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Mike Cruse Headshot

Spanking Does Not Equal Discipline, or Respect

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When I first found out my wife was pregnant with our son, I was over-the-moon excited. I had always wanted to be a parent for as long as I can remember and while we were actively trying to get pregnant I couldn't help but be excited as if it were a complete surprise to me. I had always had these grand ideas of how I was going to be a great parent, mostly because my parents were such poor examples. I would simply do everything opposite of them. How could I fail?

But as the initial excitement that sent me sky-high with joy predictably began to fade, and I started to come back to earth with my emotions, I was met by something I wasn't ready for -- fear. My joy of finding out that I was getting my opportunity to be a father took a serious turn down a fear-based path that I was caught off guard completely.

I started to obsess that maybe I wasn't going to be a better parent because of what poor examples my mother and absent father were, but maybe the exact opposite. Maybe I had seen what kind of parent I would be in them. Maybe I had seen my destiny through their actions. I mean how many times have we all heard, "we are products of our environment."

I've always had an over-active mind, so to say I obsessed over something is putting it mildly. It reached a point where my wife had to have a serious talk with me, telling me to calm down. But even with all the talking and encouraging, my wife knows the damaged past I come from, and although some of it can be pushed aside by realizing I am better person than the environment I came from, there is still a difficulty and dark part that can't be so easily ignored.

One area I struggled with when my wife and I had long conversations about how we saw ourselves raising a child was discipline. As most people from my generation can relate to, spanking was the form of discipline I was most familiar with; not in favor of, just familiar with. My wife on the other hand was never spanked as a child, nor was her sister. My in-laws saw no value in violence as a tool to teach a lesson. I agreed instantly. My wife and I agreed we never wanted to spank our son, but I feared I would when I was upset or frustrated with him one day. When my wife asked me where this fear came from I revealed to her how my mother "spanked" me as a child. To be more clear, my mother did more than spank me when she felt I needed discipline or punishment. My mother would express her anger or disappointment through violently striking me with her fists, feet, and any other object she could get her hands on, and all the while telling me how it was my fault this was happening. And for most of my life I believed her.

So why am I choosing now to talk about this? As my son has reached an age where he is starting to act out, push boundaries, and unfortunately even hit others at times, I find myself conflicted on how to handle the idea of discipline. Added confusion has come recently as I recently saw a person I respect and care for very much, post on social media that spanking your kids is the only way to teach them respect, and in turn the lack of corporal punishment is the reason why society is on a down-turn as it pertains to adolescent behavior and lack of discipline. After reading that post, to say I was left conflicted would be putting it mildly.

Even though I may be writing about my confusion and even at times torn nature on the idea of discipline, know that the way I was disciplined as child will never happen to my son. So we can put that to bed right now. I simply wanted to illustrate the kind of background I come from, and the long road I travel to get away from it.

My confusion and questions stem from three points I listed above: 1) the idea that spanking/hitting equals discipline or respect; 2) what value does hitting a child or even beating them into submission bring to a relationship, and 3) has the lack of spanking in younger generations really caused the slow decline in society, and how has my generation been shaped by the forms of discipline they experienced. While I am no scientist or highly educated person, I have my own opinions on this topic -- and that's all this is, my opinion. Take it or leave it.

Hitting helps teach discipline and respect: I don't need to be a scientist with massive research or a Harvard professor publishing a paper to answer this question. The answer is no, and if you think it does, you're wrong. Violence only teaches one thing -- violence. Just look yourself in the mirror and say the phrase, "I'm hitting you for your own good" and if you can tell me with a straight face that that doesn't sound f'ing crazy to you, then great, but I will then tell you I don't want to know you. Yes, you could argue that my view on this topic is stronger than others because of the extreme example of abuse I endured as a kid, but I would argue how is spanking your child any different from when my mother would beat me into submission? You're still hitting your child... YOUR CHILD... to show them they need to respect you! If your boss walked up to you at work and expressed their displeasure with your answers in the meeting by beating you at work, would respect them? I think not.

What value does spanking bring: Again, this is a no-brainer, it brings zero value. Unless of course your goal is to teach what dominance over another person feels like. I mentioned earlier about a social media post with the caption, "My parents spanked me as a child and now I suffer from a psychological disorder known as respect for others." Well that's just great. The reason why this stupid social media post pissed me off is because by that rationale, the reason I'm a respectful, kind, and loving person is because my mother beat me senseless. I refuse to endorse, or even accept that idea of holding even one iota of truth in it.

The so called "Wussification of America": I'm sure I've driven the point home, but the idea that kids are being hit less is somehow a bad thing, and even more the reason our society is slipping is beyond ridiculous in my opinion. The argument I tend to hear on this is people saying that instead of kids being spanked these days, parents prefer to talk to their kids and ask them to express their feelings. And where's the problem with that? Still, even in 2014 the idea of expressing your feelings is mocked, ridiculed, and made to look like you're weak by having feelings (especially if you're a male). The overly-macho type of attitude is a piece of what is dragging down our society, not the expressing of feelings.

So, where does this leave us parents (of young ones that is) when it comes to the idea of disciplining our children? Well, I think I've made my views pretty clear, but I would never presume to tell someone they cannot spank their children. Maybe it works for you. But I would ask yourself the next time you reach back to slap your kid when they're acting up in the backseat of the car, or when you're about to slap them on the rear end for acting up, "Why am I doing this, and what do I hope to get out of this?" We as parents spend a great amount of time teaching our kids to not hit people and that hitting is wrong, and then you turn around and hit them, for what; being a kid? And, if you can't get the same point across with your words that you would with physically harming them, then is that about them or is it really about you?

The idea that we teach our children that expression of emotion is wrong, but expressing anger through physical violence is somehow acceptable boggles my mind altogether. It's the lack of priorities in raising our children that is actual reason why our society is in a decline. We devalue emotion, except if it's anger. I refuse to keep that idea alive, and instead will continue to talk to my son. I will teach my son that being a man has nothing to do with who you can dominate or harm, and everything to do with how you express yourself and care for others.