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Naughty or Nice: To Spank or Not to Spank

One of the biggest debates in the Black community is whether or not to spank your child.

One point of view sees it as necessary to keep our children out of prisons. The other side sees it as teaching violence, which can lead to violent crimes and prison time. This debate leaves me with a lot of questions.

The question should be, whether or not spanking is necessary to raise a successful child?

Successful Black Parenting created a short poll on Twitter to see if our parents believed spanking their children was necessary and below are the results.

This survey is an anomaly because according to the American Psychological Association, “…surveys show that two-thirds of Americans still approve of parents spanking their kids.”

My great-grandmother used to beat her children and said it was better for her to do it than “the white man.” This common belief trickled-down as a preventative measure to avoid the abuse that many slaves endured on the plantation master which sometimes resulting in their death. Parents spanking their children during slavery was a gentler punishment that the master’s whip. It was a proactive method used to protect their children from possible death. This practice has never left the Black community because parents know that Black children are punished harsher than white children and research backs them up.

Are we still brainwashed by this slave mentality? Are we being set up by society to not spank our children to not discipline them so they can fill for-profit prisons as free labor?

Is it necessary to spank? Is there a better way?

The Bible says, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Firstly, children under the age of three should be ‘spoiled.’ Older children should learn the saying, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” They should be giving back to society. To think the only way not to spoil a child is by spanking, is one-sided and leaves out plenty of side-effects.

Research says that spanking causes irreversible harm. There are those that will say there’s a difference between spanking and abuse, but is a light hit is better than a hard hit when it comes to domestic abuse from a man when a woman on the receiving end? Should stressed-out adults be hitting a child? Shouldn’t we be able to figure out a more effective and appropriate punishment as the adults?

For example, whipping a child for bad grades puts more value on achieving the grade by any means necessary, which does not exclude cheating.  This fear-based grade acquisition is not true learning that allows the child to be successful longterm.

The American Psychology Association (APA) reports that:

  • …Spanking and other forms of physical discipline can pose serious risks to children, but many parents aren’t hearing the message.
  • Many studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children.
  • “Physical punishment doesn’t work to get kids to comply, so parents think they have to keep escalating it. That is why it is so dangerous,” says Elizabeth Gershoff, PhD, a leading researcher on physical punishment at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • On the international front, physical discipline is increasingly being viewed as a violation of children’s human rights.
  • The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a directive in 2006 calling physical punishment “legalized violence against children…”
  • The treaty that established the committee has been supported by 192 countries, with only the United States and Somalia failing to ratify it and around the world, 30 countries have banned physical punishment of children in all settings, including the home.

“You cannot punish out these behaviors that you do not want,” says Kazdin, who served as APA president in 2008. “There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research. We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying this is a horrible thing that does not work.”

According to an article titled, “Stop Beating Black Children,” by Washington Post writer, Stacey Patton, “…Black parents are still about twice as likely as white and Latino families to use corporal punishment on their children.” She goes on to make the point that, “… if whupping children kept Black people out of prison or safe from abusive cops, there would be no mass incarceration or police brutality. If beatings were a prerequisite for success, Black people would be ruling the world.”

Patton’s research also shows that “between 2006 and 2015, more than 3,600 black children were killed as a result of maltreatment, according to the Administration for Children and Families. That’s an average of 360 children a year, three times higher than for other racial and ethnic groups.” So why are we advocating surviving beatings?

