Like every other internet tabloid-reading woman in America, I saw the photos today of Kate Gosselin opening a can of whupass on her 5 year old daughter. And yep, I’ve seen the predictable comments and responses on various sites, mostly some variation on, “Children need to be hit! My parents hit me and I’m JUST FINE. Blah. Blah. Blah.”
Look at that photo again. Replace the small, defenseless, dependent child you see with a small, defenseless, dependent 90 year old woman. Let’s say it’s Kate Gosselin’s grandmother, who lives with the family. And let’s say the old woman – who has age-related dementia – kept annoyingly blowing a whistle while Ms. Gosselin was attempting to talk on the phone, which precipitated her being
physically attacked “spanked” by Kate Gosselin. Would America find this okay? Why is it still okay in 2009 – after we’ve long since moved past the idea that husbands have the right to physically discipline their wives, or that jailers have the right to physically discipline their inmates – for an adult woman to haul off and hit a 50 pound child in anger? How is it that we go bananas if we hear of someone hitting a dog in anger, but it’s still acceptable for parents to hit their children?
I get as frustrated as the next mama when my kids push me too far. But just like I don’t hit other family members when they do things that aren’t okay, I don’t hit my children. I don’t want my sons growing up believing that it’s acceptable to hit smaller, weaker family members who step out of line, and I don’t want my daughters to grow up believing that this is something they should accept from people they love who happen to be bigger or stronger or more powerful in some way. We are a family. We don’t hit each other. Period.
Am I saying that anyone who occasionally spanks their child is abusive? No, I’m not. We’re all human, and we all operate within a culture that generally accepts physical discipline of children. If that’s the parenting milieu in which we are raising our children, then “spanking” (a sterile euphemism) likely to be one of the “tools” in our parenting toolbox. And of course, many/most of us were indeed spanked as children, and we want to believe that it left no lasting damage.
But I hope that as people see the rage on Kate Gosselin’s visage in that photo, and the hurt and pain and shame on her tiny child’s face, it will maybe cause some folks to revisit their views on this hot-button parenting issue. What would we look like, or what would our own child look like if someone happened to snap a photo at the moment when our hand came down? Probably a lot like the photo you see above. And it’s not a pretty picture.
My children may not always behave perfectly (they definitely do not), but no matter what they do, I will never, ever regret my decision early on to eschew physical “discipline.” The lesson of choosing peace when violence is available is far more powerful than any lesson they might learn via a good “spanking.”