Friday, September 26, 2008

i'm just sayin

Spare the Rod

Why you shouldn't hit your kids.
By Alan E. Kazdin

The typical parent, when whacking a misbehaving child, doesn't pause to wonder: "What does science have to say about the efficacy of corporal punishment?" If they are thinking anything at all, it's: "Here comes justice!" And while the typical parent may not know or care, the science on corporal punishment of kids is pretty clear. Despite the rise of the timeout and other nonphysical forms of punishment, most American parents hit, pinch, shake, or otherwise lay violent hands on their youngsters: 63 percent of parents physically discipline their 1- to 2-year-olds, and 85 percent of adolescents have been physically punished by their parents. Parents cite children's aggression and failure to comply with a request as the most common reasons for hitting them.

The science also shows that corporal punishment is like smoking: It's a rare human being who can refrain from stepping up from a mild, relatively harmless dose to an excessive and harmful one. Three cigarettes a month won't hurt you much, and a little smack on the behind once a month won't harm your child. But who smokes three cigarettes a month? To call corporal punishment addictive would be imprecise, but there's a strong natural tendency to escalate the frequency and severity of punishment. More than one-third of all parents who start out with relatively mild punishments end up crossing the line drawn by the state to define child abuse: hitting with an object, harsh and cruel hitting, and so on. Children, endowed with wonderful flexibility and ability to learn, typically adapt to punishment faster than parents can escalate it, which helps encourage a little hitting to lead to a lot of hitting. And, like frequent smoking, frequent corporal punishment has serious, well-proven bad effects.

The negative effects on children include increased aggression and noncompliance—the very misbehaviors that most often inspire parents to hit in the first place—as well as poor academic achievement, poor quality of parent-child relationships, and increased risk of a mental-health problem (depression or anxiety, for instance). High levels of corporal punishment are also associated with problems that crop up later in life, including diminished ability to control one's impulses and poor physical-health outcomes (cancer, heart disease, chronic respiratory disease). Plus, there's the effect of increasing parents' aggression, and don't forget the consistent finding that physical punishment is a weak strategy for permanently changing behavior.

But parents keep on hitting. Why? The key is corporal punishment's temporary effectiveness in stopping a behavior. It does work—for a moment, anyway. The direct experience of that momentary pause in misbehavior has a powerful effect, conditioning the parent to hit again next time to achieve that jolt of fleeting success and blinding the parent to the long-term failure of hitting to improve behavior. The research consistently shows that the unwanted behavior will return at the same rate as before. But parents believe that corporal punishment works, and they are further encouraged in that belief by feeling that they have a right and even a duty to punish as harshly as necessary.

Part of the problem is that most of us pay, at best, selective attention to science—and scientists, for their part, have not done a good job of publicizing what they know about corporal punishment. Studies of parents have demonstrated that if they are predisposed not to see a problem in the way they rear their children, then they tend to dismiss any scientific finding suggesting that this presumed nonproblem is, in fact, a problem. In other words, if parents believe that hitting is an effective way to control children's behavior, and especially if that conviction is backed up by a strong moral, religious, or other cultural rationale for corporal punishment, they will confidently throw out any scientific findings that don't comport with their sense of their own experience.

The catch is that we frequently misperceive our own experience. Studies of parents' perceptions of child rearing, in particular, show that memory is an extremely unreliable guide in judging the efficacy of punishment. Those who believe in corporal punishment tend to remember that hitting a child worked: She talked back to me, I slapped her face, she shut her mouth. But they tend to forget that, after the brief pause brought on by having her face slapped, the child talked back again, and the talking back grew nastier and more frequent over time as the slaps grew harder.
So what's the case for not hitting? It can be argued from the science: Physical discipline doesn't work over the long run, it has bad side effects, and mild punishment often becomes more severe over time. Opponents of corporal punishment also advance moral and legal arguments. If you hit another adult you can be arrested and sued, after all, so shouldn't our smallest, weakest citizens have a right to equal or even more-than-equal protection under the law? In this country, if you do the same thing to your dog that you do to your child, you're more likely to get in trouble for mistreating the dog.

The combination of scientific and moral/legal arguments has been effective in debates about discipline in public schools. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have banned corporal punishment in the schools. But so far, we have shown ourselves unwilling to extend that debate beyond the schools and into the ideologically sacred circle of the family. Where the argument against corporal punishment in the schools has prevailed, in fact, it has often cited parents' individual right to punish their own children as they, and not educators acting for the state, see fit. The situation is different in other countries. You may not be surprised to hear that 91 countries have banned corporal punishment in the schools, but you may be surprised to hear that 23 countries have banned corporal punishment everywhere within their borders, including in the home.

I know what you're thinking: Are there really 23 Scandinavian countries? Sweden was, indeed, the first to pass a comprehensive ban, but the list also includes Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain, Israel, Portugal, Greece, Uruguay, Chile, Venezuela, and New Zealand. According to advocates of the ban, another 20 or so countries are committed to full prohibition and/or are debating prohibitionist bills in parliament. The Council of Europe was the first intergovernmental body to launch a campaign for universal prohibition across its 47 member countries.

