egg issue here. To be the kind of parent that spanks, you're probably not the kind of parent that spends too much time helping with homework later.

And my 22-months-old son, 6-months-younger than his neighbor, is in love. He doesn't care that she pushes him away, and he doesn't care that her hair smells like cigarettes, and he doesn't care that her mom is a heroin addict. And neither do I.

But when the girl is asked by her mom to share a toy with my son, but refuses, she gets spanked. When she pushes my son out of her way, she gets spanked. When she stands too close to the road, she gets spanked.

And I'm not talking about child abuse here. None of the spanking is done with anger, but none of it helps the girl learn either. And I don't want any of it near my son.

It's not an easy situation to start avoiding my neighbor and to stop my son from running around with his friend, but I can't deal with it anymore.


  1. We too don't believe that spanking is a necessary way to discipline. We recently ran into a similar situation with some friends. Our daughters reaction was of surprise and awe that she saw her friend get spanked. I think it can teach some kids that you shouldn't do something because of fear, rather than because of consequences. -Jason

  2. I recently saw a post on a board I belong to about spanking, and a mom said she spanks her one year old because the child is too young to understand other forms of discipline. And I don't follow the logic. If your kid can't comprehend that you took the toy away because he threw it, is he going to comprehend why you just beat his ass?

    My H and I were both spanked as kids, and while I don't really remember it and don't really care, my H feels resentful to this day. Not because it hurt all that bad or anything, but because he felt like his parents should have been above that.

  3. I do have to disagree with you-that parents that spank are also the types not to sit and help with homework-that's such a judgmental comment-one far from the truth.

    Spanking is such a tough topic-one that should be decided upon by the parent(s) within the home. Not the gov't, doctor, neighbor, friend. Unfortunately, no matter where you go, or rather, where your son goes, you, as his elder eyes, will always witness something that you don't want him seeing. Unfortunately, you can't shelter him-unless you want to homeschool him, and never have any playdates without extensive background searches as well as numerous questionaires..
    As parents we see things every day that we don't want our kids to see. What's funny is every parent feels that way-even the ones that are doing the spanking.

    You're right to monitor what your son is subjected to-just like I'm sure you don't let him watch tv (because of the studies) eat fast food (because of the studies) and so on..

    So instead of worrying about crushing your sons first love, by not hanging around her anymore, do your best to keep him away from this tot's mom. After all, he's just a toddler, he won't even remember her in 5years.

  4. What would upset me more, is if a parent doesn't react at all to their child hitting-pushing-biting, mine.

  5. I was not knowing this relation of IQ and spanking... thanks for that..
    but dont understand still that how it is affected...

  6. Jason, I think it also teaches them hitting is a form of communication. As soon as we got home and my baby got angry over something, he turned to hit me.

    MommyK, I know I was spanked/hit but I don't remember it, yet I still resent it to the point where I think about it every time I see my parents. I also remember being yelled at a lot, which for a child is pretty much the same (even though the idea of it doesn't concern me as much as spanking because there's less room for a parent's subconscious violence to come up). It could be subconscious violent tendency (my grandpa was a little too quick with his belt, for example), but it could be just not realizing that there's no point to hitting. I believe my neighbors think they're doing the right thing simply because they don't know any other way.

    Crystybeef, I guess every generalization is inherently wrong. And like I said, I think this study is wrong because it's a chicken-and-egg thing. You can't hit the genius out of your child (I think Stephen Colbert referred to this study in these words), but on the other hand, using spanking as a form of discipline shows a lack of imagination at best and violent tendencies at worst. My guess is that most parents who hit their children are not violent. Most can't realize a baby who gets spanked when he's about to get off the sidewalk is not less likely to try again than the one who was held and told not to do it again. And you're right. My boy will see some terrible things in his life, and spanking is not the worst thing he'll see even this week. But I also think being exposed to that at this particular age could be detrimental to the way he understands the idea of authority figures.

    And I know what you mean in your second comment. At least the mother stopped her girl from hitting my boy. I've seen a few parents who treat playground pushing as some kind of Natural Conflict Resolution experiments.

    Bringing Up Kids, like I wrote in the comment above, I also don't see the logic. It doesn't mean there's no correlation, but I don't believe lower IQ is a direct result of hitting.

  7. So a parent who spanks won't help with homework? This is a ridiculous statement and blatantly untrue.

    I've spanked my 18-month-old son once. He was repeatedly sticking his fingers in the electrical socket. We tried talking to him, sternly telling him no, etc. But one time he not only put his fingers in the socket, he dragged the dog's water bowl over to the outlet and was trying to stand in it while putting his fingers in the socket.

    He got a spank. And he learned. And he hasn't done it again.

    You don't spank routinely, it's used for last ditch efforts. But make no mistake, there are times when it is a valuable tool in the parenting arsenal.

    But to say that I won't help my kid with homework just because I parent differently from you, is dumb. And it makes you sound dumb.