Alternative Actions to Discipline

When it comes to children, the punishment should fit the undesired action. Note: Discipline does not involve shaming your child. This is an action that should be between the parent and the child only. Even apologies are done in private with the person and/or child affected. Below are a few examples of typical behaviors by children and appropriate discipline measures

  • Didn’t do a chore – change the wifi password and don’t change it back until all chores are done.
  • Bad grades – no free time/fill up free time with a tutor (schools often offer free tutoring).
  • Bullying – put your child in the same place as the person that was bullied when possible or have your child do charity work on their free time to help others who are less fortunate than them to teach them empathy. Have them do it for more than one day.
  • Skipping school – Have the school call you when your child is absent or you call the school daily to make sure your child is there. If they skipped school, take everything away they value and leave them with the basics. No designer clothes, no electronics, and nothing entertaining in their room. Every day they go to school, they can get one thing back. Repeat the next week until they are at school all day, every single day.
  • Won’t keep their room clean – Give your child an allowance and tell them it’s hidden in their room. Once it is cleaned, if they didn’t find it, you reveal where the money is hidden or make them step outside of the room and keep your hiding place a secret. Give them their allowance outside of the room.
  • Talking back – First, know that children mimic you. Even though you are the parent and you deserve respect if you tell your child to “shut up,” constantly yell at them, or worse, call them names, expect the same tone to come back like a boomerang. Give your child the respect that you expect back. Never ask them a question like, “Do you want to put your shoes on now?” You might not like the answer you get in return. The command should be, “Put your shoes on now, please. It’s time to go.” Then make sure there are no distractions preventing them from completing the task. Flippant behavior is not to be tolerated but you can say something like, “Ok, that is not acceptable and if you talk to me like that again, you won’t get this or that. Do you understand me?” Using terms like, “not acceptable” and “I don’t like that” from a young age will set boundaries.
  • Hitting you – When a young child hits or bites they are testing their boundaries and they often don’t have the empathy to understand that it hurts the other person’s body. Tell them very loud to startle them, “That hurts! Don’t do that!” Let them know that you’re upset. If the child is older, they need to know that every action has a reaction. There often comes a time when they think they are bigger than you and want to challenge you. It is absolutely appropriate to physically restrain your child to keep them from hurting you, another person or themselves and there are ways to do that without causing harm. Restraining them serves two purposes, preventing injury and letting them know they are not stronger than you. Follow up with an appropriate punishment.
  • Fighting/Arguing with siblings – Sibling disputes are going to happen. It’s normal. You will have to settle these disputes on a case-by-case basis and every battle isn’t worth your intervention. You are the judge and the jury when it comes to hearing each case. Talk to each sibling alone and listen to each child’s side of the story. You are the mediator. Bring them together afterward and let them know your decision.

If a child is constantly “on punishment,” meaning confined to their bedroom, that is a red flag that your child probably could benefit from mental health counseling. Don’t ignore the signs. Many of the misbehaviors that children act out are due to them not having empathy for the person on the receiving end. Showing them, when you can without violence, how the other person feels and how their behavior hurts others can often help remedy many problems. Remember at all times that you are the adult. You’ve been here longer than them. You should be able to figure out ways to manage any problem that comes your way, children can’t do that yet. You always have to be the bigger person and not just in size but in intellect.

December 2018

Janice M. Robinson-Celeste

Publisher

Successful Black Parenting

Janice Robinson-Celeste is a businesswoman, journalist, author, school teacher, entrepreneur, mother, grandmother and is one of the original founders of Successful Black Parenting magazine. She is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, is a published author of two parenting books, Pride & Joy by Simon & Schuster and Making A Supermodel: A Parents’ Guide. Janice has a degree in Early Childhood Education and holds and a master’s degree in business. Formerly, the School Age Child Care (SACC) Coordinator for the Philadelphia area with the non-profit organization, Parents Union for Public Schools, she developed SACC programs throughout the city. She headed a $2m YMCA where she served as the Executive Branch Director in charge of operations for a new facility, including the NAEYC accredited child care program and summer camp. In addition, Janice held the title of Early Childhood Specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Child Guidance Center where she worked with parents who struggled with substance abuse challenges to guide them with the healthy development of their young children. Janice was also a preschool teacher and currently teaches high school. She also taught higher education at Hofstra University in New York. She is the mother of three successful adult daughters, including international supermodel, Sessilee Lopez.

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