Are you allowing equal time for rebutting Stacy Christiansen’s column in favor of spanking children? I hope so. Spanking is a damaging and unnecessary form of discipline.

People who spank their children tend to be those who were hit themselves. No doubt Ms. Christiansen was spanked and is trying to justify it to herself. As for me, my parents never spanked me, and I do not spank my children. If it is possible to raise well-behaved, confident, kindhearted children without physical discipline (and it is), then why hurt your children?

I worked as a teacher at a center in California for abused children. These children ranged from the boy who killed and tortured small animals to the four-year old who told me she could hardly wait till she was a grown-up so that she could buy a gun and kill herself. The parents were required to watch us a certain number of hours per week through the 2-way mirrors, so that they could learn how to elicit the desired behaviors from children without burning them with cigarettes or hitting them with belts. Do you think we showed parents how to give a “smack on the butt” because it’s “padded enough,” as Ms. Christiansen advises? No way! We praised and hugged children for any signs of the desired behaviors, engineered situations so children would not get into trouble, and put them in “time out” till they learned to remove themselves from the situations in which they were misbehaving. I’m sorry that I can’t have the space here to give examples of how to make children do what you want only by positive reinforcement. Call me up if you wish, and we’ll talk!

Children learn best by example. Think how confusing it must be for a child whose father is spanking her because she hit her little brother. “It’s not okay to hit someone smaller than you!” He hollers as he hits someone smaller than he. And while you are hitting children, they are hating you and longing for the day when they are big enough to hit you back. If you put children in time out instead, they realize they have done something wrong and they sit and think about what they did while they calm down. (This also gives the parent time to calm down and comfort the victim, if there is one, rather than giving attention to the misbehaving child.) If you spank children, you turn them into the victims, and they focus on your bad behavior rather than their own.

Ms. Christiansen advocates letting the father play the role of child punisher when he gets home from work. Nope. Bad behavior demands the immediate attention of the person who is present when the situation occurs. If that is the mother, she needs to deal with the situation. The father might come home from work eager to see his children and enter into some good interactions with them. He should not have to take on the role of the heavy.

What scares me most is that Ms. Christiansen describes cold, uncaring parents and then advises they use physical discipline on children. This is a particularly deadly combination. She should instead be urging potential parents to be warm and caring and involved, to set a good example for the children and praise them for their good behavior. Talk and talk with them.

Janet Pendleton

NIU Alumni

M.S. Ed.