Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Friday, May 30, 2014 at 6:18 AM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Neighbor thinks parents should spank their reckless kid

Not your business, advice columnist Carolyn Hax responds.


Syndicated columnist

advertising

Dear Carolyn

Hello, Carolyn:

My question is, when is spanking a child OK? I live on a rural dirt road off a busy road. We have about seven neighbors and all know each other and help out when needed.

We have a young couple with two boys, 4 and 3, and she’s pregnant with her third. The other day the 4-year-old showed up at our house, which is down a long hill and up our long driveway pretty far away from his house. I immediately called the mother, who answered in a groggy voice as though she’s been sleeping. I told her I had her son, and she said her husband would be right there.

When she and her husband came, the boy just kept running down another dirt path as I and the mother called to him. He paid no attention. I turned to the mother and said, “I hope you give him a good spanking for this.” All she and her husband did is look goofy and brush it off as though it’s OK for a 4-year-old to misbehave. I remember the few times I gave my kids a really good whooping was when they did something that endangered their lives. I don’t believe you can raise a child without sometimes giving them a real shock when they do something very serious.

– Furious Neighbor?

DEAR FURIOUS NEIGHBOR?: Spanking is OK when you live on a rural dirt road and your 4-year-old wanders to the neighbors’ while you’re pregnant and taking a nap. That’s the answer you want, right?

With all due respect, your question is not about when spanking is OK, since you state openly when you believe it is. to the degree that you’re “furious” these neighbors didn’t beat their child as you would have.

So let’s be honest about your real question, which is: Am I going to use my platform to back you up, and help you set straight these and other know-nothing parents who are driving their kids/your neighborhood/this country straight into the toilet?

And my answer: no.

Part of the reason is conceptual, in that I can’t imagine siding with someone incensed at not striking a child. No, I wasn’t there to witness the danger and disrespect. But that allows me to stay back and see spanking for what it is, a violent act against the defenseless

Part of the reason is practical. Hitting the people you are presumably trying to teach not to hit is an effective way for parents to undermine their own message and expose themselves as hypocrites. That actually chips away at a kid’s respect for parents, which is ironic when you consider that corporal punishment’s believers, if I understand them correctly, see it as a way to instill respect for (but actually fear of) authority.

Plus, plenty of 4-year-olds aren’t spanked and do heed their parents. Plenty are spanked and don’t heed. It’s not the black-and-white, cause-and-effect business you make it out to be.

Nor is it your business whether these parents spank, and that’s part of my “no,” too.

If you truly just fear for the kids, then judging or lecturing their parents might be the least effective path. Being a kind, open-minded, boundary-aware neighbor — that’s the most reliable way to position yourself to help.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Love the column? Pre-order the book!

Love the column? Pre-order the book!

Reserve your copy of "The Seattle Sketcher," the long-awaited book by staff artist Gabriel Campanario, for the special price of just $29.95.

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising

Homes -- New Home Showcase

Resort community offers range of activities

Resort community offers range of activities


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►