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Domestic CP - July 2009

Corpun file 21560

The Sidelines (Middle Tennessee State University), 22 July 2009

Spanking isn't always bad

By Andy Harper

We've all seen them -- the tired, nerve-racked parents wading through Wal-Mart and Kroger with their children.

We've all seen them -- the children screaming at their parents, throwing tantrums and tearing through the store like a hurricane.

And we've probably seen those parents delivering a swift smack to the butt of those misbehaving children.

This past Sunday, "The Tennessean" ran an article looking at the long-standing, "Southern" tradition of spanking. In addition to reviewing spanking at home, the article also examined corporal punishment.

Out of 21 states that have at least one school system that allows corporal punishment, Tennessee ranks No. 6 in the 2006-07 school year. A poll by the ACLU shows 14,868 children were paddled during that year. A side note -- Rutherford County is included in Tennessee school systems that allow corporal punishment.

Brian Hinote, assistant professor of sociology, told "The Tennessean" that spanking has been a tradition form of discipline in the South.

"Spanking is viewed as a way of delivering children from hell," Hinote said. "The passage that's cited most is from King Solomon in the book of Proverbs that basically says, 'Spare the rod and spoil the child.'"

Another side note -- the actual phrase "spare the rod and spoil the child" does not appear anywhere in the Bible.

In the same article, Alice Farmer from the ACLU and Human Rights Watch said that "corporal punishment is abusive, but it's also not effective."

But the best "insight" into spanking comes from Nashville psychologist Ken Lass, who does not advocate spanking when counseling parents. However, if a parent wishes to spank their child, Lass said he does honor their cultural practices.

"Cultural norms are very powerful things. How you were raised is what you know."

But Lass continued to say that spanking in the South is probably more common because people are less educated. He told "The Tennessean," "educated people are more enlightened from a scientific point of view about what works."

Obviously, spanking has increasingly come under scrutiny from childcare professionals, psychologists and parents. But what everyone seems to be forgetting is that there is a significant difference between spanking a child and abusing a child.

A friend told me that parents are raising a child to be an adult. And part of being an adult is learning that actions have consequences. Spanking, if some parents choose to, can be used properly as a ramification for an infraction on the part of the child. It teaches children not to repeat behavior.

Timeouts and other forms of punishment are also effective, and not every infraction deserves a belt, paddle or willow branch. But I look at the young adults on television shows like CMT's "World's Strictest Parents" and MTV's "Exiled," and wonder what would have happened if their parents had whipped them for misbehaving as children?

I also think about how I was raised and the unintended result of my upbringing. I was spanked, but I was also taught that violence should be reserved as a last resort for the most serious and dangerous violations. Crossing the street without permission resulted in a spank because my mother would have much rather me learn to fear a swat than get hit by a car.

And while I'm sure that Professor Hinote is an excellent teacher, I think he is a little misguided in his view that only ignorant and uneducated people use spanking as a form of discipline.

Uneducated people use abuse as a form of punishment. But a smart parent is willing to do anything to ensure the health, safety and positive development of their child. And sometimes that means a little tough love.

Andy Harper is a senior journalism major.

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