Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And some are very, very bad.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish...

"Who is the bad fish in this picture?"




...I asked my husband, with a pit in my stomach, as I read to our 13-month old son.

He raised an eyebrow and said, "Uh, the red one, obviously."

I always thought it was the yellow one.

My whole childhood, in the thousands of times I've read Dr. Suess's wonderful book "One Fish Two Fish", I thought the bad fish on this page were the little yellow and blue fish.  The red fish, in my child's eyes, was their father.  The yellow fish was in trouble and had been "very very bad."  The little blue fish was smug because he'd gotten away with it and his sibling was taking the blame. The red father fish was spanking the little yellow fish.

I saw this page last night through adult eyes and decided, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that our home will never be a spanking home.

I was not raised in an abusive house, by any definition.  My parents are wonderful, kind, and supportive people who I am honored to have in my life.  As I have said before, they made the best decisions they could with the information they had, and always did what they believed to be right.  So, in keeping with the times, our home was a spanking home.  We weren't spanked for minor infractions; it was rare and reserved for only the worst offenses - things that could cause us real harm, like playing with fire or messing with dangerous tools, running away from our parents in an amusement park, darting out into traffic.  Offenses that, by conventional logic, were "deserving" of a spanking. We were only spanked if we were "very, very bad."

Spankings were never doled out in anger; they were measured, explained, and followed up by a hug.  Once the spanking was over, it was over and the world continued to turn.   My parents never left marks or bruises, and, presumably, the harm of the spank was less than the potential harm of the offense.  A spank certainly hurt less than an abduction or 3rd degree burn could have.



Spanking has an interesting history in the United States, but not as far back as you'd think.  While there are ancient historical examples of young adults being physically punished by their parents, the concept of disciplining small children "by the rod" is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Ancient Jewish law in particular is very clear in its opposition to causing harm to children.  The New Testament is even more definitive. Throughout history, spanking has been reserved for adults only, as a method for removing sin and allowing penance.

Spanking as a form of discipline for little ones seems to have come into fashion during the Victorian era (1837-1901), first in Europe and spreading to the USA, along with the notion that children should seen and not heard.  It began first with spanking young men and women to punish for sexual deviance (aka, masturbation), and slowly moved backward in age.  Spanking on the rear end was preferred because it could not accidentally cause harm to the internal organs, and on the naked bum because it would help the child associate pain with sexuality (sound familiar, intactivists?).

Books were published about the right way to spank, and the oft-used and always misinterpreted bible verse "Spare the rod and spoil the child" was used to support spanking small children for any offense.  This verse has many, many different translations depending on the version of the Bible.  While revisiting the earliest versions, the word discipline is a more accurate translation, and the rod is more like "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me" than "thy rod beats me when I mess up."

Notice that He is not swinging the rod at the wayward sheep....
The rod is hooked so the Shepherd can gently pull his flock into safety.

Spanking is seeing a gradual decline in popularity, but a majority of Americans still believe it is an appropriate and effective form of discipline.  In a 2000 poll, 61% of parents believed that regular spanking is acceptable, even beneficial to children.  An astonishing 37% believed that spanking a child younger than 2 is acceptable.  Not surprisingly, 56% thought that a 6-month old baby can be "spoiled" by too much attention.  More than 90% of parents report that they have spanked their children.


Frankly, these parents either haven't kept up with research or are ignoring it.  The American Academy of Pediatrics not only states that spanking can cause damage, they further illustrate that it doesn't work, long-term.  They are especially vocal about spanking children under 18 months of age, citing an increased of physical injury.  Children who are spanked occasionally as small children need to be spanked more and more often to "behave" as they age, and parents are left with very few disciplinary options with teens,

Another recent study by Pediatrics reported that children spanked at a young age were much more likely to be aggressive in the years following: ""The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 increased by 50% if he had been spanked more than twice in the month before the study began." 

Additional research has shown that children who are spanked are more likely to have social and emotional problems, are more likely to commit violent crimes, and are more likely to be involved in abusive relationships as adults.

For an in-depth review of corporal punishment studies, click here

Spanking emotionally harms the child and the parent, and can damage an otherwise trusting relationship.  Children who are spanked are less likely to confide their troubles to a parent, for fear of reprisal.  Instead, spanked children learn to be better liars to avoid consequence.  They learn to avoid being caught, not to make good choices.

