SPANKING KIDS with a rod – supported in the Bible?

spank kidDo you spank your kids thinking ”science” and the Bible support this kind of treatment? Science investigations are at best ”inconclusive” whether spanking will increase good behavior in a child (apart from an immediate obedience) and at worst it can affect the child in a very destructive way and harm him for life. The problem with having no laws against spanking kids, is that parents could get away with beating their kids really hard by suggesting in court that ”I only meant to spank him softly but ended up spanking him harder than I intended”, and they could win the case despite severe bruises and even injuries on the child. Having laws against spanking doesn’t mean you can’t even touch the child or grab him hard around the arm and pull him away from some activity. There are also other ways to discipline a child than physical abuse.

Does the Bible say anything about giving a child a little spank on his behind by using a hand? No, IF you would like to obey Proverbs literally you should beat him with a ROD and not stop even if he cries! Do you?

We can read about disciplining a child (or rather a youngster) physically in Proverbs, and Proverbs is a book well-known for its poetry, similes, metaphors and hyperboles. So how can we be certain of that those few cases should be read literally? Do you obey these verses literally if this is your true aim? Proverbs doesn’t say anything about spanking a child gently (or not gently) on his behind but that you should BEAT HIM WITH A ROD! Do you also believe that it’s OK to not stop beating the child even if he is crying (as in ”let not thy soul spare for his crying”) and do you also do this to a five-year old child? Do you also do this even if the child doesn’t deserve to be beaten, only because you’re afraid of disobeying the words ”Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell”? Meaning that if you realize that your child is approaching his/her teenage years and you have so far not found any reason to beat your child, you must hurry up to do this for no reason at all in order to be obedient to this verse in Proverbs that you understand as literal – just to be on the safe side. All this because you interpret a verse to say that the child can risk hell if you don’t?

If we don’t pay attention to words, context and in which book in the Bible we are reading, things can go very wrong. The truth is that a good shepherd does not beat his sheep with his rod. He uses his rod to show authority over his sheep and his aim is to keep them safe and sound. This goes together well with the saying ”Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”. The fright of sudden noise can induce a shock in the sheep that suppresses fertility, so beating sheep with a rod wouldn’t serve any purpose. Dog experts advise against beating dogs for very good reasons, and they can become very aggressive if treated in the wrong way. Can we really say that it’s improper to beat sheep and dogs but perfectly fine to beat children? A rod could be as symbol for authority and correction. We can read in James that we put bits in the horses mouths so that they may obey us, and no mentioning of using physical punishment to make horses obey us. A shepherd could use a rod/crook to move a sheep should it be necessary, and something like this could be used for horses as well – but not as in a punishment but as in steering the animal and making him move.

James 3:For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

What the Bible says about spanking

Proverbs says we should use a ROD, which would be a shebet, which during this time could be a large walking stick, a shepherd’s crook or a king’s scepter. So it does not say that a parent should use his HAND but a ROD, as in a stick, bat or cane. If you want to take these verses literally, then you should not give yourself the right to switch the rod to a little twig, wooden spoon or your hand. If you can amend the verses to make them say ”spank with your hand” instead of ”beat with a rod”, then perhaps it’s an even better alternative to NOT change the verses but to understand them metaphorically as in ”discipline your kids and don’t spoil them”. Even if we don’t want to spank or beat our children, it’s oftentimes necessary to take hold of an arm and say ”NO, be careful!” or similar. Not being allowed to spank your children doesn’t mean you can’t touch them! To grab an arm can also be felt physically and it gives less humiliation than spanking the kid on his behind.

Here are the verses in Proverbs that speak about chastening youth. We should absolutely use discipline as a method to bring the children up, and ”rod of correction” could simply be symbolism for correction made by an authority. If you have found no reason to beat you kid, simply because he has done nothing to deserve it, does this mean you hate him? Must you then hurry up to beat him just to show that you don’t hate him?

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

Prov. 29:15: The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

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

Prov 13:24: He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (diligently).

Prov. 23:12 Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.15 My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.

