The Shrink’s Links: Spanking

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Being the father of four children, I completely understand the urge to spank. My children are all adults and I still, from time to time, want to take them over my knee and give them a good one. So, there is the urge, but beyond the urge, there’s also the perceived duty to spank. You might have heard this, too. I was told I had to spank, even when I didn’t want to, for the good of my children. You know, spare the rod and spoil the child, and advice like that. So, there’s the urge and there’s the supposed duty, but then there’s science.
The Journal of Family Psychology recently published a paper by Elizabeth T. Gershoff and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor. It analyzed fifty years of research on spanking.

“The evidence against spanking is one of the most consistent findings in the field of psychology,” said Gershoff.

This type of paper is a meta-analysis. It analyzes other analyses, studies other studies. Presumably, the results are more accurate. A single study could be flawed, but a summary of dozens of studies is less likely to be flawed. When a psychologist says that something is one of the most consistent findings in the history of psychology, that’s about as close to iron clad truth as anything in the behavioral sciences ever gets.

She says there are three things wrong with spanking. It doesn’t work, it’s harmful, and it violates human rights.

The strongest argument against spanking, I believe, is the first. It doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. Spanking is supposed to teach children the difference between right and wrong. The paper shows it’s less effective than time out. Moreover, spanking alone does not teach children why their behavior was wrong or what they should do instead.
Hitting, by its nature, causes physical pain, and it can be confusing and frightening for children to be hit by someone they love and respect, and on whom they are dependent. Children report fear, anger, and sadness when they are spanked, feelings that interfere with their ability to internalize parents’ disciplinary messages.

Secondly, spanking probably causes more problems than it solves.

… spanking was associated with increases in mental health problems in childhood and adulthood, delinquent behavior in childhood and criminal behavior in adulthood, negative parent-child relationships, and increased risk that children will be physically abused.

Then there’s the fact that spanking is totally illegal in thirty-three countries and has been condemned by the United Nations. It may not surprise you that one of the countries in which it is illegal is Denmark. It might surprise you that another is the Democratic Republic of Congo, hardly a bastion of progressive thought. The United States is increasingly isolated in that it permits corporal punishment by parents. If you believe there is such a thing as human rights, you’ve got to say that the rights of a weaker, dependent person to be protected from violence by a stronger, not self-disinterested person, albeit a parent, is a significant one. Seldom does punishment by spanking respect due process.
If you’d like to read the article, click here.

Ride the Ego Balloon

It all starts with you being a child. You have it really good. People take care of you, they feed you, clothe you, give you hugs, and put your awful drawings on the refrigerator with unrestrained praise. But nature cannot allow you to remain a child forever. It needs to stir the pot. It wants you to get out, take chances, spread your seed, and do stuff. How does nature get you to leave childhood? It casts a spell on you, makes you an adolescent and a little bit crazy. It takes you for a ride in the ego balloon.

I’m not sure just how it happens, but something happens in the brain of an adolescent. All of a sudden you think you know better than your parents, your teachers, and anyone who ever lived longer than you. You’re idealistic. You’re above practical concerns. You’re attracted to risks. You act like you’ll live forever. You think anything from your childhood will just about kill you. You think you’re unique and, being so, no one can understand you. You can see further than anyone else. You’re ascending in the ego balloon.

The ego balloon is necessary. It’s nature’s way of getting you to leave childhood. Nature inflates your ego and enables you to rise up to escape the walls of your parental compound. If you didn’t have the ego balloon, you wouldn’t try anything. You’d never leave. The better your childhood, the more cared, watched over, affirmed, and protected you are, the higher the walls of your parental compound, the harder it is to escape, the more hot air you need.

It’s fun to ride the ego balloon. You see better, you feel better, you’ve got a different point of view; but, there’s no question about it, the ego balloon is very dangerous. It’ll give you an unearned sense of self confidence, you’ll try things that are crazy to try, you won’t know when to stop, you’ll put your trust in anyone that appeals to the rebel in you. You can descend too quickly and hurt yourself and quite a few others when you crash. If you come down too soon, before the ego balloon has had a chance to carry you far, you’re back again in the confines of childhood or the institutionalized childhood of extended welfare or disability.

You can’t fly forever. Eventually, you have to come down. Once nature gets you up there and helps you escape your parental home, it needs you to return to earth. You’ve got to work with other people, learn to love, and raise children. You can’t do all that up in the ego balloon. You can’t grow anything from an altitude of three hundred feet. The next thing that happens, is you start to lose air. Nature sends these darts that prick your ego. You experience rejection, disappointment, and failure. Then there’s disillusionment, discouragement, and disease. That’s just the start; nature has a millions ways to burst your bubble.

If you enter an intimate, long term relationship, there will be many occasions that injure your ego. If you have children to raise, then you’ll experience the inflation of their ego balloons. If yours is not fully deflated by the time they reach adolescence, they’ll finish the job. The inflation of their ego balloons coincides with the deflation of yours.

If your ego starts to lose too much air, you try to patch it up. You look for honors, status, fancy cars, nice clothes, beautiful women, attentive men, above average children, anything you can slap on those holes and delay the deflation of your ego. You try to plug the holes with alcohol or drugs, some gambling, some shopping, some internet porn, anything that gives you the illusion that you’re not crashing to the ground. Eventually, however, all the patches blow.

If you manage to land the ego balloon, rather than crash, you find that it’s not so bad to be back to earth. You’re more grounded, more humble, more realistic, and more Zen. People like you better and say you’re more approachable. If the ego balloon did its job, enabling you to leave your cushy, over-protected childhood home, emboldened you to take risks, and didn’t crash you too violently, then you have something that needs your careful attention. You have a company to nurture, a trade to practice, disciples to mentor, a partner to love, or children to raise. These all require that you stay in close contact with people.

So, you see, the ego balloon can be a very good and necessary part of human development. The ego is a useful tool if you understand its uses and limitations. It can make us crazy, but it’s often a good crazy, a necessary madness, provided you can land the thing when it needs to come down.

The Shrink’s Links: All Joy and No Fun

Bringing you the best of mental health and relationship articles on the internet.


Today’s link from the shrink is:

All Joy and No Fun

There must be thousands of parenting books. Now there’s a book that examines the effect that children have on their parents.

Did you know that the average American parent spends more time with their kids today than they did fifty years ago, before both parents worked? Every wonder why you’re so stressed out?

Click here to go to the link