An Open Letter to Aunt Boo: Spanking is the Problem — not the Solution!

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A few years ago, Steve and I were in the process to adopt an older child.  We never went through with it because my mother became ill and I was caring for her on a daily basis.  However, we did go through all of the classes required to adopt.

One of the things that stuck with me the most was the class on disciplining a child.  The social worker asked how many of the potential parents would spank their adopted child.  All of them – except for me and Steve (the tree hugging, peace loving hippies that we are) – raised their hands.  The teacher got visibly angry.  Not at us… we were the teacher’s pets! At the rest of the class.

She demanded that if spanking was their tool for helping a child grow into healthy adulthood that they rethink adoption.  Their response was to quote Bible verses at her.  Which made the teacher, who was a Christian, even angrier with them urging them again to rethink adoption completely.  After thirty years of doing social work, one thing she knew was that physically hurting a child in order to teach them anything was barbaric, useless, and would have a nearly irreversible affect on that child – especially a  child who has been through the trauma of losing their family.

Besides, spanking is easy and quick – teaching is never easy and quick.  It requires love, patience, consistent communication, commitment… and oh, by the way… an adult willing to do the hard work of being an example!

This morning I watched a video by someone named “Aunt Boo” who was commenting on the situation where a police officer in South Carolina threw a girl across the room.  She thinks she can claim that the real problem was that the girl hadn’t been spanked enough by her own parents.  I don’t usually react to videos from someone named “Aunt Boo,” but the video has gone viral and many are agreeing with her. Which hurts me deeply and makes me fear for society in general.

I think the problem is far more complicated than what Aunt Boo and her supporters realize.

I bet it is safe to say that most children have had plenty of physical punishment in their lives from angry out of control adults. For goodness’ sake, in her case, she is going to a school and lives in a community where a 100 pound child can be picked up and thrown across the room and no one intervenes. I am certain that if another child hadn’t video taped and had the wherewithal to post it on Facebook before they took her phone, the police officer would be doing it again today to another child. Apparently he has already had two lawsuits against him and no one had intervened previously.

Thank God this girl has exposed the ugly truth of what this officer (and entire community) has been letting happen.  You will think this is harsh, but I hope that the behavior of the school principal and teacher will be looked at, as well.  They obviously do not have the basic tools to diffuse an everyday classroom situation without resorting to calling a man with a gun!  The fact that they were aware of the the police officer’s violent tendencies and then did nothing to intervene when he throws the girl shows me that their qualifications to be in the positions that they are in should be reevaluated too.

So imagine growing up in an environment where no adult around you is mature enough to simply diffuse a typical, everyday situation and where violence is how bad behavior is handled. Even a spanking – as minor as that seems – doesn’t teach a child how to handle themselves – it just teaches fear.  It is likely that this girl – like many children today – have not been taught any other tools to express her needs except violence. Given that … sitting there refusing to budge when she thinks that she is being treated unfairly is a pretty great way to express herself.  It is better than what the adults around her are doing.  I actually have a lot of hope for this girl!

Teaching her to cower under authority for fear of being beaten with a switch or thrown across the room is NOT the answer. I pray that a mature adult will come into her life, if not there already, who can teach her to grow into a woman who is strong and capable and willing to speak up for herself and others. A woman who has goals and aspirations. A woman who knows that her life can have meaning — in fact, she can be the hands and feet of Jesus.  She can be an agent of change in this world.

I pray that no one will ever harm her again – even with a switch.  I pray that she is taught real tools for life – not violence.  And I pray for the officer, the principal, the teacher, and the whole community, that they will find a better way to be examples to the next generation.

***

April describes herself as a Red Letter Christian who writes about scripture and spiritual disciplines. See her latest book, James in the Suburbs: The Disorderly Parable of the Epistle of James. Great for an individual read or group Bible studies! You can follow her blog by clicking on the three dots in upper right hand of this page and scrolling down.

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