A PUNISHING DEBATE
I would like to thank James H. Burnett III for the very well-written and well-thought-out article “What If Spanking Works?” (June 17). I grew up when it was considered acceptable to spank and can remember being on the receiving end of it. Through the years, I have seen it become less acceptable, and my wife and I did not spank our two children (though I admit there were times I was tempted to). This type of punishment is a double-edged sword. If children perceive that the parent loves them and is doing it to teach them that what they did is not acceptable, then it may be successful. On the other hand, children may not be able to understand how someone who supposedly loves them would hurt them. I think the best way to teach children is by example and being open and honest with them about everything.
Ed Malnati / Randolph
I think Burnett left out an important reason why parents spank. If they were spanked and turned out all right, the parents reason, then they are not harming their own children. I confess to believing the same. I’m in my 50s, raised during a time when spanking was common and expected. My sisters and I were all spanked on occasion, sometimes with brushes or paddles. We all grew up to be very nice, respectful people with great jobs and families and wonderful relationships with our parents. If spanking is so bad, why aren’t all of us violent, raging lunatics with poor self-esteem?
JoAnne Boyd / Albany, New York
I’m a 62-year-old retired teacher and still remember my enraged father yanking his belt from his trousers to hit me. How could I have possibly deserved to be hit as a toddler? I learned fast, though, and made up my mind that I didn’t like the angry look on his face, nor the feeling of leather whipping my skin. I became the perfect child, eager to please. I also went to a Catholic school, where Sister would walk the aisles between our desks and smack a ruler across her palm. This atmosphere inhibited my learning and enhanced my fear of doing anything out of the ordinary. So much for creative exploration that might have enriched my self-esteem and confidence.
Diane McDonough / Raynham
People all over the world take out their frustrations on people who are smaller, weaker, and unlikely to hit back. We used to say “Pick on somebody your own size” to bullies.
Gil Mason / Newton
“What If Spanking Works?” was a terrible article. As a child psychiatrist who has been in practice for more than 20 years, I do not condone any form of corporal punishment. I understand that people lose their tempers or get tested severely by their children. However, even considered and planned spanking is a loss of control. When we spank our children, we are only conveying the idea that when we are stressed, a reasonable alternative is to hit someone. The concluding paragraph, which says that research shows many parents are likely to spank, seems to be condoning it — so if all the other lemmings are leaping off the cliff, we might as well? I expect in the coming weeks to talk about this article with the parents I work with; perhaps it will be a starting point for useful discussion.
Dr. Steve Auster / Holliston
Your June 17 cover story was completely irresponsible. It is never, under any circumstances, OK to hit a child. Giving parents implicit permission to do so by suggesting that it must be acceptable because the practice is still prevalent is inexcusable. I cannot justify supporting a publication that prints such a one-sided and morally reprehensible story.
Cheryl Eagan-Donovan / Winchester
Someone once said to me, “Promise yourself you’ll never spank, and you’ll spank the right number of times.” As I held my newborns, I promised I would never hurt them. In fact, they each got spanked once. The first time was when my oldest darted onto Mass. Ave. — I had no regrets for smacking her on her bottom. It was a life-and-death situation, and I needed to be clear about my message. But the bottom line is: We are the adults. We should have many more resources for dealing with an unruly toddler than spanking. If as adults we can’t figure out how to manage our children’s behavior without violence, where does that leave us and the next generation?
Elaine Chertavian / Sherborn
Spanking your child teaches them that it is OK to hurt the ones we love. Is that the lesson you want to teach your child?
Judy Archibald / Marshfield
One day, when my daughter was preschool age, I had finally had it with her behavior and gave her a swat on the fanny. She turned to me with big, troubled eyes and said, “But, Mommy, teacher says it’s not nice to hit other people.” Needless to say, she never got spanked again.
Elizabeth L. Randall / Wrentham