  8. Daddy Files, I believe you when you say you've done everything you could to prevent your son from sticking his finger in the socket, and then finally you used spanking as a last resort. I believe you, even though I wouldn't have done it. And I'm not judging a person who makes a tough, conscious decision to spank a child although hitting a child goes against his nature. But that's far from looking at spanking as a valuable parenting tool. For you it may have been a tough decision, and one that, I hope, you didn't need to make again, but I know parents, and maybe you do too, who spank their 18-month-old because he pushes another child, or because he won't put down the toy when he's told, or because he's disrespectful to his parents.

    And you know what? A father who hits his child because his child offends him is not the kind of father who helps with the homework. And if he does help with the homework, you know there will be more spanking involved then.

  9. I was spanked by my dad as a kid--i was given spanks by the wooden spoon by my mom--that was what they were brought up on. They weren't abusive at all-in fact, they were the first to sit down with me and help me with homework, they were the first to teach me to respect them and they also allowed themselves to respect me--and my interests. My parents were spanked by their father's belts..sure now that would be some serious abuse..but a swat on the tush of a pull up and jean covered bum is okay. Obviously too much of anything isn't good. If the only method of teaching is spanking, then sure it's wrong. but if there's other methods-corners, time outs, sent to room, to bed, ignored, talked to. The trick is to be a scale and weigh all your options and be okay with using all those options over a period of a childs life. because you can't disipline the same way. Your reaction has to be based on their action and it needs to be done without emotion. My parents, like I said, spanked me not because they were offended by me, or because they were losing their patience, but because I had been told over and over again not to run into the street, or not to spit my peas out into a napkin and then play the "peepee" card..but I was also given time outs, sent to my room, spoken to in a way that parents know how to bring out the guilt card...When a child that young is spanked because he hit someone-yes, it sends them a complicated msg--it'd be better for them to remove the child from the situation and the good news is, when you're in the company of this family and something occurs such as what you've experienced, you can react by telling the mom, "I'm going to remove my little one from this situation for the art of distraction, so that you can manage yours--" and you know what? I bet you'll have given this parent another tool to use in the feature.
    When did life get so hard? When we grew up and became parents.
    GREAT thoughtprovoking POST BD! Thanks for it! Great THREAD!
    One Crusty-MOM-E

  10. Sorry for the ramble..My husband's biggest complaint--I am wayyy too detailed. :)

  11. Crustybeef, I'm sorry. Nothing can convince me it's right to spank. I will give you that much though:

    1. Like I said on my first reply to you, any generalization is wrong. What was a by-the-way remark about homework has turned out to be the center of this post, which wasn't the plan. I'm sure people who spank once a year and people who spank routinely love their children just as much as the non-spankers. But I also believe they're wrong to do that.

    2. More to the point, I remember my grandfather chasing us around with his belt, which was for us kids just an absurd image. It never hurt. These were the good times, of all the cousins running away giggling, and he's angrily grabbing one of us and smacks us with his belt. But the spanking (and yelling) I received from my dad was much worse, and not because it hurt more (it never left a mark. I never bled. It never hurt), but because there was always an element of sadistic cruelty we felt as children. For every child who grows up to say being spanked put him or her on the right path, there's another who grows up with distrust for authority and cynicism toward the world because the person assigned by fate to take care of him or her had abused that role.

    And of course, if long paragraphs is your husband's biggest complaint, then you two are doing pretty good. That doesn't seem like a deal-breaker.

    And thank you again for your comments.

  12. I can understand you so well.
    I don't like spanking at all.
    There are other ways to bring the message across.

    Here in The Netherlands we're able to report these situations so people get help from professionals.
    Spanking is a form of child abuse.

  13. Wow. That makes me sad. Such a young kid to be the recepient of violence.

    I feel very strongly about not spanking. It doesn't teach kids what they are supposed to do, it doesn't positively enforce the child-parent bond, it promotes the idea that violence is OK

    Do you think that going over and saying "I have seen you spank. Is everything OK? Do you need help (i.e. a night off, help with laundry etc.?). Here are some effective communication techniques I've used ...

    Do you think that sharing books would be helpful? I particularly like Adventures in Gentle Discipline by Hilary Flowers

    Kids, Parents and Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

    How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk by Adele Faber. That book may be a bit too much for a toddlr mom (it's geared more for older kids) but it does talk quite a bit on why spanking is not the best route to take.

    This would bother me too. I'd probably end up saying something ... if only to know I've tried.

  14. Are you bothered because of the reaction of the child? Or that your son is exposed to it? Or that you have such a different parenting philosophy that it's hard to be witness to this?

    Has your son said anything? Noticed it?

    There are a lot of variables here. Spanking is a big divisive issue.

  15. .... Hard to tell another parent how to parent. So what can you say or do?

  16. Laane, I think the difference between spanking and what I consider abuse is in the intent to harm. While I think it might feel the same to the child, at least the spanking parent thinks he or she is doing something right, while I see abuse as a consciously harmful act. But I understand what you're saying, and in the end, the negative result from spanking could be similar to the one from conscious abuse.

    Shajorg, thing is, I agree with everything you wrote on the second paragraph (that's pretty much part of what I was saying in the post and in the comments, only better written), but as for talking about it to the mother... I might say something eventually, try to convince the family... Talk about studies and stuff... But I have no doubt that they will dismiss it. And in any case, when it comes to the little girl, getting spanked is not her biggest obstacle in life. Growing up with a heroin addict mother trumps everything else.

