Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Defining child abuse

Dear friends and other readers, it looks like I need to do some clarifying. A good friend of mine wrote me very concerned about the reference in my last post to spanking as child abuse. I do NOT believe all spankers are child abusers. I should not have even used the term in my last post, because it is so very loaded. Some people consider even homeschooling child abuse, or at least neglect. It's not a term to be used lightly, imo.

To me, child abuse is something that would require Child Protective Services to interfere with the parent-child relationship. That would require that the child is not being cared for, physically and/or emotionally, and is truly suffering.

There are parents who are so drugged out they haven't gone grocery shopping or done laundry in a month, and their children go hungry, wear dirty clothes, and get themselves to school just to survive. They're neglected. There are children of raging drunks who watch their every move to avoid being hit. They're being abused.

There are parents who spank because they think they have to, but have no decent understanding of normal childhood behaviors, and so spank much more than they otherwise might. There are parents who don't believe in spanking, but scream and yell about every little thing the child does. The children of both these parents might be suffering and have a hard time believing their parents love them. But would the inconsistencies of foster care be any better? Doubtful.

Then there are parents who care for all their children's needs, who dole out humor and affection daily, and who also believe that children sometimes need physical discipline. Could their children be suffering inside? Maybe, at times, depends on the child. Do they know they are loved? Most likely. Are they being abused or neglected? I don't think so.

This is what I think: the more affection and attention children receive from their parents, the more negative experiences they can survive. Children are resilient. They might learn things from our mistakes that we'd rather they not. But we will not avoid making any.

I am NOT a perfect parent, as you all know. My parenting philosophy is pretty radical, and my children might not fit in perfectly with the rest of our culture. Not everyone wants to take that risk. UberDad and I are pretty different, so we figure our kids don't have much chance being normal anyhow. :) We'd rather them be free to be themselves, even if that makes our lives a little more challenging along the way. I hope that clarifies.


madcapmum said...

I'm glad you clarified that, Amanda, because I thought you'd veered off the cliff, there.

I'm not exactly pro-spanking, but when Sib A decided that Sib B should be pushed down the stairs on a regular basis, and no amount of empathy training or non-physical consequences made any difference, Sib A got a spanking. And there was no more pushing people down stairs after that.

Sib B still talks about that incident, how scary falling was, how much it hurt. If we'd let that go on, it would have been abuse by neglect. Unfortunately, in that situation, nothing else worked.

The Thinking Southerner said...

I couldn't say it better... We went through the anti-spanking scream-a-lot phase you described during a particularly stressful time in our lives and marriage, and it wasn't pretty. Nothing makes you feel so pathetic inside that feeling that you're a complete embarassment to the overly high parenting standards you've set for yourself.

I can count on one hand the number of spankings my three little ones have received in the past 6 months. I can't begin to count the times I've said "I love you," snuggled, read bedtime stories, had a meal together.... My kids know they're loved, albeit by an imperfect parent.

Love your blog.

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