Spanking and Criminal Behavior

BlogHer Original Post

It saddened and concerned me when I saw that nearly 109,000 people (at the time of this writing) on Facebook had "liked" the following statement:

"I'd rather go to jail for spanking my kids than for them to go because I didn't." - Likey

Does that mean spanked kids *never* go to jail? Or *only* unspanked kids go to jail? What the frack, people? What. the. frack.

Maybe the "Likey" was created in jest. Maybe the people who are liking it are just joking around. I don't know. Its possible that I'm overreacting. I've been known to do that before. Maybe its just me, but I don't think corporal punishment is a laughing matter.

Contrary to popular belief, it *is* possible to discipline (which means "to teach") your children and raise productive members of society *without* spanking them. I'm not saying that nobody should ever spank their children. I'm also not saying that I've never been tempted to spank my kids. But I am saying that there are other ways to discipline if you so desire. Ultimately I believe every parent needs to decide what works best for their children and their family, but to imply - as the "Likey" did on Facebook - that if you spank your child he/she is not going to go to jail, that just seems ridiculous.

Annie at PhD in Parenting has written about spanking and gentle discipline on more than one occasion. One of her posts is the Best Anti-Spanking Resources. In it she links to Plain Talk About Spanking which contains a lot of information about spanking. One of the topics addressed is Spanking and Criminal Behavior.

Spanking and criminal behavior

Everyone is familiar with the list of social maladies believed to be at the root of violent criminal behavior: poverty, discrimination, family breakdown, narcotics, gangs and easy access to deadly weapons. And it's clear that every item in the above list contributes to violence and crime. However, one key ingredient is rarely acknowledged – spanking.

In 1940, researchers Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck began their landmark study of delinquent and nondelinquent boys. They discovered how certain early childhood influences cause children to develop antisocial, violent behaviors. They showed that the first signs of delinquency often appear in children as young as three – long before children come into contact with influences outside the home. The Gluecks showed that parents who fail to manage their children calmly, gently and patiently, but instead rely on physical punishment, tend to produce aggressive, assaultive children. The more severe and the earlier the mistreatment, the worse the outcome.

The Gluecks also found that the lowest incidence of antisocial behavior is associated with children who are reared from infancy in attentive, supportive, nonviolent families.

The message here for all parents is a simple one: if you want to do everything within your power to prevent your child from one day joining the prison population, guide gently and patiently. Remove shaming, shouting, ignoring, threatening, insulting, bullying and spanking from your parenting tool kit.

Here are some other relevant quotes from Plain Talk About Spanking:

"Corporal punishment trains children to accept and tolerate aggression. It always figures prominently in the roots of adolescent and adult aggressiveness, especially in those manifestations that take an antisocial form such as delinquency and criminality."
Philip Greven, Professor of History, Rutgers University. Excerpt from PART IV CONSEQUENCES, subheading: "Aggression and Delinquency," in Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse, 1990 (p.193)

"Punitive measures whether administered by police, teachers, spouses or parents have well-known standard effects: (1) escape – education has its own name for that: truancy, (2) counterattack – vandalism on schools and attacks on teachers, (3) apathy – a sullen do-nothing withdrawal. The more violent the punishment, the more serious the by-products."
B. F. Skinner, Ph.D., author, Professor of Psychology, Harvard. Excerpt from personal communication, 1983.

"The much-touted 'biblical argument' in support of corporal punishment is founded upon proof-texting a few isolated passages from Proverbs. Using the same method of selective scripture reading, one could also cite the Bible as an authority for the practice of slavery, adultery, polygamy, incest, suppression of women, executing people who eat pork, and infanticide. The brutal and vindictive practice of corporal punishment cannot be reconciled with the major New Testament themes that teach love and forgiveness and a respect for the sacredness and dignity of children, and which overwhelmingly reject violence and retribution as a means of solving human problems. Would Jesus ever hit a child? NEVER!"
The Rev. Thomas E. Sagendorf, United Methodist Clergy (Retired), Hamilton, Indiana. Personal communication, 2006.

And here's something I wrote back in 2007 in the post Trusting My Parenting Instincts:

I believe in gentle discipline. It is challenging and hard at times, and I can’t say I haven’t lost my temper before, but I strive to discipline gently. I try to think about how I would want to be treated and honor my children with that same respect.

Like I said earlier, ultimately it is up to the parent to decide the best way to discipline his/her child, but there are alternatives to spanking for those who desire them. All I ask is that parents make informed choices and maybe trust their instincts and listen to their heart a little bit too. :)

Debates in the comments are great, but please keep it respectful. Thanks!

Photo credit: Flickr CP Storm

Additional Resources:

Originally posted by Amy Gates on Crunchy Domestic Goddess

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