9 Alternatives to Spanking

So, here is my question for you.... which fish is the bad fish?  Which fish will you be? 

More importantly, when your child reads the book, which fish will they think is "very, very bad"?


For more information about preventing child abuse, visit www.preventchildabuse.org.
To learn more about positive (non-hitting) discipline techniques, click here.

30 comments:

  1. Thank you so much! I am sharing this on FB.

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  2. The reason the lamb is around the shoulders is because the shepherd used a rod to break its leg. Look up the historical context. It wouldn't make sense to "comfort" a child that is being disobedient. On the plus side, it was a beautiful picture that you painted of your parents using the correct form of spanking - done in love and only when it is to protect children. It is my opinion that the reason our culture has so many school shootings, full jails, etc. is that parents have become totally lax in discipline and have allowed their children to rule the house.

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  3. Oh, Anonymous, my heart breaks for you.

    It may be your opinion that our culture is a result of not enough "discipline" (which in your mind is clearly synonymous with hitting), research shows the opposite. As spanking has decreased, people have become less violent, not the other way around. Children who are NOT spanked are less likely to go to jail, not more. Really. Look into it. Question.

    As for the lamb, in historical content it does indeed have a broken leg, but not at the hands of its shepherd. The fact that you see that in the picture is as telling as what I saw in Dr. Suess's book.

    I'm sorry that violence is so deeply ingrained in your psyche that you can't question why it's OK to hit your child, but not your wife. Or is that ok too? I mean, if you smack her around, she'll stop burning dinner, right?

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  4. One more comment - it DOES make sense to comfort a child who is being disobedient, if their disobedience comes from a place of pain.

    Let's say you have a 4 year old who suddenly becomes defiant after the birth of her sister. What does the child need more, a "good" spanking, or a little extra love?

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  5. Reading your post really made me think. I grew up in a spanking environment. I try as much as possible not to hit my kids. So instead I reform to other means of discipline that does not require hitting them. It is hard on my part but I know if I start, then my kids will follow, they will not spank their kids also. Thank you so much for this wonderful and informative post. Can I share this also?

    Anne
    http://diapersandstethoscope.blogspot.com/

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  6. Great Post! I was violent as a teenager due to being spanked often as a child. This all changed when I had kids. Unlike some parents, I vowed never to hit my children. Turning to words and love instead of violence was something I had to teach myself and it wasn't easy.

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  7. dear (first) anonymous,
    please read this regarding the sheep story.

    http://www.christianityoasis.com/keyword/WanderingSheep.htm

    spanking hurts everyone and helps no one.

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  8. I loved this post! I'm also very sad for anonymous, who obviously still doesn't understand. People who spank don't know how NOT to spank. They do it bc it's the only thing that works (for them, for that time, for that situation) in their minds. Sad, but very typical. I can't wait until we've came far enough away from this for a spanking to not be looked at as normal by anyone.
    I've spanked my daughter. It WAS out of frustration. It was bc I couldn't think of a better way to handle it. I will totally admit that it made me a worse parent to her. Luckily, I was able to use it as an example to show her mommies make mistakes and ask her forgiveness. It's harder to NOT spank. It's much more difficult to come up with a calm way to help guide your child through that rough spot. I personally feel it's done in weakness to make one feel stronger. Sad. :(

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  9. Do you really think its harder NOT to spank? To do it the right way would be to calmly teach and explain why, give them a spank, then restore them with a hug. I think it would be much easier to coddle them or say go sit in the naughty seat for 5 minutes...
    And whoever thinks our culture has gotten less violent over the last, say, 50 years is seriously brainwashed.

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  10. angel01051977 said she spanked her daughter in the heat of the moment, and regretted doing so.
    Anonymous said she thinks it is fine to spank a child as long as you do it in cold blood.
    Interesting...

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  11. If you calmly teach and explain why, then why is the spanking even necessary? What exactly are you teaching also? Why they shouldnt do what they did? Or how to handle it better the next time around? I still dont get what the spanking is for? You believe children are bad so they need to be hit to learn a lesson? All my time with children has taught me that kids mean well, they arent evil or malicious. They are just trying to figure out the world, trying to handle thier emotions and learning how to communicate. When your child gets a math problem wrong to you give him a spanking? Or do you keep teaching? Our children are learning and they need patience and understanding from us, not a spanking everytime they get something wrong.

