Saturday, August 13, 2011

Spanking in the Philippines: No Spanking = No Discipline?

I have to say, I was very surprised at some most of the reactions left on my post about the Philippine House passing the Non-violent Discipline Act.  I'm of the opinion that corporal punishment in any form is an incredibly bad idea and does absolutely no good for children or for society.  In line with that belief, I wholeheartedly applauded the House's passage of the bill, and I stand by that.  It is progressive, it is important, it is timely, and it is in the best interest of Filipino children and their rights as human beings who are incredibly vulnerable to abuse and coercion.

I take issue with the notion that countries with prohibitions on spanking are producing out-of-control youth.  I dare to say that many people who say such things have most likely never spent long periods of time in the countries they claim to know so much about.  If you're judging all Western children based on what you see in American movies, you're reaching a very lopsided and uninformed conclusion.

It is also worth noting that some comments included references to the fact that American kids are disrespectful parent-haters.  The reason behind this perceived notion, they say, is because the U.S. has laws against spanking.  Sorry, but that's just not true.

#1:  In the U.S., in all 50 states, it is actually entirely legal for parents to spank their children.  There is no national law against spanking, and no state laws against spanking.  Anti-spanking bills were submitted to the legislatures of California and Massachusetts several years ago, but both failed by a wide margin.  What's more, 65% of American parents see nothing wrong with spanking, and 50% of them say they do spank their children.  In every state (with the exception of Minnesota) it is actually permissible for a parent accused of child abuse to evoke their right to corporal punishment in their defense.

I don't know where many commenters here were getting the idea that corporal punishment in the home is illegal in America, but we can now set the record clearly straight:  spanking is not illegal in the States and it is commonly practiced as a form of discipline in half of American homes.

#2:  I've been to the U.S. several times and have spent extended times there.  American kids aren't any different than kids in other countries.  I know many Americans and all of them love their parents very much.  Again, I think we have a case of judging an entire society based on movies.

The commenter referring to him/herself as "Juniper7" feels that many Filipinos are already undisciplined, and wrote examples of how they do "Illegal logging, dynamite fishing, throw trash anywhere, ihi [urinate] everywhere, just imagine if we further reduce discipline on their childhood."

If spanking is the answer to producing upstanding adults, then why isn't the Philippines spotless?
I'm wondering, does spanking (or more spanking) really remedy these problems?  Apparently not.  If that were the case the Philippines wouldn't have the aforementioned problems to deal with.  If the vast majority of Filipino parents spank their kids, and spanking is the answer to producing upstanding adults, then why isn't the Philippines spotless?

And of course I was lashed out at for being a liberal, a socialist, an evolutionist (though I don't know what that has to do with anything), and a "rebellious one" in my youth.  For the record, yes, spanking is illegal in my country.  It has been prohibited since 1987, both in the home and in the school.  Many Western European countries have similar laws, such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, and Belgium, as well as New Zealand.  (Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to spank in Canada, Australia, or the U.K.)

Also for the record, I was not a "rebellious one" in my youth.  I had fun and enjoyed my teenage years, but I never disrespected my parents or the law.  Even though half of my childhood was just before the outlaw of spanking in '87, my parents never spanked me.  Not once.  It's simply not something we do in Scandinavia.  To be frank, most of us find it repulsive, violent, and incredibly degrading to children.

The perceived "disrespect" or "rebelliousness" of Western children has nothing to do with a lack of spanking.  If we compare Scandinavian society to American society, for example, we see some telling things.  While spanking is widely accepted, commonly practiced, and is entirely legal in the U.S., America has the highest rates of violent crime in the industrialized West.  By contrast, we don't spank our kids in Scandinavia, and spanking is in fact illegal.  Yet our rates of violent crime are not only the lowest in the industrialized West, they're the lowest in the whole world.

In this light it is apparent that the root of undisciplined youth is not a lack of spanking, but there are clearly other factors involved.  One of those factors may be exposure to violence in childhood.

It is no secret that American TV and movies can be quite violent.  A group of American psychologists conducted a study back in 2004 which found that 60% of all TV shows in the U.S. contain violence, as do 90% of all American movies.  By the time a child in America turns 11, he or she has seen over 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on TV.  And that's just on regular TV; that's not counting cable TV.  Psychologists the world over have shown that repeated exposure to murder, rape, and robbery on TV effectively desensitizes children to violence, makes them become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, and makes children steadily more aggressive.

American TV networks censor sexuality and nudity, but not violence.  Scandinavia censors unnecessary violence, but not sexuality and nudity (an example of which can be seen here at the bottom of the Comparison post).  Exact opposite approaches.

Spanking doesn't equal less criminality or more respect, and a lack of spanking doesn't equal more criminality or less respect
What children watch does make an impact in how they relate to their peers, to their parents, to authority, and in the way they learn to deal with conflict as they grow older.  So if we look at two societies -- one that spanks and one that doesn't -- and see that the former is more rebellious or violent than the latter, then it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that spanking isn't a cure (but may be an effect).  Since spanking doesn't equal less criminality, and a lack of spanking doesn't equal more criminality, we have to observe other societal differences and draw an appropriate hypothesis.  In this case, exposure to violence and rebellious criminality on TV.

Something else that is fair to keep in mind is that the Philippines never experienced the Cultural Revolution that Western countries went through in the late 1960s/early '70s.  The young generation of that era effectively rebelled against the cultural staus quo, shaking off the chains of the very conservative uniformity of the 1950s and early '60s.  