Practically nobody in America knows or cares that the United Nations has set a target date of 2009 for a universal prohibition of violence against children that would include a ban on corporal punishment in the home. Americans no doubt have many reasons—some of them quite good—to ignore or laugh off instructions from the United Nations on how to raise their kids. And it's naive to think that comprehensive bans are comprehensively effective. Kids still get hit in every country on earth. But especially because such bans are usually promoted with large public campaigns of education and opinion-shaping (similar to successful efforts in this country to change attitudes toward littering and smoking), they do have measurable good effects. So far, the results suggest that after the ban is passed, parents hit less and are less favorably inclined toward physical discipline, and the country is not overwhelmed by a wave of brattiness and delinquency. The opposite, in fact. If anything, the results tell us that there's less deviant child behavior.

There could conceivably be good reasons for Americans to decide, after careful consideration, that our commitment to the privacy and individual rights of parents is too strong to allow for an enforceable comprehensive ban on corporal punishment. But we don't seem to be ready to join much of the rest of the world in even having a serious discussion about such a ban. In the overheated climate of nondebate encouraged by those who would have us believe that we are embroiled in an ongoing high-stakes culture war, we mostly just declaim our fixed opinions at one another.

One result of this standoff is that the United States, despite being one of the primary authors of the U.N.'s Convention on the Rights of Children, which specifies that governments must take appropriate measures to protect children from "all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation," is one of only two nations that have not ratified it. The other is Somalia; 192 nations have ratified it. According to my colleague Liz Gershoff of the University of Michigan, a leading expert on corporal punishment of children, the main arguments that have so far prevented us from ratifying it include the ones you would expect—it would undermine American parents' authority as well as U.S. sovereignty—plus a couple of others that you might not have expected: It would not allow 17-year-olds to enlist in the armed forces, and (although the Supreme Court's decision in Roper v. Simmons has made this one moot, at least for now) it would not allow executions of people who committed capital crimes when they were under 18.

We have so far limited our national debate on corporal punishment by focusing it on the schools and conducting it at the local and state level. We have shied away from even theoretically questioning the primacy of rights that parents exercise in the home, where most of the hitting takes place. Whatever one's position on corporal punishment, we ought to be able to at least discuss it with each other like grownups.


she wants to change the spelling of her name (ryli to rylie)...

2453 days is how long it took Ty to take a bite of apple...

cannon likes to sag...he refuses to wear his pants anywhere near his waist...

Friday, September 19, 2008

all tuckered out

bubba resting after rest time at gymboree, he was so tired. moments like these make me feel like he is still such a baby. i cherish that little face and find it hard to keep my lips off of his cherub cheeks.
momma+cannon 4-ever

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

ty-zart and the cupcakes

ty started piano lessons today. he loved it! he showed me what he learned and seems pretty confident for being the new guy. ryli has chosen to take violin lessons and of course dance. she starts dance on monday and violin at the beginning of october. i suppose ty will want to take something else as well...probably karate. (the adorable becca as his coach)
on the way to piano we had a few minutes so we stopped by this charming little cupcake shop in the heights. ty got a chocolate sans frosting, ry a vanilla with buttercream frosting and rainbow sprinkles, bubba a vanilla with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles and me a white tie affair, ghirardelli chocolate with buttercream frosting and of course chocolate sprinkles. Divine...a little piece of heaven right here in little rock i tell you!
my sweets with the sweets

Monday, September 8, 2008


tyler: "since my teeth on top in the front are so big do you think I will lose them first?"

cannon: "will i get bigga and stwonga if I eat lots of chips for dinna?"

ryli: "does the letter s sometimes make a z sound?...what about is?"
(she has just recently started reading)
all three: "are we there yet?"

me: "did i really go bodysurfing topless as per my mysterious facebook status?"

of course not, it was a family vacation. i have two sneaky friends who were making the most out of an accidental spillage...:)

me: "was my controversial fantasy first draft pick validated yesterday?"

ummm, i think so...who needs mr.brady?? all of my other picks did pretty well too...
gooooooo my friend fox

me: "will we be going back to the beach in february?"

most def!

Friday, September 5, 2008

flo-Rida: day 7

tomorrow we head sad. it's always nice to get home but the beach already misses me. the feelings are reciprocated.
a re-cap:
wednesday: We went back to Destin. The Hartzell's "new" Pilot lost a/c and Shane and Larry took it to the dealership for service. It was covered under warranty. We had to forgo beach activity again due to double red flags. We met the guys in Destin at Hard Rock for lunch, did more shopping then came home.
thursday: We spent the day around the beach house swimming in the pool and playing on the beach. The kids are loving all of the outdoor fun and built-in friends. (though the fighting comes with the package) All of the kids are getting so much more confident in the water. Ty and Ry have started jumping into the deep end and swimming all over the place with no floatation device. Cannon will actually get into the water with a floatation device and play in the water independently. Ty loves the ocean. He is constantly going out far enough to scare me, Ry will go in about knee deep and Cannon will only sit where the waves wash up.