”Chastening” doesn’t have to mean a physical punishment, and if we also understand the ”the rod of correction” and ”the rod of reproof” to be a figure of speech, we actually don’t have many verses left in Proverbs which might encourage literal spanking/beating children with a real rod. We only have one passage left that could possibly be used as support and that is Proverbs 23:13-14 above (highlighted with purple) where we can read that we should BEAT a son with the rod, and also a promise that he will not die from it. A sad fact is that children indeed have been killed by parents beating them to death with a rod, and it’s actually enough to beat a child a couple of times in the wrong place and too hard, and he can die from it. Could the ”the rod” spoken about in Prov. 23:12-14 (and also in Proverbs 13:24 and all other verses) be the same type of rod spoken about earlier – the rod of correction? This term could be figure of speech for correction, chastening and discipline, something that children will indeed NOT die from (unless we’re talking about a physical punishment) and it could also place him on the right path away from hell.

These passages presumably reflect Solomo’s parenting beliefs with respect to his son, Rehoboam. Solomo says:

Prov. 22:Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

The problem is that Solomo, in all his wisdom and knowledge about how to bring up a child, ended up getting a son who became a very hated ruler due to his evil deeds. This shows that Proverbs cannot always be taken literally but oftentimes as a ”general” truth and at other times as metaphors or hyperboles. The Father of the prodigal son is considered to be a wise Father (and he is compared with God), but this still doesn’t mean that there were no risks involved for getting a rebellious son, which he ended up getting. So Prov. 22:6 is clearly not true in all cases. As an adult, Rehoboam was vicious, inconsiderate to his subjects, had no regard for human rights, and was widely hated. He barely escaped assassination at the hands of his own people.

1 Kings 12:12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day.13 And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him;14 And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

There is a mention here that Solomo whipped his servants (and his son did this even more), so is this too a procedure that you would like to use on your employees? I’d rather believe that both ”chastised you with whips” and ”chastise you with scorpions” are just metaphors or figure of speech and that there were no actual whips or scorpions involved – and no literal yokes either for that matter.

God explained to King David that his son Solomon would be chastened by him (God) by using the rod of men and with the stripes of the children of men. Did God do this literally? No, he never used a literal rod against him but he did chasten him in various other ways. 

2 Samuel 7:13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men

Proverbs also mentions some other things that we would hesitate to understand literally:

Proverbs 22:He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.10 Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.

Is this always true? And here too we can read ”rod of his anger”, as in a figure of speech.

Proverbs. 23:1 When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.—Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.

This is a command to not eat too much and not to slit your throat. Likewise, when reading that you should beat your child with a rod, it could be a command to discipline and have authority over your child.

The Hebrew word Naár can mean  youth (young and unmarried), or literally he who shakes off or shakes himself free. Not necessarily a child under 12. But baby Moses was also described as naár and baby Samuel when weaned and taken to the temple – so as in the meaning of ”shaken off”. The word for beat is the same as for ”the sun beat down on Jonah”, as in a constant presence. We should have a constant presence of authority in our children’s lives.

If it was so important to beat a child (rather than using other forms of discipline), wouldn’t it be a good idea to state this in the law of Moses or elsewhere, instead of a book well-known for its poetry? Instead we can read instructions how to handle a son who does not ”obey the VOICE of his father or mother”, and what to do with a rebellious son with no hope for improvement (that you actually wouldn’t risk getting in the first place if Prov. 22:6 was literally true). There is no mention of beating or spanking children in the Mosaic law, but we can read about VOICE of the parents, which could make the reader believe that we ought to discuss and reason with our children and to apply various means of chastisement, but this doesn’t have to mean a physical punishment. We can read that if the rebellious son despite much chastening from his parents still refuses to obey and hearken (to their voices) THEN his parents may lay hold of him and bring him to the elders of the city. A valid reason for taking this route would be if their son was a glutton and a drunkard – so clearly not a young child but rather a teenager/youth – and it’s of course up to the parents to decide when there is no hope to ever get their son back on track. The punishment was then stoning. There is no known recording of parents who have ever taken this severe step, and that’s rather understandable knowing the outcome would be a sure DEATH for their own loved child.