    Daddy Geek Boy, the short answer is that I am bothered by my son being exposed to it. I'm afraid that he'll think hitting is normal. I'm afraid of one day seeing him hit another kid. That girl is a bit older than him, and my only experience is up to a 22-month-old, so maybe she doesn't push him because she gets spanked but because 2-year-olds push each other all the time (although I do spend time with older kids and don't see that... I really don't know). And I might say something to the mother and I might not, because even if I think spanking is wrong, that's the least of that little girl's problems.

  17. I understand where you're coming from. Though your son is most likely going to learn that hitting is wrong through you and your reactions to it.

    I have a lot of conversations with my son that the rules that are for him aren't necessarily the same rules that other families have.

    Perhaps if you do speak to this parent, the way to go is to ask if it's possible to not spank the child in view of your son. That way you're not telling another parent how to parent, but you're letting them know that you don't like this exposure to your kid.

  18. DGB, I know you're right because being honest is always the right answer. There's no reason for me to get involved here, especially as I do believe that will all the problems in that house, that girl is not abused and is actually loved. But I believe the mother (and grandmother who also lives there and spanks the baby) will understand if I tell them I'm afraid my boy gets confused when he sees them spank his friend. Thanks.

  19. Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like "Supernanny" and "Dr. Phil" are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads- visit www.nospank.net.

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolscent Psychiatry,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    PsycHealth Ltd Behavioral Health Professionals,
    Churches' Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus' Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  20. Honestly, Anonymous, that's the weirdest spam comment I've ever seen. You just do a search for the word Spanking and then paste your comment and continue to the next blog? What's your angle? Unless you're the author of these books, I don't get it. Strange.

  21. OM, I'm with you on the no-spanking thing. It teaches children that hitting others is OK when they get older. And the spam 'drive-by' comment above by Anonymous, while weird and rambling, is not by a long shot the weirdest I've ever seen. This one is actually semi-relevant to your post, in a fumbling, stumbling sort of way.

  22. So you're trying to say that violence is not a problem solver?

    I am sooooo not with you on that one (checks gun rack on wall and smiles, remembering fond memories and all the problems my guns have helped me solve).

    Whenever I have kids, I won't spank them. I feel it sends the wrong message. There are other ways of punishing them, like messing with their heads and telling them that the evil zombie bear monsters in their closet are going to come out at night and eat them if they don't behave. I'm also saving up money to pay for my kids' future therapy bills.

  23. Fredd, about the anonymous comment, I just Googled the first sentence, and of course, found that same exact comment on other blogs. I delete spam comments usually, but I couldn't find the spam, unless he or she was indeed the author of these books, in which case, good luck to them, marketing their self-published stuff one blog at a time.

    Sebastien, you'll need all the money you have to send your kids to Arson School. Now look at you coming all the way over here to say Hi!

  24. Oh crap, Arson school is going to be expensive... you always have to throw a wrench in my plans! :)

  25. Sebastien, only the Ivy League ones are expensive. But they will end up giving your kids more career options.

  26. I have a very good friend who would be the last person in the world you'd think would be a spanker. But I was recently at her house when all three of her kids got a spanking (ages 3,6, and 8). She made her kids take off all their clothes and she used a belt. I can't believe someone could actually whip a naked child with a belt. It was very disturbing and I'm not sure I can continue to be friends with her.

  27. Yikes... That's scary stuff. And I bet if you ask her she'll say she doesn't have a choice but to hit her naked kids with a belt (and in front of other people too...) And she probably thinks they'll thank her one day. That's really sad. I don't blame you for staying away.

  28. I'm not sure I believe Anonymous, but who knows for sure. Spanking with belts was the tried and true spanking method not so long ago, I was spanked with a belt as well 45 years ago, as were just about all of my friends back then. Belts, switches, razor straps, and I vividly recall watching various recalcitrant students receiving paddling on the backside with a canoe paddle at public elementary school in front of the auditorium every Friday for various misconduct in the early 1960's. This was the way it was, and to make Anonymous' 'Dachau' scenario above as somehow verging on criminal just doesn't seem reasonable to me. I suspect exaggeration on this one from Anonymous.

  29. Fredd, who knows... On the one hand, what would be Anon.'s motive in making this up? On the other hand, the internet is a big world, and there ARE a lot of weirdos here. I mean, if you knew how people found this post after a mismatched Google search you would lose all faith in humanity.

  30. OM, I stumbled across this again.

    Has anything changed?

    I missed the heroin-addict part! OMG! I agree, that's a bigger issue ...

    Hopefully, that little girl will be influenced by seeing your thoughtful parenting.

  31. Well, something that has changed is the weather. They live a few doors down but we hardly see them. For now, I have one less thing to worry about. With the baby having a cold, a fever, and an ear infection, I have enough to worry about.

  32. I wondered how hard she is smacked when your not there? The lighter smacking happens in public you may well find that its much harder in private



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