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 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.

  • Lara

    My mom always said she should have spanked me first thing in the morning. I was naughty until I got spanked and then I was good. My father hardly ever hit me.

  • Otherjen

    I don’t have kids, but this rings true. Also, your daughter is beyond adorable. How do you ever say no to that face?!

  • Question

    I’ve long thought that spanking was more about parental frustration than child welfare of safety. As a parent of an almost two year old, I feel even more strongly about that position. I see how people can get to that point and also how it yields results because I was spanked as a kid. I asked my folks if in either of their minds they had a list of offenses that yielded spankings (e.g. If “Question” does ____than the punishment is a spanking” and the answer from both was No, which told me everything I needed to know.

    So with my own kids I’m going to try and do better.

    Can I say without a doubt that I will never spa know my kids? No. But I’m going to try my hardest not to. If I don’t want other people violating the physical space and bodies of my kids, at the least I should show the same restraint.

  • Lara

    A lot of black kids are spoiled. I have heard this from teachers.

    • Hugh Akston

      Guys really who’s going to take one for the team?

      Mary Anne Jolie here is sure looking…

      Shoot ya shot playas

      https://media.tenor.co/images/991a649a216ae94e9ce457044dd4ef5d/tenor.gif

      • Kylroy

        Once I realized it was an unblockable guest user I realized it was a troll. The guys running VSB can edit Disqus so guest accounts can’t post, right?

        • Hugh Akston

          I believe so…but I usually just write some tongue in cheek comment and downvote darth Mary Anne Jolie

    • FarbissinaPunim

      What?

      • Lara

        Some teachers have told me this. I think black parents tend to spoil their kids.

        • Lex

          You think black parents tend to spoil their kids based on what some hack teacher told you? Are you capable of thinking with your own brain? Do you know any black parents? Do they all spoil their kids? How about you? Do you have kids? Do you spoil them? Are you white?? Most white ppl tend to spoil their kids.

          • Kylroy

            Put down the troll chow and save your brain cells. This one’s just a troll that’s capable of hiding it for a post or two.

            • Lex

              I know. I’m in a mood and it was there for me to unload on. I feel better now :)

          • Lara

            I have heard several cases of black parents completely spoiling an out of control brat.

          • Lara

            I know many white teachers. They all say black kids tend to be spoiled.

      • 909girl601world

        Don’t engage with this one. Straight up trolling.

    • miss t-lee
      • Helga G.Pataki

        favorite meme ever

    • Lex

      You make the most useless comments lol

      • MsCee

        Somebody give this baby a hobby.

  • cyanic

    My uncle has four adult children. He spanked them all and insist because the Bible says beat your kids you ought to do it. They are all huge messes and he is clueless as to why.

    • LMNOP

      The Bible says a lot of things.

      • Kylroy

        Start haggling with him over the proper amount of livestock he should receive for his daughter, fr’instance…

        • cyanic

          He justifies everything in that book.

          • Kylroy

            It wasn’t until after I completed the comment that I realized that it could be *particularly* incendiary here, but…man, wouldn’t that only make him think that rules for a nomadic desert tribe might *not* straight-up apply to his situation?

            • cyanic

              Someone where the education in the family did not go very far until they had kids. But his kids were not the smart ones of his extended family.

      • cyanic

        Indeed it does.

      • Epsilonicus

        D@mn sure does

    • Give people a slither of knowledge about the what they THINK the Bible says and they become DANGEROUS people. The proverb “spare the rod and spoil the child” is taken incorrectly and at face value. A rod is used by shepherds to guide, not beat, the sheep…a tool to steer them in the direction you want them to go.

      “Like many biblical literalists, lots of black believers are fond of quoting Scriptures to justify corporal punishment, particularly the verse in Proverbs 13:24 that says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” But in Hebrew, the word translated as “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” The shepherd’s rod was used to guide the sheep, not to beat them.”

      • DomiMami

        This (and patriarchy) are reasons I dont attend church anymore. One day I’ll pick the book back up

  • “I’ve heard many black people attribute their successes, or the fact that they weren’t in jail, on drugs or dead, to the beatings they received as children. But if whupping children kept black people out of prison or safe from abusive cops… if beatings were a prerequisite to success, black people would be ruling the world.”

  • LMNOP

    She is so cute I can’t stand it!! and I kind of want to have another baby now.

    But let me go back and actually read this now. So cute though!

    • Val

      Lol Right.

  • ?? KortAlmighty??

