Earlier this week I wrote a post with a harsh title: If You Spank Your Kids, We Can’t Be Friends.
I fully admit that the title is somewhat of an exaggeration, because although I absolutely feel strongly that spanking children is never a good parenting choice, I do not actually quiz acquaintances about whether they spank or not before inviting them to join me in a blissful friendship. So it is possible that I have friends who spank their kids and I just don’t know about it. Which is sort of a variation of “don’t ask don’t tell.”
I got a lot of flack for being judgmental. There were cries of mind your own business! and don’t tell me how to discipline my child!
I admit to feeling conflicted. Because yes, telling another parent that you know what is best for their family is obnoxious.
But is looking the other way a better alternative? If we all basically agree that it takes a village to raise a child, then should we ignore conduct that we think is dangerous in order to have a smoother social relationship with people that we interact with?
I think the “you mind your business, I’ll mind my own” mindset can be dangerous. I think looking the other way can be dangerous.
If we see a parent putting a three-year-old in the front seat of the car, do we say something? Or do we think “eh, her kid, her choice?”
I assume we all agree that when we see a child in a locked car on a hot day, we instantly call the police, despite the fact that dad could be seconds from returning.
Of course I don’t think that every instance of spanking is abusive. Not at all. But I think the line can get blurry.
I’ve heard many explanations for spanking ranging from “it’s in the Bible” (despite the writings that the “spare the rod, spoil the child” actually refers to the shepherd’s rod used to guide the child, rather than beat him with it) to “I was spanked and turned out great” (which doesn’t address whether the person turned out great because or despite of the spanking) to “different things work for different children” (which I fully agree with, except I still maintain that hitting is never an appropriate option.)
Look, I’m not an expert. I’m just a mom. I have two kids that I love like crazy and want to protect. But I also want to make sure that they grow up to be good people, that they do the right thing. I absolutely discipline them but I have never laid a hand on them.
It’s been years since I’ve seen a child spanked in my presence and I’m not sure what I would do if I saw it today. I know that nothing that I could say at the time, or ever, would probably change the parent’s conduct.
I’m afraid that if I did see a child spanked in my presence, I would not approach the parent. I would be as outwardly nonjudgmental as I could be. I would not look at the parent spanking. I would look the other way.
And I just wonder when looking the other way became the right thing to do.