On when to Spank, Violence Against Children, and How to Prepare for Camp

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Question

I’m just curious. I’m a nanny who is also trying to conceive, and I find the idea of violence toward children abhorrent. But I would like to know at what age parents who do spank consider it appropriate to start. Would you spank your 9-month-old for trying to pull down the DVD player? Your 15-month-old for running off the porch after you told him to wait? Also, at what age do you stop?

Answer

Spanking is an incredibly polarizing topic, but your question is a good one.

The answer depends on how you define “spanking.” If you wish to punish a 2-year-old such that you can deter future bad conduct, you might consider a moderate slap on the back of the hand. For a young toddler, that constitutes a spanking.

Spanking children much younger than, say, 18 months is probably of little benefit. Children that young may have trouble connecting punishments to their own conduct. Other types of punishments, such as timeouts, often work equally poorly with very young children.

Once a child reaches 13 or 14, spanking becomes more difficult, and probably less effective than it was at earlier ages. However, by that time, parents can generally draw on a larger selection of potential punishments to establish discipline in the house. Grounding won’t generally faze a 3-year-old. But it could mean a lot to a teen.

I feel compelled to supplement my answer with a comment about your question. You said you find violence toward children “abhorrent.” To that I say, join the club.

All of us oppose violence against children. In my dictionary, the lead definition for violence is “Exertion of any physical force so as to injure or abuse.” I have yet to hear anyone of sound mind suggest that purposely injuring children is a good idea.

But corporal punishment, when administered correctly, is focused and controlled. The purpose is not to injure or to abuse, but instead to deter bad behavior. Parents punish children in an attempt to make the consequences of their action uncomfortable enough so that they will change their ways. For many children, corporal punishment works better than other types of punishment.

Unfortunately, some parents go overboard with punishments of all types. I recent weeks, I’ve read about parents who have starved their children, locked them in dark rooms for long periods of time, and beat them severely. All of these actions represent abuse. But the core punishments – going to bed without supper, serving a timeout, and receiving a spanking – are not abusive in and of themselves.

Child abuse isn’t a spanking problem, any more than it’s a timeout problem. Put the blame for abuse of any kind where it belongs – on the shoulders of the abuser. Because an adult who shows a lack of compassion or judgment can turn any punishment into abuse.

Question

What kind of bedding do you take to a sleep-away camp? We know we have to bring a sleeping bag for her night out, but sheets or blankets? If so, do we pack her comforter?

Answer

The answer depends on the camp’s accommodations. If she will spend most nights sleeping in a bed, sheets and a blanket are probably fine. However, a sleeping bag can do the same job as traditional linens, and it provides more flexibility for camping or gathering to sleep in small groups.

I suggest sending her to camp with a sleeping bag, a pillow, and an extra blanket in case she gets cold. Keep the supply list simple and avoid the comforter, simply because of its size. In general, you shouldn’t send a child to camp with gear too large for bulky for her to carry.

If you’re still uncertain, call the camp or visit its Web site. Many camps provide packing lists.


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