Deut. 21:18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

In the New Testament there is no mention of spanking or beating children, but we can read about chastening and disciplining them. The point being made is that we should not question chastening from our Lord because this is a sign of love and not hate. Normally fathers chasten their sons in one way or the other – because of love for them.

Hebrews 12:6-7: ”…the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”

Moreover, Paul tells us that children must obey their parents in ALL THINGS. What about parents who teach their children to participate in theft, drug use and bullying? Clearly Paul is speaking about a situation where both parties – parents and children – obey his recommendations, and maybe that is why he says ”parents IN THE LORD”. Paul is also asking Fathers to not provoke their children to anger, and it’s common that children who get spanked/beaten feel anger and resentment, and an urge to make a revenge towards someone. Children who get beaten, often end up beating their own children when they grow up.

Col. 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

Eph. 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

According to science, spanking/beating children can cause many negative side effectsspank kid2

That spanking/beating children is not a good idea can be seen in this document from ”phoenoixchildrens.com”

meta study from 2002 with an analysis of 60 years of scientific studies about spanking/beating children draws the conclusion that such treatments are correlated to several disadvantages and give no advantages other than an immediate obedience in the situation at hand. The experience of getting spanked/beaten could be very traumatic  for the child and something that he will never forget. It’s absolutely possible that he will not repeat the particular offence that he was spanked/beaten for, but it could lead to that he will hold a grudge against his parents for a very long time which would affect the relationship negatively in the long run, and it’s a risk that he will subconsciously like to make a revenge by pouring out his anger and feeling of humiliation on others (siblings or friends).

It’s not possible to make a law where parents must sit down to discuss and reason with their children in love, but it IS possible to make a law where spanking/beating children is prohibited. This is done in many countries and means that parents are at risk of getting reported by others if they are detected to transgress the law. In Sweden there is an organization that encourages children, through ads in media and in schools, to call them if their parents spank/beat them.

If you compare Sweden with a country where spanking/beating children is NOT prohibited, do you think that perhaps people tend to REPORT spanking/beating to a greater degree in Sweden than in this other country?

I would think that you would say YES to this question! Why would anyone bother report spanking/beating children in a country where this is legal? And who would you report this legal procedure to in the first place? Yes, ABUSE is hopefully illegal also in countries where spanking is legal, but you would still find a LESS degree of reports of ”spanking/beating children” in a country where it’s a legal method. Would you therefore be surprised if you found out that Sweden has a higher degree of reported cases of ”spanking/beating children” (which based on Swedish terms would be filed under CHILD ABUSE) than in for instance the USA?

I ask this since this entire blog post is written under the inspiration of a podcast sermon that I listened to the other day, where an American pastor claimed before his congregation and for his listeners, that science supports that spanking kids was a good way to treat children and that it was likewise bad to NOT spank children. The truth is that science does NOT say that at all. Moreover, he claimed that crime reports among the youth increased with 430% (I think he said) in Sweden the year after Sweden made it unlawful to spank/beat children. THAT IS A FALSE CLAIM! Of course I don’t believe that this pastor purposely lied, because I prefer to believe that he read this claim somewhere and chose to believe it (perhaps because it went well with his own belief) without checking the source. Sometimes we simply don’t have time to check sources but we must try to be as truthful as we can we retell stories, and particularly if we stand behind a pulpit in a church. Anyone can make a mistake, but try to place yourself in my shoes. I wouldn’t mind if I someone claimed that Sweden is the country where the inhabitants are most negative towards Israel among all the countries in Europe, because that is the truth according to a major poll! Certainly not a fact that I’m proud of but it’s nevertheless a true statement. European countries have always considered to be negative towards Israel (unlike the US who has a much better approach), but Sweden takes the prize, which isn’t that surprising considering how Swedish mainstream media has chosen to display the conflict in the Middle East. But it’s annoying to listen to a sermon where the pastor makes such a tremendous incorrect statement about the country I live in, and it makes me wonder what else he is wrong about when he speaks? There are so many sermon podcasts to listen to so I can listen to someone else. It would also be correct to say that children/teenagers are not disciplined in Sweden, because that’s often the case. I oftentimes find that children show no respect for their parents. I don’t believe this is due to the lack of spanking, but due to that atheism is such a leading star and that discipline and correction are simply lacking. Sadly this is not a problem only for Sweden.

