leather beltAs if the story of the Texas judge caught on video beating his teenage daughter with a belt wasn't disturbing enough, in researching the man's version of corporal punishment, I've come across a trend that leaves me cold. There are parents who believe that spanking teenagers is OK because big kids make bigger mistakes.

Excuse me for going there, but say whaaaaat? If you haven't already guessed, I'm not up for spanking any kid at any age. Just last night I sat in my bathroom at 2:45 a.m. with a wailing 6-year-old. Her exhaustion had prompted a temper tantrum, and my exhaustion meant I was particularly unprepared to deal with said tantrum. You'll never guess what jumped into my head that that moment.

The video of Judge William Adams beating his teenage daughter that I'd seen yesterday morning (well, I saw part of it; I had to turn it off as he continued to unleash abuse both physical and emotional against his own child) popped right into my head. Looking at my daughter's tear-stained face through eyes clouded by sleep, I softened. I knew her tantrum was over something patently ridiculous, and yet I couldn't imagine raising a hand to her.

She was acting in a way that she was clearly old enough to understand was inappropriate. And yet, a hand, a foot, a belt on her body weren't going to make that stop. It would hurt her body and make her distrust me ... and distrust the words I was about to use to explain why her actions were so inappropriate. It would effectively negate my ability to actually parent, to teach her to improve her behavior. I'd be hurting her physically now, and hurting myself in the end.

One of the really awesome things our kids gain as they grow older is the ability to think and reason, to extrapolate upon something that we say. They're not just little sleeping and pooping machines anymore! You input words, and out come other words that (usually) make sense!

By the time kids are teenagers, bad behavior may tend toward the more dangerous (stealing beers from the fridge is decidedly worse than crayoning on the walls), but their ability to contemplate those dangers is also more developed. Remember when you told your toddler to "use your words"? Talking it out instead of taking out your belt is hard, but pretty much everything in parenting is.

My 6-year-old lost a privilege for her bad behavior last night. I explained consequences when I just wanted to climb back under the covers and get some sleep. With teenagers, it's a heckuva lot easier to make them clean up after their mess -- say forcing them to use their own money to pay you back for those beers -- than it is with a toddler.

Or you could beat them senseless to make a point, and still be out the money plus have a kid who hates you and refuses to listen to anything you say ... it's up to you.

Do you think parents who spank their teenagers are taking the easy way out?

 

Image via InExtremiss/Flickr