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  12. What frustrates and confuses me most about pro-spankers (or pro-hitters, if you will) like Anonymous is their strong belief that the lack of a physical punishment = coddling. Really? There is no other way to effectively discipline small children other than to *hit* them?

    I come from a very loving, two parent home in which there was some spanking, much like what the writer described in her own home. I love my parents dearly, but in this area, I am doing better for my daughter.

    I also am a special educator and work with preschool aged children, both typically developing and developmentally delayed. My students are very well behaved because we use DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE forms of discipline (which do not include hitting/spanking/yelling, believe it or not!).

    It sounds as though you will continue to hit your children, Anonymous, and for them, I am truly sorry, because there are better ways.

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  13. To the anonymous poster who said it doesn't make sense to offer comfort to a disobedient child- coming from a biblical standpoint, I must point out that God tells us repeatedly that he is there for us, in spite of our disobedience. In order to become better parents, we must endeavor to parent our children as God parents us. When we are wayward, confused, even angry, God offers us comfort and guidance. He does not ignore us or punish us when we are suffering, even when it is suffering that we have caused ourselves.

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  14. I am definitely finding already that positive discipline is *much* harder than spanking. Say my little one reaches for my cup of hot coffee. I could just slap his hand. After all, hot coffee is dangerous, and a slap is better than a burn, right?

    Rather than that, I should instead ask:
    1 - Why can he reach it at all? Move the hot coffee to a safe place.
    2 - Is he thirsty? Get him a drink.
    3 - Is he curious? Show him the coffee, let him touch the cup and feel that it is hot.
    4 - Does he want to imitate Mommy? Get him a safe cup.
    5 - Does he want my attention? Put down the coffee and spend some time with my son.

    *ALL* of these take more effort than just slapping his hand. But all of them teach, lead, and love, which is what we as parents should be striving to do.

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  15. First Anonymous ... as a Psychology major, I can assure you that society's problems do not come from a lack of discipline. There have been a multitude of studies done to prove that spanking does not work long term and that there are better ways for children to be disciplined.

    Look around you. How many children do you see who are "monsters", but have parents who spank? How often does that spanking work long term? Now think of how many of those "monsters" eat to much sugar (not that sugar is an excuse, but it does make them hyper), how many of those children have parents who work long hours and spend much of the day (other than school) alone or at daycare?

    It is more likely that children's poor behavior comes from a lack of attention and parental leadership than it does because people are not hitting their children. As someone who works in the public school system I can tell you that when a child is given love, attention, and understanding their poor behavior usually dimities or disappears completely.

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  16. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." Proverbs 22:15

    "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
    Proverbs 13:24 (KJV)

    "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." Proverbs 19:18

    "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." Proverbs 23:13-14

    "Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul." Proverbs 29:17

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  17. diminishes not dimities. Sorry

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  18. I am so against spanking! It's so abusive. When my child throws a fit at the store, I just hug him while he pulls all my hair out and hits me. I love him so much that when he throws all his food on the floor, I just say, "Oh honey, that's a very creative display you've made, let me get you some more food." Positive reinforcement people! My son is always right!


    PULEEEZE!!!

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  19. READ THE TRUTH - you seem to have skipped the New Testament.

    "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. " 1 John 4:18

    "What do you prefer? Shall I come to with a rod, or in love and with a gentle spirit?" 1 Corinthians 4:21

    At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
    Matthew 18:1-4

    "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me"
    Mark 9:36

    "But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children."
    1 Thessalonians 2:7

    "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the LORD."
    Ephesians 6:4

    "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."
    Colossians 3:21

    "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
    Luke 6:37,38



    Further, you are again misunderstanding. You do not have to hit a child to discipline. I agree with Proverbs 22:15, 13:24, 19:18, 29:17 - discipline and guidance is absolutely necessary for children. You do not have to BEAT a child to discipline or chastise them!

    Do you also believe that a woman who has sex out of wedlock should be stoned? Jesus didn't...

    "22.23 If a damsel who is a virgin be betrothed unto a husband, and a man find her in the city and lie with her, then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones, that they die — the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city, and the man,because he hath humbled his neighbor’s wife; so thou shalt put away evil from among you."
    Deuteronomy 22:23-24

    Regardless, Jesus came to teach a message of love. Christians know that Jesus' sacrifice freed us from the old law. He died on the cross for our sins, and our children's. Are you saying His sacrifice isn't good enough for their sins and you still need to beat the sin out of them?

