To Spank Or Not To Spank?

It is a parental dilemma of Shakespearean magnitude: to spank or not to spank? Judge Lynn Toler, star of TV's Divorce Court, talks with Tony Cox about effective ways to discipline children.

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TONY COX, host:

I'm Tony Cox and this is News & Notes. It is a parental dilemma of Shakespearean magnitude: to spank or not to spank? That is the question. Well, as with many things, the late comedian, Bernie Mac made his opinion quite clear.

(Soundbite of clip, Comedian Bernie Mac)

Mr. BERNIE MAC (Comedian): That's right, I said, I'm gonna bust your head 'til the white meat shows. And I ain't ashamed that I said it. And ain't nobody going to make me take it back.

COX: Well, maybe not. But another point of view we might be able to get right now from News & Notes regular contributor Judge Lynn Toler. She is an author and star of TV's "Divorce Court." Hello, Lynn.

Judge LYNN TOLER (Author, Star, "Divorce Court"): Hello, Tony. How are you?

COX: Well, you heard what Bernie Mac had to say. You and I both know raising kids is not easy. There are times when they are perfect little angels. And then there are other times when they go just crazy. So, a very controversial question, a lot of people have opinions about it. But when do you think it's OK to you know what? Not when, where do you think it's OK to spank your child if you are a spanker.

Judge TOLER: My mother, whose favorite spot was the top of the thigh especially when they're very young. And that was my spot when my children were very, very young. The bottom comes later but not often rare, memorable but I did spank.

COX: Hmm hmm.

Judge TOLER: And I do believe in it.

COX: You know when I was a kid. You know, boys get hit upside the head a lot of time, the back of the head.

Judge TOLER: Right.

COX: Don't do that with girls. So there's a difference between how you corporally punish boys and girls if you're going to do it right?

Judge TOLER: I think absolutely true. I think boys and girls take it differently. Boys and girls look at physical aggression differently. And sometimes its just easier with a guy, with boys because I guess based upon my own experience they get over stuff. Oh, this is bad, that hurts and I get over it. And I've never raised girls so I don't know I had six boys. So, I have a whole of information on one side of the hormone scale and very little on the other.

COX: Well, I had both. And it's a tricky situation but you know, another where question Judge Toler isn't so much where on the body you might hit them or do you spank them on the hand or their little legs or on the butt or whatever. Where in public if anywhere do you discipline your children with a spanking if they seem to need one?

Judge TOLER: I've never - I personally have never done it. I think it should be all options should be available to you. And if you must do so, remove them from the complete public if you are, you know take them into a restroom a bathroom or somewhere like that or out. But if it has to be done and the younger they are, the quicker the offense and the spanking have to be, they have to be in greater proximity. Remove them as best as you can from public. But if it so outrageous and it's so needed to be done, I'd like to have all my options open.

COX: Well, you know, we've certainly seen kids in places, in the supermarket, in the department store, at a ball game acting out and you wonder sometimes as a parent if it's appropriate because in these times there are a lot of people that just don't believe in spanking under any circumstances and it gives you pause for a moment when you are confronted with a misbehaving child and you are in front of strangers, doesn't it?

Judge TOLER: Absolutely and a lot of people don't believe in spanking anymore. And I think a lot of people don't believe in spanking because often when spanking is used, it is misused. You have to make sure to do it rare effectively but not because you're frustrated, upset, angry, embarrassed or otherwise discomfited or just because it some small knicky knack behavior. If you start to spank to resolve problems quickly and easily but not using it as a last resort in, you know, as we call in our house, capital offenses then that is abusive and it is not helpful. And often when you do see somebody, you know, going off on their kids in public, I often see it as a sign of frustration on the part of the parent as opposed to an acting out on a part of the child that requires a corporal response.

COX: When is the time, the right time, the appropriate time if there is such a thing to stop spanking a child obviously if your kid gets bigger than you, you want to think twice about it, I suppose. But when is the right time.

Judge TOLER: It depends on who your child is. My oldest one got spanked once in his entire life, the last one he got his last spanking in the fifth grade. If you're spanking much past then the message didn't get there and there are other more effective ways to stop him, when you're two and don't want your kids running the street, and he's impulsive, a quick pop is helpful to you. When he's in the fifth grade and he's mouthing off at the teacher, the best thing is take the Xbox, the PlayStation, all out of his room, TV, everything, shut him down. That's more effective than a pop because in the fifth grade, he doesn't have much care.

COX: You know, is there ever a situation, Lynn, where for people who do not spank, that if they choose to discipline verbally using profanity, using other kinds of emotional weaponry, is that as painful or as harmful as physical spanking?

Judge TOLER: I think its worse. I think when you tell a child something especially if you tell that child repeatedly it goes into their soul and what it is and who I am and all about. When you spank and if you do it appropriately, it's about the behavior. It's Xavier, you can't run into the street. You go past the sidewalk and it will hurt. I can't explain to you about the car and the accident because you're two and you won't get it. But you will know pass the sidewalk, pain is immediate and that's what it is. So, its better - the words to me, when you - that's what people - that's what they really remember, unless you've beaten them everyday. You know what I mean? You've beaten them everyday, that's another problem. That's abuse of another sort. But those words help define you. The appropriate and the occasional pop defines the act.

COX: Let me end the conversation with this because it's fascinating and we have a lot of single parent families in our country now, but we also have families where they are the mother and father or whatever the parental situation is; two in a household. How do you divide up the responsibility of disciplining and deciding who is the one that should do the spanking and who doesn't have to do it?

Judge TOLER: I think you have to work with whoever your kids are. In our house, it was Mom - Mom gets to you first and if she can solve it, that's fine. If it's really bad, we call in Pops. That's how my husband did it. I used to - I didn't believe in spanking when I young and then when I was a young mother and I saw the error of my ways when my second one was born. But as they get older, the men have to take, I think, a greater responsibility now in my house where I am the smallest one. My children are bigger than me. I'm saying like, look you deal with me and they've got that teenage, I want to be alpha dog thing going on. My husband reminds them, I am alpha dog and to the extent you're messing with your mother, you're messing with me because that's my wife. So, you know what I mean? And it's more of a, I am man, this is my crib and she's my wife and I am alpha dog. To get him through to 20, when they can think again.

COX: Absolutely. As Bernie Mack might say, they better recognize. OK, Judge Lynn Toler is an author and the star of TV's "Divorce Court" speaking to us from the studios of KJZZ in Tempe, Arizona. Thanks, Lynn.

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