It’s an annual event now, like some sort of grotesque birthday – the attempt to make the spanking of one’s child a criminal offence. The zealots have failed so far, but be warned that each time, they come a little closer. For most of us, the normal ones, the issue is largely irrelevant. Spanking is sometimes helpful, and frequently a waste of time, but is hardly ever damaging or significant. There are other and various ways in which to discipline kids, but to single out spanking as something unacceptable is more a product of contemporary neurosis than genuine concern.
Much of the research around this issue is tendentious, if not dishonest. One survey that is regularly quoted states that the majority of violent criminals claim to have been subjected to corporal punishment as children and teenagers. There are legions of logical fallacies attached to this. First, these criminals may have been spanked precisely because they exhibited criminal behaviour in the first place. In other words, far from spanking leading to anti-social acts, anti-social acts may have led to spanking.
Second, to isolate a criminal group, to analyze its experience and then draw conclusions is achingly bad sociology. Were non-criminals from the same background and of the same age also spanked? If so, were they spanked more or less than their peers who went on to break the law?
All of the existing evidence worthy of the name leads us to believe that there is, in fact, no difference in outcome. More than this, the “research” from the spankophobes does not ask whether the criminals they questioned came from broken or dysfunctional families, were abused or, rather important really, whether they were telling the truth in the first place.
The “I was abused, so I became an abuser” defence and justification, for example, is extremely common these days and, in a number of cases, is increasingly difficult to believe.
This leads us to genuine abuse and indifference, which is common and largely unquestioned: lack of love and time, the use of nannies and daycare when parenting is possible and necessary, the absence of boundaries, the refusal to sacrifice time, the willingness to divorce when effort and time could provide children with stable, and not broken, families.
Little girls dressed up as Madonna or as miniature hookers, boys as pimps and pushers. Ten-year-olds with cellphones, the internet and a television in their bedroom. Presents from mum and dad instead of presence of mum and dad. Let them do what they want to do when they want to do it. Make them sexual when they should be silly, let them be materialistic when they should be merry, foul-mouthed when they should be fancy-free.
Beyond this, there is the fundamental notion of what is meant by discipline. The most vociferous opponents of spanking have suggested that a parent raising his or her voice to a child or sending junior to bed without supper is also a form of abuse. If you doubt me, read their material. The alleged “rights” of children have become a fetish. We claim to love children, but appear intent on destroying childhood.
Another argument runs that we have no more right to spank a child than we do to spank an adult. Violence, says the propaganda, is violence. Problem is, it isn’t violence and they aren’t adults. I may not spank a grown-up, but then I wouldn’t hold his hand when he crossed the road, help him with his homework or force him to go to school when he claimed to have a headache, either.
Then we have the consequences of any repeal of a law that allows mild spanking of a child. The proponents deny it, but if the law were ever changed, it would be illegal to use any kind of force against a child. In other words, a hysterical seven-year-old in a store could not be put over a shoulder and taken home. If a complaint was made, the parent would be visited by a social worker and even lose custody. If you doubt me, look at the history of Sweden since it altered its laws.
Closer to home, look at some of the excesses of various Children’s Aid Societies in Canada. There are dozens of cases of humiliation and degradation of families based on the flimsiest of pretexts and the agendas of often young, inexperienced and radical social workers.
The beating, punching and kicking of a child is always wrong and there are numerous laws to deal with such abuse. As for spanking, I fully respect a person’s right to never spank his children if this works for him. But the respect must be mutual and the parenting approach of one group should not be forced upon another. As for the zealots, they deserve a good spanking.
Michael Coren can be booked for public speaking events at www.michaelcoren.com.