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  20. Oh, interesting sociological image and questioning! Love it! I asked Zon who the bad guy was and she shook her head at me, confused. I asked her again and she stared. Then she said, "Mama, fish just mean. Fish need hug."

    No one in that image is bad. :) Adults need hugs and love, too!

    There are I think 8 parts to this excellent, in depth analysis of Christianity and spanking:
    http://www.facebook.com/notes/why-not-train-a-child/the-christian-history-of-spanking-part-1-by-steph/10150154390086542

    For those who know their Bible and want intermediate discussion, this post BLOWS AWAY the myth that spanking is Biblically supported:

    http://parentingfreedom.com/discipline/

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  21. Sorry, mistype on the first:

    "What do you prefer? Shall I come to *you* with a rod, or in love and with a gentle spirit?"

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  22. A few comments.....

    First if you keep changing the Bibble that was originally written thousands of years ago then it's no longer the bible it's what ever piece of paper that someone wrote that you've chosen to rewrite.

    Second I think you are judging anonymous quite harshly! which in the bible is wrong is it not?

    Thirdly I think it's too quick to ever decide weather a punishment was wright or wrong do you really think a time out works when it's done ten times a day? I think all situations are different and should be judged accordingly.

    Do think it's okay to beat your child no! Do I think the occasional spanking on the bum is okay yes. But dont start comparing them to, is beating your wife ok too because then your just being an idiot.

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  23. Hi Catherine,

    Thank you for taking the time to write. I'm not changing the Bible at all; in fact, my comments are based off the earliest Hebrew translations. Words can (and do) change over time, and we are imperfect people who can misinterpret.

    I'm not judging Anonymous - but I am disagreeing with his/her opinion, and that's ok. I've been praying for him and his children to find healing and love despite an upbringing of violence.

    No, time-out does not work if used 10x a day. Honestly, I believe that time-outs are vastly overused by parents, and that there are more appropriate disciplinary responses. I'll start on another post about that, so you can see what I mean. People seem to think that the only alternatives to spanking are time-outs or doing nothing, but there are other, more effective measures to use that don't involve hitting OR ignoring bad decisions. Children need boundaries and discipline, but they don't need to be hit. There is a better way.

    Please don't call me an idiot - that's definitely judging. I will compare hitting children to hitting wives, because it used to be totally acceptable for a husband to spank his wife to "bring her in line." It used to be legal, even encouraged, as a way to create peace in a home.

    If my husband were to strip off my clothes, bend me over his knee, and beat my rear end against my will, I would have him arrested, and he would be rightfully condemned for abuse.

    If I were to spank my elderly grandmother for misbehavior, I would be brought up on charges.

    If one of my employees breaks a serious company policy, even one that could endanger others, I would be fired and jailed for spanking them.

    Why are children different? Because they're too little to call the police? Because they're not real people yet?

    Hitting is hitting. Violence is violence. Even if it's meant in love, it's wrong.

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  24. "Do I think the occasional spanking on the bum is okay yes." No amount of sexual molestation is okay. Causing pain and humiliation to a small child is just that: causing pain and humiliation.

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  25. spanking is a form of punishment, and who really knows when and where it started. a child who gets spanked will improve. there is a difference between being beaten and spanked. i was beaten as a child, and i was not a bad teenager. i spank my kids when really needed and tell them what they did wrong, why it was wrong and even a spanking can be out of love, regardless of what anyone thinks. just because the majority of you out there don't agree with me doesn't make me wrong, it also don't make you right. spanking a child is not violence nor is it an act of rage....unless the parent, like mine, use it as an outlet from their own demons. and you don't have to have a bachelors degree in anything to understand that: not everyone knows or understands what love really is, or do they have to follow what the mass majority is doing so they don't get looked down on, or breaking the cycle of abuse and humiliation can be hard on an adult especially if no one really listens.

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  26. "A child who gets spanked will improve." But, see, that's just not true.

    Spanking doesn't work. It doesn't make a kid "better". It makes them worse. Kids who are spanked have to be spanked more and more and more often to behave.

    Breaking the cycle is hard. I know! My parents know. The way to break it is to just break it, completely. Vow to not hit your kids. Ask their forgiveness if you lapse. Admit to yourself that it's wrong, and that there is a better way, and you will try to do better. You can do it!

    There is a better way. You can teach your kids right from wrong without hitting them. If you can... why wouldn't you try?

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