Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Price of Spanking

Violence Perpetuates Violence

A minister approached me after a presentation in Atlanta to a conference of Christian families and said, “I gather you don’t believe in spanking.” I could tell from his tone that he had more than an academic interest. “That’s right,” I said. “I believe violence begets violence.”

“Spare the rod and spoil the child!” he responded.

“Actually,” I said, “The sheep were never hit with the rod by shepherds. The rod was used to direct the lead sheep.” He disagreed and assured me that he makes sure he is not angry whenever he strikes his children. We were clearly poles apart in our philosophies and I felt uncomfortable with our exchange. This charming and charismatic 40-year-old, with an engaging smile, headed a growing church that was one of the most successful in its region.

Later that day in the conference hotel, I was sitting in the hot tub with a half dozen other mothers when a boy around six and a girl around four approached the water.

“Get in!” the boy told the girl. She dipped her toes in and pulled them out quickly. “It’s too hot,” she said.

“Get in!” he yelled.

“No!” she answered loudly.

“I said, get in!” he screamed, hitting her on the back of her head.

The girl began wailing as the boy screamed even louder, and began to spank her. “Get (whack), in (whack), right (whack), now!” The other mothers and I sat in stunned silence at the sudden violence. Just as one of us stood up to intervene, the children’s mother appeared, followed by her husband—the minister.

At age six, this boy had adopted the philosophy that spanking implies: If you can’t get what you want when you want it, use physical force, especially if your target is smaller or weaker. Violence perpetuates violence.

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