There is actually a DUTY to report violation of the law of child abuse (which spanking/beating children is considered to be) in Sweden and since also children are encouraged to call in if their children are abusive, this will NATURALLY be seen in statistics! Based on this self-evident fact, an honest person therefore do not draw the conclusion that there must be more child abuse in Sweden than in other countries, and neither that the law against child abuse which came 1979 (Sweden was first in the world to prohibit spanking/beating children) has been seen to increase child abuse and violence among youth, because this simply is not true.

”Children have the right to proper care, a safe environment and a good upbringing. A child must be treated with respect for his/her person and may not be affected by physical punishment or other types of humiliating treatments. ” (Sweden 1979)

The good thing with this law is that it will prevent a parent to use the excuse ”I didn’t mean to spank my kid so hard, but it ended up being much more severe than I intended”, whereupon his defense attorney could use this argument as an attempt to show the prosecutor that the parent didn’t have bad intentions and didn’t purposely harm the child – meaning the parent might get away with it. With this law the truth is that the parent shouldn’t spank/beat the child at all, so no excuses are valid. Pulling a child abruptly in his arm/ shirt, grabbing his arm, or pulling him back from a situation where he harms someone/something is not considered ”physical abuse”, unless you do this with such force that he gets harmed.

According to a study by the UN, 80 % of the children of the world have at one point been affected by spanking/beating. The USA is the only country in the world – among all the members of UN – together with Somalia and South Sudan that has not ratified the Convention on the rights of the child from 1989. (USA has signed it but not ratified it.) Somalia has plans to be a party of this treaty, leaving only the USA and South Sudan as the only countries that are not party of this treaty!

The following are excerpts from a study from 2011 and can be found in this article from Karlstad Universityspank kid3 

The 2011 national Swedish studies on corporal punishment and other humiliating behavior towards children are a follow-up of earlier studies performed in 1980, 2000 and 2006. The purpose of the studies is to describe the current situation for Swedish children and trends over time concerning various forms of humiliation, with special emphasis on events at home, but also those occurring at school.

A number of smaller investigations concerning child abuse have been performed in Sweden since the 1960s, but the first representative national investigation was carried out in 1980, the year after corporal punishment was banned through the Swedish Parental Act of 1979. The investigation in 1980 was an interview of 1105 families, where the parents responded to questions about their upbringing practices with respect to a specific child during the past year

National Swedish parental studies using the same methodology have been performed in 1980, 2000, 2006 and 2011 (current study). In 1980 and 2000 the studies were performed through telephone interviews, but in 2006 and 2011 postal questionnaires were used, mainly for economic reasons .

To our knowledge no other country had been able to perform regular national studies of this kind, where both parental behavior and children’s experiences of punishment have been recorded. For this reason the studies have been of interest not only in Sweden but also at an international level.

Since the mid-1980s, suspicion of child abuse has gradually become more frequently reported to the police forces in Sweden. Due to the substantial increase in reports during the 1990s the Governmental Committee on Child Abuse and Related Issues commissioned BRÅ to study this in detail. It was shown that the increase depended on a greater tendency to report abuse and there were no indications whatsoever that severe abuse of children had increased in Sweden. 

After the great decrease from fifty percent in 1980 to twelve percent I 2000 with respect to pushing and shaking children it has gradually increased to twenty six percent in 2006 and to thirty percent in 2011. This behavior is most prominent towards children between two and nine years of age. No parent admitted to have shaken an infant. This may hopefully be a result of the intense information campaign against shaking small children carried out in the interim since the 2006 year study.