friday: I took Ty and Ry on a bike ride in the kid trailer this morning. it was a first for all of us. The kids didn't really know what to think. I mean, I think they enjoyed it but I think they were a little nervous. I saw a snake, I hate snakes. Then we found a new construction neighborhood with lots of cool boardwalks. I thought it would be fun to ride down them. In the middle of trying to balance on the small path and trying to take the turn wide enough I managed to fall off. The bike and the trailer seemed unaffected, the kids were a little worried but the seagrass caught my fall. I jumped and tried to play it off, jumped back on the bike, stood up on the pedals and fell in exactly the same place again. Apparently the chain fell off because when I tried to pedal the bike only went sideways. This time it hurt a little bit more. The kids picked up their jaws and asked if I was okay...again. I managed to walk the bike to the street and fix the chain and carry on. I am REALLY sore at this point. Not to mention some tumbles I took in the water from the crazy currents. (p.s. I'm just going to throw this out there because Becca and Holly are really excited to tell everyone that I lost my top because of the waves...body-surfing and strapless tops don't mix...for future reference) We spent the rest of the day swimming, napping, eating and playing on the beach. Ryli and I were the only ones who wanted to go back to the beach out of our family and we managed to take the kayak out for an oceanic spin. And I mean spin. I was really nervous so we were out for aboout 15 minutes. I had Ryli with me and I was sure I would get the crazy shark that wanted to jump aboard and take off one of our legs. Thanks Holly for the challenge, I don't know if I would've done it otherwise. We hit up a seafood shop for dinner, had shrimp, potatoes, corn on the cob and some crab. we are all packed up and ready to hit the road tomorrow. I plan to take one last early morning walk on the beach to collect more shells for Ryli. She loves them and wants to make sure to bring back enough for everyone in her class.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

flo-Rida: day 4

Today was fantastically relaxing and enjoyable. Aside from the fact that the children woke up at 6:30am the day was quite peaceful. I was able to get an early morning nap after Shane's early morning nap, then we went swimming in the pool...the red flags were still flying so the beach was not an option. (we did contemplate it but in the end decided it might be a little irresponsible) We went to Seaside for lunch and ate at a little patio grill spot. The streets were lined with quaint little shops and cafes but our favorite was a divine little store called Sun Dog Books. We felt very much at home in this little shop and it was filled with all kinds of great reads, pretty papers, journals, crafty cards and even a fully stocked music selection on the second floor. We came back to the house for more swimming, an early dinner, and an early bedtime. Billy and Becca got to dine at Cafe Tango on some special yumminess - Baked Brie and warm fruit compote, etc...they even brought us home a sample to say thanks for babysitting.(more like baby listening, they put their kids to sleep before they left) We stayed up late playing games and indian leg wrestling...

Monday, September 1, 2008

flo-Rida: day 3

We spent the entire day swimming yesterday. We started out at 7am walking to the beach. The intention was just to explore but as anyone can probably imagine the kids all ended up in the water, I ended up a little wet myself. We saw a washed up jellyfish which was really cool, found some seashells, and went back after about an hour. We swam in the pool and layed out until 12:30pm. Had a huge lunch and then went to the beach for the rest of the afternoon. We had SO much fun! The water was great, a little rough because of the storm, but good enough to do some body surfing and lots of running and splashing. Tyler hung with me in the the whole time in the water and Ryli and Cannon perferred the sand. They built lots of castles, looked for crabs, caught a couple, and got their feet wet a few times. We saw dolphins swimming off of the coast too! We came back for a dip in the heated pool then around 5:30 showered had a bite to eat and got ready for bed. It was an early evening but we were absolutely exhausted. The sun came out a few times, despite the clouds we all got a little sunburn.
Today I woke up curious about Gustav only to find a partly cloudy sky with lots of winds. We walked down to the beach to check out the waves and the rise was all the way to the fence which was about 30 feet higher than it was yesterday. Pretty crazy. The break looked so agressive and of course the red flags were flying so swimming was off limits. Haven't seen any crazy rain or clouds yet and the hurricane has made landfall in Louisiana, hmmmm, are we in the clear?The girls and I left for Panama City for some lunch and shopping and then went to Destin for the outlets and grocery shopping. We didn't at any point see a drop of rain or anything indicative of the big hurricane prediction. Very nice!

flo-Rida: day1

We departed the Sharp casa at 7:15am, much later than we had originally anticipated. We were actually up at 5am contemplating Gustav through 3-way phone convo. In the end we followed our strong urge to vacation at the beach and prayed the storm would continue to veer west.
We made it through a 12 hour road trip with 3 kids. They did so good for such a looong time:) We stopped in Tupelo MS first. We had lunch at Crackerbarrel and let the kids run around and then headed to Alabama. Our next stop was Montgomery AL. We found a new Target with tons of clearance shelves. The kids had lots of fun running through the toy aisle and helping me search for those happy red stickers. After about an hour there we got in the car for the final leg of the trip. We got to Florida about 7:30pm. We didn't however get to the house until about 8:30...we got lost on the last 10 miles to the house, go figure.
The house is perfect, the storm will be interesting, we are safe & the kids are super excited. The California coast has nothing on the Gulf. The sand is white and the water is blue. I could live here...