Sunday, January 5, 2014

Humiliation as parenting


After posting Thoughts on spanking and respect, I wanted to add to the greater subject of humiliation that I think is key to what's wrong with spanking and how too many people who give up or seriously restrict spanking their children.

In Pop, RIP, I alluded to issues in my relationship with father, things I didn't think my eulogy for him was an appropriate time or place to go into any sort of details about, but were a big enough part of our relationship and my life that I couldn't leave unreferenced.

My father was abused as a child.  I believe that is the way he would - and did - describe it, although certainly he was prone to downplay the importance and impact of it, when confronted directly about it.  That's not only a common thing among abuse victims, but it certainly matched his way of dealing with issues in general, whether because of that or not.

I was only spanked a small number of times, and, as far as I recall, they were all "by the book", not in anger, as a consequence for an action I was warned would lead to that, etc.  I remember all of those details quite well.  I don't, on the other hand, remember my infractions one bit, which could hint at how effective the lesson was.

My father was a big one for humiliation, though.  Humiliation is the key lesson of spanking, probably the only lesson of, truth be told.

Obviously, humiliation can be achieved through any number of means, though.

My father liked to stay on a lecture about something long, long after it was serving a point.  He would twist around and demand answers for obviously rhetorical questions, then make a point of not wanting an answer for questions that would seem necessary to answer and calling it interrupting.  He would dismiss discussion harshly.

I don't remember the details well, only the humiliation, which again speaks to the effectiveness of the lesson, I think.

They would go on for far too long and eventually, my mother, sensing the humiliation and the lack of any useful purpose would try to cut him short, which would just shift the humiliation over to her, which I'm not sure I preferred, except that I felt in some way protected.

There were a number of things that I think damaged our relationship beyond repair, but I think I can point to the point of no return.  When I was an adult and we were trying to mend our relationship, or something of that nature, we were out having beers, playing pool and such, he led the conversation to that topic.

I can guarantee that I didn't.  My part, however pathetic, of the mending fences was to avoid subjects like that that at all costs.

He ended up going on an unsolicited and unnecessary rant again criticizing my mother for interceding in these.

Whatever of my desire to build our relationship or strengthen it or even really to maintain it died at that moment.  He maintained that his right to humiliate me was the foremost point of order.

Or relationship stumbled along awkwardly and, at best, occasionally, for a while after that.  My memories of whatever happened after includes many more things that made the relationship worse than things that made them better.

The tendency to humiliate as a tool of "winning" an argument lives on with me.  I know I've done it in all of my relationships.  I think I've done better with each one, but I know I'm better with Kim than I've ever been before in the past, but it's there, and I'm genuinely terrified of doing it to Conan.

I hope I never do that at all.  It's destructive.  There's no lesson in it, whether it's physical or emotional. I can say that don't have any respect for the people who avoid humiliation through spanking but have no qualms with it when it's done through other means, including - perhaps especially - verbally.

I know for sure that if I ever fail myself and do that to him, I won't defend it to him when he's an adult.  I wouldn't dare.

I know better.

Thoughts on spanking and respect


The mother-in-law - Kim's former stepmother, who remains the major maternal figure in her life, for a variety of reasons - recently called her, offended that she'd posted "so many" anti-spanking memes or articles on her Facebook.

As far as we could tell, that was two of them, but that's us being pedantic.

She thought it reflected badly on her, which she found unfair as she'd never spanked Kim.  This is another demonstration of her world view that everything is about her.  Suffice to say, while the stories are not mine to tell, she did do things I consider worse than spanking - far, far worse, in fact - but it's worth crediting her for being right about that issue.

I have no patience with her, but that's my failing.  Not that she deserves a bit of my patience, but Kim deserves a lot more than I give too much of the time.

The point that the mother-in-law is missing is how often parents of a toddler has pro-spanking messages fed to them.  On social media or in the world.

I read Spanking Your Children is Hitting Your Children by Chuck Wendig to Kim today, a couple of days later. It's a very good article and my feelings on the issue match the ones expressed there, so I won't go into more detail than to highly recommend it.  I also read Spanking is Hitting, Part Two, which gives a more tempered argument that is also important to make.

In Honor thy father and thy mother, I discussed the question of people bending to nearly any length to justify their parents actions.  I think the dialog on corporal punishment largely comes to a standstill because of this one single, stupid problem.

Look at the dumb fucking meme that inspired the original Chuck Wendig post:


The entire thing is predicated on the notion of the person's parents being "right".

I think the implicit contempt expressed in the tone suggests more than a little that their psychological self-evaluation has failed on a massive scale.  Of course, the average person has little concept of what respect is.  It's a modestly complicated concept and most people were trained as children that respecting people was demonstrated by obeying them, which isn't a very good beginning to understanding it.

"Respect for Others" is taught by example.  Period.  There is no other way.

Spanking is not a very good way to demonstrate respect.  In fact, it actively demonstrates the opposite.  It's an act of profound disrespect.

Saying a person can't learn without violence being inflicted upon them is perhaps the ultimate in contemptuous statements.  It's certainly arguable in cases of Nazi Germany and rapists that without violence - or, at least, the threat of violence - one might not be able to stop them from their atrocious actions.  It happens I hold my son in much greater esteem than Nazis and rapists.

I don't remember either way if my parents did this to me, but I've always hated, even as a kid, watching people trying to teach their kids manners through humiliation.  "Hold on, what do you say?"

What a crock.  If you're polite and respectful to the people around you, your child will most likely grow up to be polite and respectful to the people around them.  That humiliation game is just intended to bolster your reputation as someone teaching their kids "manners".

But let's circle back to the world in which there's explicit and implicit messages pushing you to spank, outside of dumb as fuck Facebook memes.

Conan recently took up screaming.  Not screaming in pain or excitement.  Mostly randomly, although frequently it would seem in annoyance, as he'd often follow-up by saying "Annoying."

He'd do this in various public places, but especially on the bus.  I speculate he was annoyed about being in transit and a bit bored with the wait, but he wasn't able to communicate the more complicated point unfortunately.

Kim and I would do our best to gently shush him or tell him to stop in a more commanding tone.  Neither of them got us too far in those moments.

But at the worst it was intermittent, even when it was fairly often.

You could see people stare and glare and mutter that we should obviously be doing something more.  Most likely not everyone thought we should strike him, but you could tell we should be do something more and more aggressive to quell it.

I'm not sure what that would based on.  My experience, although admittedly anecdotal, in witnessing people who tried to physically punish or get into a screaming war with a toddler over making too much noise is that 100% of those escalate into something worse than intermittent screaming.

Now, he seems to be getting over that.  Not completely.  But largely.

And so goes life.

I promise, as soon as I stop seeing people arguing that I should spank my kid, I'll stop talking about why I'm not going to do that.

On the other hand, if you present an argument that isn't awful, I might treat it with respect.  As we can see above, that's not very likely.

And just to  hammer it home, here's Why Shouldn’t You Spank Your Kids? Here’s 9 Reasons.

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