Parents born abroad state that they have beaten their child more often. Since the very substantial decrease of parents beating their children (during the preceding year) from 1980 (28 %) to 2000 (1.1 %), there has been a slight and gradual increase to three percent in 2011. It should be noted in this context that the study in 2000 was performed using interviews and that the studies in 2006 and 2011 were performed using non-identifiable postal questionnaires

Children born abroad, particularly boys, state that they have been beaten more frequently.

The outstanding risk factor for corporal punishment is, however, violence between the adults in the family. This gives a ten-fold risk increase compared to families where there is no inter-adult violence. This risk decreases insignificantly when adjusted for other risk factors such as single parenthood, weak family economy or immigrant status. If parents were affected by alcohol or drugs when the conflict with the child occurred, there was a significant risk (60 %) that the child was beaten.

As in the former studies in 2000 and 2006, children with chronic diseases and disabilities state that they have been beaten twice as often as the healthy children. They also live to a greater extent in families where family violence occurs.

Beaten children have a much greater tendency to be involved in bullying than other children. They perform less well at school, have substantially more physical and psychological symptoms and have been involved in accidents more often. There have been speculations that Swedish parents, who no longer beat their children, instead are insulting them. The statements from the pupils point to the contrary. There is indeed a very strong connection between humiliation and corporal punishment.

Parents who claimed to have spanked/beaten their children were reduced from 28% 1980 to about 1 % the year 2000. Since then there has been a slight increase to 2,4% the year 2006 and 2,9% 2011 (figure 5.1. Brottsförebyggande rådet). (Compare this with the number for ”suspicion of spanking/beating a child”.)

Brottsförebyggande rådet says that two well-known MYTHS that are common in other countries are that ”Swedish prisons are filled with parents who have spanked their kids” and ”The juvenile crime rate in Sweden sky-rocketed immediately after the law against physical punishment started to be in force 1979”. It’s particularly common to hear these myths in countries such as the USA where spanking is allowed and where individuals seek to find support for that laws against physical punishment of children are bad. This misunderstanding has been sorted out in the scientific world thanks to international cooperations between Swedish scientists and other scientists (Gilbert et al. 2009). Studies show that the rate for child abuse and violent death among children is considerably lower in Sweden than in other countries. There has always been a great focus on Sweden due to the law against physical punishment which was enforced 1979, as first in the world, and the duty to report evident child abuse. The development in Sweden has been described in detail in other international literature (Janson, Långberg & Svensson 2011) and Sweden can lean on all the national studies that have been made in Sweden ever since 1980. There are no similar studies made in other countries and that is one of the reason that Sweden has been so much in focus. Literature from Regeringskansliet, Rädda Barnen and Allmänna Barnhuset (Regeringskansliet 2010) have been of great value and translated into many languages.  More countries have enforced laws against physical punishment. Most children live outside of Europe and that means that 95% of the children of the world are not protected by any such laws.

Just like when it comes to gun control, it’s a risk that people read and accept articles/film clips if they happen to say what fits a certain agenda. You can read my views about gun control here. (I have no reason to mistrust all world charts that show that countries with gun control also have a low homicide rate.)

I’ve been spanked and it did me much good?

Other children have said the contrary, and some can never forget the humiliation they had to go through. Children of course handle physical punishments to various degrees. For some children it’s enough to realize they are doing something unwise if a parent only raises an eye brow, whereas it takes a lot more than that to change the behavior in other children.

Once when my son was about 7 and playing with a friend, he had apparently driven a toy car too close to her so that she got hurt – which he didn’t do with purpose but he was nevertheless not cautious. I know that his friend was a rather ”confident” little girl (for instance she didn’t feel too concerned at one time when I made it known to her that I didn’t approve of her taking one of my skirts to smear in an expensive face cream into a mirror in our house) and it’s possible that her Father expected my son to be just as ”unconcerned” whenever he gets criticized. That could be why he upbraided him just as severely as he would do his own daughter. This father was rather surprised when I later told him that the very first thing that my son said when he came back home was  ”Mom, I’m dumb!”. I asked my son what he meant and if he felt that he had been dumb with purpose, and he said this wasn’t the case but continued to say he was dumb because this is what he had been told. He eventually explained that he had hurt his friend during the play with those toy cars. He is not normally clumsy at all and treats his friends with care, so I said that I hoped he said ”I’m sorry”, and if this is what he did he wasn’t dumb at all but just had to be more careful as he normally is. The girl’s father probably didn’t realize just how much his words affected my son, and was very surprised that my son commented on this situation as soon as he stepped into the door. Had he known this he would of course have used another tone, and he was probably just used to his own daughter who might just have shrugged her shoulders and move on right away. It’s quite possible that my son didn’t enjoy the rest of the stay with his friend at all but just longed to go back home. 

