To Spank or Not to Spank

Cold Stone was closed. We ventured next door to Evos and split a veggie burger. It had been an interesting weekend. Mother and teenage daughter together in Tampa; moods rising and falling like a rollercoaster track. It happens sometimes, fortunately not often. When it does we eventually talk it out.
By the time we got to Evos all was well. The Dixie Games were behind us and chocolate peanut butter cup ice-cream was in our future. It was our “sweet” day. We sat and waited for the magic twelve-o-clock hour and talked. My daughter shared a story about an incident that took place just an hour earlier. She started out with, “I almost cried, mom.”

My interest piqued. I knew somehow she wasn’t going to tell me a story about wheelchair racing. She asked me if I remembered seeing a certain little girl about nine years old wheeling around in a wheelchair that obviously wasn’t hers. I did. The little girl was two sizes too small for the wheelchair; a giveaway that it’s an able-bodied person having fun wheeling around. I thought it was adorable because she wanted to be like the many other kids and adults that were participating in the Dixie Games at the USF track. Every time I saw her, I smiled.

It was right before my daughter’s last race. She decided to use the restroom while I waited next to the track with her racing chair. I heard a last call for the 1500 meter race and got nervous. Where was she? Twice I thought about leaving to go get her. Twice I felt that inner pull, the little voice that says act, and twice I ignored it. In a few minutes my daughter returned just as they were calling her name. I admired her perfect timing and thought everything was okay. She got in her racing chair, I wished her luck and she joined the others lining up.

Sitting at Evos she told me what happened. While in the restroom my daughter saw the smiling little girl in the wheelchair. Then her mother appeared and grabbed her by the wrist and drug her yelling and crying into a bathroom stall where she told her to pull her pants down. My daughter listened to the little girl’s screams after each slap not knowing what to do. When it was over she saw the pain in the little girl’s eyes.

Anger shot through me as I listened to the story. I knew that had I been there, I would not have kept my mouth closed. Those who know me well, know that I’m calm and easy-going most of the time. I don’t get riled up by much. However, whenever I witness a child being hurt by an adult emotionally or physically, I cannot keep silent. I probably would have told the mom that she was spanking the self-esteem right out of her child. I probably would have told her to hit me because then at least she could get her anger out on an adult stranger instead of an innocent child that looked to her for safety. I probably would have made a fool out of myself but I would have done it to let that mom and child know that spanking is not accepted by everyone and there are healthier ways to discipline. Ways that don’t teach children to hit out of anger and don’t make children feel helpless and humiliated at the hands of another – someone who loves them.

I know there are many who disagree with me and think that spanking a child is normal and helps keep children well-behaved. To them I say, some of the most mature and well-behaved kids I know have never been spanked. To them I question whether or not they felt calm or full of anger while spanking their child? Did they have to justify their actions due to lingering guilt? Did they feel as though it was the only way to gain control of their child? Fear.

I find it interesting how many adults can remember being hit by their parents. Specific memories from childhood that instilled so much fear the memory stuck.
What will the little girl remember about the Dixie Games? How much fun she had rolling around in someone’s wheelchair? Maybe. Her mom beating her? Most likely. I know my daughter won’t forget the incident. It was a harsh life lesson that allowed her to see the situation from a victim’s perspective.

I really don’t understand how spanking teaches children self-control or the ability to communicate one’s feelings to another. I see it as a method of instilling fear in hopes that it will prevent future unwanted behavior. To me it seems this will only work in the most sensitive of children. Anyone who feels differently I welcome your comments. I think it’s a good discussion topic especially since this incident took place in public.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Marilyn D.
    May 17, 2011 @ 08:12:55

    Great writing and I agree with you!!!


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The Picture Book Review

Reviews of Children's Board Books, Picture Books, Activity Books, and Graphic Novels

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