The civil rights movement for ethnic and religious minorities was birthed, feminism was birthed, and the gay rights movement was birthed.  LGBTs started to be seen as people, not mental patients; women became equal bread-winners and leaders; and men started taking equal responsibility in the housework and raising of the kids.  The young generation challenged the Victorian-style establishment ways of their parents' generation and said "it's time for more freedom -- it's time for a change."

So yes, there is a natural streak of rebellion in Western society, and I think it's a good thing.  It's actually more of an independence streak than a rebellious one.  There's no threat or harm in speaking your mind, standing up for yourself, or challenging the establishment.  These are healthy things.  This is how society progresses.  So it is a bit incorrect to interpret this as disrespect or delinquency, as one commenter put it.

In any case it's quite clear that this phenomenon is not caused by a lack of discipline.  Believe me, Western kids are disciplined, too.  I was disciplined and corrected when I needed to be, but not by threats or a belt or the back of my father's hand.  My parents talked to me.  They taught me.  They explained things to me.  Knowing that I had disappointed them was more than enough punishment.  If the love and bond between parent and child is strong, that will suffice.  I loved and respected and honored my parents deeply, and I still do.

One comment noted that, "unlike American kids," Filipinos respect their parents.  Most Filipino children do respect their parents, yes, at least outwardly.  Behind their back, however... who knows.  Kids are kids, that's all I'm saying.  Adolescents the world over go through times of argument and rebellion against their parents -- it's part of growing up -- and Filipino teens are not immune to this.  In the Philippines, however, it tends to be done more secretively or quietly.  That's a cultural thing, again, because the Philippines (and Asia as a whole) has never experienced a cultural revolution that has openly challenged old societal conformity.

Respect for the nation?
But is an outward expression of obedience to one's parents an indication of the overall respectfulness of a nation?  As "Juniper7" noted, adults in the Philippines are often seen throwing trash, peeing in public, and engaging in illegal activities such as logging, dynamite fishing, taking or giving bribes, running red lights and not observing a host of traffic laws.  How can this be if spanking children supposedly produces upstanding and respectful adult citizens?  Is it permissible to disrespect the nation's laws as long as a person outwardly respects their mom and dad?  Is that true respect?...

As a completely hypothetical example let's say that a police officer sees someone throw a plastic cup down in the street.  Given that there are anti-litter laws in place, the officer approaches the person, scolds him, and begins to write him a citation.  But let's say the person offers the police officer some cash in exchange for forgetting about what he saw, and he accepts it.  It is highly likely that that cop was spanked as a child to "teach" him respect and discipline, but he doesn't respect the law he is employed to represent and enforce.  He is a dirty cop.  He may respect his mom and give her fresh flowers every Sunday afternoon, but he's still a dirty cop who disrespects his nation by taking bribes from Monday to Friday.  A double standard to say the least.  Not to mention the fact that the person littering is just as disrespectful and undisciplined as the cop.

I don't think spanking produces an orderly society full of orderly adults.  Laws, and enforcement of those laws backed up with heavy penalties, is what forces a society to become orderly.  I don't obey the law because I was spanked as a child (because, as I said, I've never been spanked), I obey the law because I respect the law and I don't want to lose half of my month's salary in heavy fines.  In the Philippines fines are small, but fines in Norway are huge -- nobody wants to break the law because when you get caught your bank account will suffer to the max!

As an example, if you run a red light in Norway, it will cost you a minimum equivalent of 40,000 Philippine pesos.  Yep, you read that right:  40,000.  If you speed you can get a fine the equivalent of Php 80,000 and/or have your license taken from you for a year or more.  And no you cannot bribe cops or talk your way out of the fine.  Believe me, if they start doling out fines like these in the Philippines, Filipino drivers will suddenly discover a new-found conformity to the law.  Spanking doesn't do that; strict law enforcement does.

That hits on another comment made, which said that people in Singapore, South Korea, and Japan are disciplined and orderly because they spank their kids.  But if spanking is the cause of orderly society, why isn't the Philippines as orderly as Singapore, SoKor, and Japan?  If spanking is the cause of orderly society, why aren't countries that don't spank also very orderly?  And if you've ever been to mainland China -- a country where corporal punishment is used in a majority of homes -- you'll experience some rather undisciplined behavior, such as pushing, cutting in line, a "me first" attitude, and a fairly across the board standard of being inconsiderate.  How could this be?  After all, the Chinese get spanked as children...

Again, childhood spanking doesn't bring order and discipline; strict law enforcement and stiff penalties do.  Nobody says "I was spanked as a child, therefore I will respect the laws."  No, we say "There are cops and cameras all around and I don't want a gigantic fine, therefore I will respect the laws."  As time goes by you're no longer being obedient just to avoid being caught, you start doing it because you understand that it increases safety and really does bring order, which makes things better for everyone.  Then you do it by habit (by discipline), and you can't imagine doing it any other way.

An absence of spanking does not equal an absence of discipline.  Children can learn, be taught, and be corrected by other ways than physical force.  HB 4455 is a good bill.  It's good for the country.  It's good for the physical and mental well-being of Filipino children.  I hope sincerely that it now passes in the Senate, and I hope many of you will agree with me and support it, too.

Relevant studies (right-click to open in new tabs):
Long-term effects of spanking:  aggression in children
Spanking leads to aggression and anxiety
10 reasons not to hit your child
Spank a child, breed a bully
Psychological effects of spanking


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