This story has of course nothing to do with the question of parents’ right to spank their children, but my point was only to show that children have various degrees of sensitivity towards punishment. For some ”No!” is enough whereas other children wouldn’t even stay corrected even if spanked. I wouldn’t be surprised if Solomo’s son was a pain in the neck as a child, because he grew up to be a very cruel leader for his people, with no regard for their well-being. Maybe this is why Solomon expressed the need to use the rod of correction (as in using authority and not necessarily spanking his son) instead of spoiling his son, because this could lead to that the son will perish in the end.

The problem with allowing parents to spank their children is that they might not always combine this with explanations and good reasons, but rather with verbal abuse. They might just lose their temper and start to spank their children and if this is not prohibited no one can do anything about it. If you say that you spank your children and they love you anyway, it’s actually not a good argument. I saw a documentary where a girl expressly said that she loved her father even though he had done despicable things to her. Children tend to love their parents.

While I’m at it, I think I will take the chance to write down a couple of other examples in my own life.spank kid4

Once when I was very little, perhaps 3 1/2, I was with my older brothers who were throwing small pebbles on my grandfather’s car. He saw it and came running towards us and we all got scared and started to run – including myself who did not participate. My oldest brother run passed by a shed, and my other brother and I ran into the shed where my brother squeezed himself through an opening in the window where the window pane was gone. He was quick but not quick enough to give me the time to do the same, and the only one that my grandfather therefore managed to get hold of was me and he gave me a physical punishment. Maybe he just pulled my hair or something together with shouting and verbal abuse, but enough to make me sad and deeply upset. I don’t have that many memories from this early age in my life but I do remember this episode because it affected me very much, and I wonder if I would have let my anger spill over on a younger sibling if I had one. I can easily understand that children who get physically punished start to build up a stock of ”anger” and irritation that they consciously or subconsciously pour out on younger siblings. This could in turn cause the younger siblings to give revenge on others that they have power over, and if parents detect this they might react with yet more spanking. A vicious circle. Anyway, many years later my grandmother reminded me of what happened afterwards and it was something that surprised her and my mother. Later that evening when I met my grandfather again for a meal in our kitchen, I told him ”Grandfather, it’s time for a talk”, and I pursued to tell him how unfair I felt that he treated me. I don’t remember exactly what he replied back, but I seem to recall it was something like ”How could I have known that you didn’t participate in that mischief?” as though it wasn’t his fault,

That would have been a similar response as the one I received from my other grandfather about the year after. I’ve had a couple of  similar encounters with him too.

Once when I was close to 5 years old I was staying in my grandparents’ house and I wanted to go to their neighbors to play with their kids. My grandparents said that it was fine but instructed me to not go anywhere because we were later going away somewhere and they made plans to pick me up at our neighbors’ house when it was time. So the last thing they reminded me of was to not go anywhere but to remain in the house with my friends. I didn’t think that would be hard to obey at all because each time I had gone over to their place, someone had always been at home and I certainly didn’t expect to go anywhere else. When I got there they were all making themselves ready to go for a walk and they asked me to join them. I told them that I was not allowed to go anywhere but to remain in their house. Unfortunately I was not wise enough to tell them WHY I had to remain in their house, and if  I had explained the reason to them, they would surely have either asked me to go back home or they would have waited with their walk until I had left. Instead they told me ”But you can join us because we will only go for a little walk near our house. We won’t be long at all”. I once again told them ”But they told me to not leave the house”, and was again assured that they would take care of me and that we wouldn’t be long at all and that there was not necessary for me to go back to my grandparents because they liked my visit. I was not mature enough and old enough to realize that I could have made a better decision, and I felt uncomfortable arguing with adults. So I felt there was no better alternative for me but to do as they said, but it was rather hard to know which adult to obey. So we left, and it didn’t take long before we saw my grandfather’s dark car on the dirt road behind us. As soon as he stepped out of the car he went straight up to me and pulled my hair, and he said something like ”Did I not tell you to not go anywhere?!”. His angry words were worse than his treatment of me, and I was told to sit back in the car. I was humiliated and I cried, maybe all the way into town. I’m sure none of my grandparents could ever understand how I could be so disobedient and unable to obey a simple rule, and I had no good answer.

