Featured, Parenting, Theory & Essay

Yup, I Have My Own Kid Now. And Yup, I Still Believe Spanking Is A Terrible And Cruel Form Of Discipline

I’m going to keep this short. Because I’ve already written on this topic. And because Stacey Patton’s brilliant and searing New York Times piece (“Stop Beating Black Children“) makes the case better than I ever could, tracing the cruel and dangerous and useless practice of beating our own kids into suitable behavior back to slavery, arguing that we’re ultimately just mimicking the violence our oppressors practiced on us.

Whenever I’d express my distaste for corporal punishment — arguing that it makes no logical or moral sense that the only people we’re allowed to hit are our children (the only people too small and weak and scared to defend themselves) — invariably three counterarguments would arise:

1. It’s an effective and occasionally necessary practice that has saved children and young adults from harm, violence, prison, and even death

2. Our parents and grandparents did it and we turned out fine

3. Wait until you have your own kids and report back

The first argument has been debunked dozens of times. Spanking actually does the opposite of the intended effect, as its more likely to lead to more aggressive, more anti-social, and more abusive behavior.

The second argument is a logical fallacy. We turned out fine in spite of being spanked, slapped, and beaten, not because of it. This, btw, doesn’t mean that our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were bad parents. They just did the best that they could in the world they existed in and with the information that was available. We have more information now — about what works and what doesn’t and what’s helpful and what’s genuinely abusive — and we’re obligated to use it. We wouldn’t want our children’s teachers and doctors to rely on 100-year-old practices when dealing with them, so why is that cool when it comes to parenting?

As far as the third argument, well, I have a daughter now, so I can finally report back. And my report, after 15 months of parenthood, is fuck no I’ll never, ever, ever, ever, ever hit her. Are you fucking crazy? And if you lay a hand on her I’ll fucking kill you.

So I guess that settles that.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

    I couldn’t agree more!

  • HouseOfBonnets

    We’re gonna have to agree to disagree as a parent who only uses it as an absolute last result (which is very,very rare)….It works from my personal experience. (shrug)

    • Damon Young

      No sweat. You’re agreeing to disagree with science, not with me, so I won’t take it personally.

      • Man, America doesn’t do science anymore.

      • ChokeOnThisTea

        Mind you, science was told us the world was flat.

        Signed,
        A Scientist

        • Epsilonicus

          That wasn’t science…

          • ChokeOnThisTea

            By today’s standards. Yet, it was a belief upheld by many scholars then. #YouTriedItEps

        • Cheech

          Hey, Tea! Long time.

          • ChokeOnThisTea

            Hey, boo!

        • FarbissinaPunim

          Yep. And at one point, phrenology was science.

          • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

            And racial eugenics.

      • Wise Old Owl

        Champ,
        I agree with you. Parents and adults, who spank children are phucking cowards and bullies..

        • Mela Us

          Whatever

    • RaeNBow

      you’re making me modify my “it just isnt necessary” comment …. because as an escalation i can see how it could be warranted as a last resort. and as a parent, you know what works for your kid and what they will respond to.

    • 909girl601world

      This. My kid is 12. I think I’ve spanked her (three swats to her bottom) maybe 4 times in her life. I can’t think of the last time I spanked her, so it was an effective deterrent.

      I think there’s a big difference between beating a kid and three taps to their tush.

    • FarbissinaPunim

      I’m the parent of two and I do recognize that a mouthy 7 year old is a whole ‘nother beast than a 15 month old. And it’s hard not to tap that lil azz. But I respect you using it as a rare last resort.

      • HouseOfBonnets

        I would hope people aren’t spanking 15 month olds but unfortunately that’s not the case. I feel like many don’t understand the small line between discipline and abuse.

  • RaeNBow

    Disclosure: Not a parent. And I wholeheartedly AGREE with you. It **typically** just isn’t necessary. I’ve had the responsibility of caring for small children on a very reg/in depth basis (cause it takes a village and what not) and discipline comes by starting early with negative consequences they can understand at appropriate ages and consistency. Consistency is the biggest factor here.

  • cakes_and_pies

    I have a male friend who said he wouldn’t lay his hands on his daughter because he didn’t want her to grow up thinking that a man shows he loves and cares about her by hitting her.

    Also:That whole “I beat you so the cops won’t” doesn’t make any sense. The cops will beat your regardless of how you were disciplined as a child.

    • Question

      This is me. If I want others to respect my daughters physical space and body, shouldn’t that start with me and her father?

    • Glo

      Honestly, this is the best argument. If being hit by a loved one is okay, then being hit by a loved one is okay. There is no grey area.

      • Monica Harris

        There is a difference. A really big one.

        • Alison N

          What’s the difference between your father hitting you and your husband hitting you? If your dad can hit you with a belt, then why can’t your husband?

          • Runthempearlshoe

            But by your logic only people who were molested have s e x with their spouses? There’s levels to this ish.

          • Monica Harris

            Before I wrote that comment, people had already made that same point I was getting at far more eloquently than I. I don’t feel the need to type all that out again. Please refer to their comments. I agreed with every word. I will say however, the relationship between parent and child and between spouses is not the same and you know it.

  • FarbissinaPunim

    I agree 100%. Regarding #2: Some of the people I know who say this are not actually all that “fine” anyway.

    • LMNOP

      I know a few people who were removed from abusive parents custody, have lasting problems due to being abused and are so quick to jump on the “beat your kids” train.

  • miss t-lee

    Her eyes!!!! Every time I see your daughter I can’t get past her eyes.
    She’s so precious.

    I’m not a parent, however I do think that there are age appropriate ways to discipline a child w/o yoking them up. That should be a last resort. But, idk I’m only an auntie and godmother, so I ain’t been battle tested.

    • Damon Young

      Thanks and sh*t!

      • miss t-lee

        Of course.

  • blueevey

    I read that article and was blown away because I HAD NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT LIKE THAT. And of course when I shared with the bf, he was like “this is true.”

    Oh okay. Smh.

  • Val

    *Record scratch!*

    She is so adorable. Oh my. I would totally spoil her.

    • miss t-lee

      She’d be ruint.

    • Lara

      Other people are not going to think a spoiled brat is cute.

    • Damon Young

      thanks and sh*t

      • FarbissinaPunim

        My friend told me that she interviewed you. I was jelly af. That is all.

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        She’s really super adorable man

      • Inquiring minds want to know — is she rolling a tear because she knows she’s in trouble or because you tried to take her DVD away? She is adooorable! In her little dress. Playing you with her pretty little face. If she were mine, she would have gotten all the DVDs and Ebony magazines! Full disclosure — I don’t have kids. But other people’s kids are so cute!

    • Wild Cougar

      She looks opinionated. *cackles*

  • I’m not hitting my daughter or wife but they have both forced me to hit the bottle plenty of times.

    • FarbissinaPunim

      My mom would always tell us that we “will drive a nucca to drink.”

  • I couldn’t spank that baby. She is too cute. If I have children, I have to have boys. I can’t discipline little girls.

    • Don’t look em in they eye. That’s how they get you.

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