    I hate to use this word, but the topic of spanking is very triggering for me. I just hate how normalized it is within our community, and I’m glad younger generations are pushing back against it. But still, there are far too many jokes about spankings for my liking. I esp. hate how some black folk use examples of white kids misbehaving to justify spankings. Nah bruv, it’s still a terrible thing to inflict on a child.

    I had a terrible childhood, filled with multiple forms of abuse. But it all started with spankings, which escalated to beatings, which escalated beyond that. And the spankings didn’t really teach me right from wrong, they just taught me how to act to avoid getting beat. I’ll probably spend the rest of my life trying to pick up the pieces of the shattered person I am, but even then I don’t think I’ll ever be a whole person. So yeah, FUCK SPANKINGS.

    • Val

      *eHUG*

      Sorry you were put through all of that.

    • Spankings really are the first sign that you might have bad parents.

      • Lara

        Maybe, but some kids are tough. If a parent has a child with someone totally unlike them, it can cause problems. I was like my father and totally different from my mother.

        • Kelly Kell

          It sounds more like some parents have to do work to get to know their child. Like many people said above, a lot of these parents don’t look at their children as separate human individuals who are developing and learning about the world NOT carbon copied robot servant version of them. There’s no respect or empath for the child. Not everyone you meet is going to be like you but you still have to work with them, learn with, etc.

      • Ille Jay

        I think no communication is the first sign…if parents can’t talk to their kids or vice versa…and it’s always “You’re gonna do what I say, the end!” that’s a troubling sign.

    • Lara

      If it was consistent at least, it is much less harmful. If it was dependent on the volatile mood of your parents, then it is destructive.

      • Helga G.Pataki

        I want to agree but I’ve never received or witnessed a calm spanking. From my memory I was spanked when my parent was fed up with either my behavior or my mouth. It’s demeaning to the child and a poor example of how to properly handle frustration.

        • Tiffany

          My mother was always very calm. She would articulate each syllable as she whipped us too. I laugh about it today. I won’t spank my kids because I’ve seen firsthand that you can accomplish effective discipline without hitting, but I’ll never forget those syllable whippings.

        • Lara

          I think you’re right. Parents tend to hit when they have lost their temper.

        • The thing was the few times my dad did spank me, he was calm about it. *shrugs* My mom was the one doing the yelling, but the actual spankings were on him.

          • This was my experience too. It wasn’t a violent/angry thing. And it was very rare. It was not their parenting default…

        • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

          I agree with this. Although I understand now looking back that my father wasn’t acting purely on emotion and was making an effort to discipline me in a way that worked, his anger, frustration or disapproval of me seemed as bad or worse that the physical pain.

    • MsCee

      So sorry to hear that. I’ve never looked at it through the lens of abuse. My mother spanked us but it was very very mild, nowhere near a beating. Now I feel bad for all the times I have made light of been spanked because I’d never considered that what some people got was far worse than the funny stories my siblings and I share.

    • LMNOP

      I’m so sorry you went through and are still going through that.

    • miss t-lee

      *hugs*

    • Wise Old Owl

      Stay Strong and EHugs!
      Remember, You Are Loved…

    • I_AmU

      By being able to articulate the trauma you endured so clearly imop demonstrates you’re ahead of the game than many others with similar histories.
      Peace, Blessings and Healing?

    • Paige Kay

      ALL OF THIS! The abuse I endured as a kid has really, really damaged me as an adult, and I’m praying that with therapy and hard work, I can become a whole person

      • ?? KortAlmighty??

        Sending u healing vibes as we get thru this thing called life ?? ?? ?

      • PinkRose

        You will, but it WILL take time.

    • Mel

      Sorry.

  • MsCee

    I have a kid and I don’t fully agree with the whole “no spanking, like ever” thing. I don’t currently spank my daughter but I would if necessary. I have noticed that as a mother, when I talk to her, gently guide her, and explain why what she is doing is wrong she tends to not do it anymore. My kid is pretty awesome.

    • LMNOP

      How old is she?

      • MsCee

        She is 5. She was born mature though, it’s like she came out the womb already a 30 year old woman lol.

        • LMNOP

          Hahaha, that’s great. My family’s the opposite, I’m basically a 34 year old toddler.

          • MsCee

            Stay young my friend!

    • Question

      I’m curious and asking without judgement – what are those circumstances that fall under “if necessary”?

      • MsCee

        Like when she is older if I find out she has lied, snuck boys in my house etc. I wouldn’t whoop her now she is only 5.

  • Hugh Akston

    Welp number three is a discussion stopper for me…no kids…don’t want any…never will…so for parents who have kids…kudos to them on their disciplinary tactics to raise future generations

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