At another time when I was about 4 years old I was in my grandparents house together with my brothers. They were investigating a large lamp (rather carelessly if you ask me) and I think they were among other things trying to see how they could turn the light on. I don’t remember if I joined them by free will to see if I could find the button, or if they tricked me to join them and purposely asked me to press a certain button instead of them so that I would take the blame if something went wrong. There was a button that caught my attention and it certainly looked like it could be the right one. Pressing it didn’t work, but I tried to turn it and that made the whole lamp head sink down half a meter because I had reached a button that adjusted the length of the lamp pole. I didn’t destroy the lamp in any way, but of course one should be more careful when adjusting a large lamp. As soon as this happened by brothers ran as fast as they could down the stairs in order to tell my grandfather what happened, and I remember hearing one of them whining when he realized that he wouldn’t be the first to disclose the news, for our grandfather, that would definitely get me in trouble. My oldest brother won the competition down the stairs and was the first to tell my grandfather that I had played with the lamp and damaged it (but I don’t think it was damaged), whereupon my grandfather became very angry and irritated. He found me wherever I was hiding and pulled my hair and told me some angry comments about disobedient children who played with his lamp with the risk of ruining it. I could not defend myself because I knew I was the one who had turned the button.

At another occasion, my grandparents asked me who I liked the most of the two of them, and I refused to answer. I didn’t feel it would be polite if I would favor one over the other. But they insisted, and I therefore felt forced to answer, and I of course said ”grandmother”. They wanted to know why, and I said that it’s because my grandfather had pulled my hair unlike my grandmother. They explained that this is needed when a child is disobedient. It’s possible that I responded here that there had been occasions where I’ve been innocent, and that the response to this comment from my grandfather was ”I couldn’t possibly have known that you were not involved”, or similar. It’s a good chance it’s true because I regret that I didn’t respond ”But shouldn’t you have made sure I’m guilty before you punish me?”.

I’m NOT saying here that it’s always bad to pull a child’s hair or grab a child’s arm, and I don’t think anyone would report a parent who did. My point is that angry words are often (but not always) more than enough for a child to understand, and spanking would do no good.

Maybe many who are for the right to spank their kids feel it’s fine because they follow a perfect ”dream scenario” where the child is first warned, and if no progress the child is spanked a little in his behind together with a clear explanation about what transgression he is guilty of, and when it’s all sorted out the parent and the child part with a hug. The problem is that this is just that; a dream scenario which sadly is hard to force parents to follow. It’s a LOT more likely that a child is just spanked in the heat of the situation and perhaps doesn’t even realize what he did wrong. He will then inadvertently be taught ”When a person gets irritated it’s fine to lose the temper and spank another person”. 

I’ve heard Americans say that ”It’s none people’s business if I spank my kids, or how much I spank my kids”. A Swede would normally not reason like that! I feel the responsibility to react if I saw someone spanking a DOG. Luckily I’ve never seen this happening, but I do react if I’m in a country where dogs are running around loose. A normal Swedish reaction would be to either find a home for the dogs, or shoot them! Anything but to let them running around on the streets with no food. I would also feel the obligation to report a farmer who mistreats his animals, or if I have found evidence for that someone has loads of cats which are not treated well. If we would do this when it comes to mistreatment of animals, of course we would react if we saw someone spanking/beating a child.

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