Irony. This meme could almost put itself out of business.
It’s been around for a little while now, and it gets me feeling all kinds of less-than-helpful emotions.
When I see this thing pop up in my newsfeed yet again, and I narrowly avoid my overwhelming urge to leave argumentative (and snarky) comments, I usually console myself with the promise to write a post about it instead.
So, here I am, to write that post.
Respect is a really, really big deal.
It’s a major element we parents want to see in our children- respect for us, for others, for themselves.
It’s a major point of conversation in the media today, generally centered around a perceived lack thereof in today’s youth.
It’s a topic definitely deserving of the attention its getting- but I just so wish it was not for such a thoughtless, shallow sentiment as this ironic and frustrating meme.
First, allow me to point out that the purpose of this meme is not, actually, to demonstrate the respectful person you turned out to be as a result of your childhood spankings.
The point of this meme is to mock the psychologists, researchers, parents and other “others” who dared to suggest spanking might cause psychological damage to children in the first place.
And that is, ironically, (need I even say it ?) not respectful.
I’m glad to say, the disrespectful attitude behind this meme does significant disservice to its message.
And that comforts me…..A little.
What comforts me more, though, is this thought:
If we keep talking about this and use this as a springboard for discussion of real respect and how to teach it to children, enormous good can be done.
So, let’s take a moment to discuss respect.
First- a momentary examination of the actual intended point of this meme: That spanking is not harmful, but is instead helpful and likely necessary to teach children respect.
Let’s let the dictionary shed some light on this one. Respect, by definition, is:
a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
“…..Deep admiration elicited by abilities, qualities, or achievements.”
So, while it may be obedience, or fear, or submission, it is unlikely that the outcome produced by spanking children is accurately described by the word “respect.”
As there are so many excellent treatises out there on the research about the effects of spanking, I will leave it at that, and move on to my next point, which is that:
This meme is actually a really, really excellent example of the immensely deep need for TRUE respect in our culture.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are someone who truly does have respect for others, and who also supports spanking children. Let’s try to think of some things you could say on this topic, other than what we’ve seen so far.
What about: “I was spanked as a child, and I felt loved and guided by it as discipline. I respect my parents, and therefore disagree that spanking is damaging to children’s psychological health.”
Or: “I think spanking is helpful, and plan to spank my children, but I do acknowledge the immense research out there that suggests it may not be the best option. Would you like to hear my reasons for spanking?”
“I was spanked as a child, and feel that I turned out well. Would you be willing to share some of the research or reasons why you think it is damaging?”
Ahhh. Didn’t you just feel your shoulders relax and your breathing slow down a little bit?
Why is that?
Well, because those are examples of respect for others. Respect for others with an opinion that differs from your own.
Respect is an open door.
It allows admiration for a person’s qualities above their decisions.
It expresses disagreement without sarcasm or insult.
It allows a conversation.
It’s really dang hard sometimes.
But you know what’s interesting? Even in peer-to-peer relationships, the experts tell us it is open conversation (instead of accusation or attack) that allows for positive disagreement and….. respect.
Ask good questions.
Be an active listener.
Acknowledge the other’s feelings.
Any of this sound familiar? They’re the foundational aspects of respectful communication.
And, I’d like to suggest, they are also the foundation aspects of teaching our children respect for others.
Instead of spanking or yelling or mocking in an attempt to demand respect, what if we attempt to elicit respect by modeling for our children abilities, qualities, and achievements that are respectable?
I’m willing to bet the results will be good. Maybe even better than we think.