Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Is Spanking or Whipping Child Abuse?

With the recent flurry of media attention from the video gone viral by the daughter (Hillary Adams) of a Texas court judge (Judge William Adams), a lot of discussion has been taking place about whether the judge went above and beyond simple discipline of his child. For those of you who haven't seen the video, you can watch it here: Texas Judge Whips Daughter 

When I watched this video, I was out of breath with sweating palms and shaking hands. My heart was racing. I cannot believe that these parents treated their precious child with so much anger and venom. With all of the vulgarities and insults, this was not only an example of physical abuse but verbal abuse.

The parents' approach was not in a loving manner but in a controlling, angry, and out of control manner. The abuse seemed to never end. The father kept coming back for more-- and then the mother came into the room saying that the girl should take it like a woman. What a poor statement on the mother's behalf. And then the mother took the belt and whipped the girl one time- otherwise known as 'kicking the dog while its down'.

Anyway, this is FAR from a spanking. The judge was beating her on the front, back, sides, where-ever. And he kept coming back for more, yelling profanities the entire time:
  • "I'll spank your f___ing face" "
  • Get on your f___ing stomach" "
  • Get on your G_d d__n stomach" 
  • "I'll beat you into submission" 
  • "You don't deserve to be in this f___ing house" 
  • "I should just keep beating you and beating you, that's how upset I am" 
  • "If you raise your f___ing voice one little bit to me or your mother ... or  look at me f__ing wrong I will wear your f___ing a__ out with this belt." 
  • "You caused this with your dis-f__ing-obidence" 
My word! This is verbal abuse and so disheartening. Why are these parents (more so her father) talking so vulgarly to their daughter? Would they want her talking to them that way? What type of leadership are they illustrating to her? 

In regard to discipline, I have several points: 
  1. The child should be spoken to in a calm and collect manner. 
  2. The child should be told what he / she did incorrectly and what he / she should have done instead. 
  3. The child should be allowed to express why he / she did what he / she did. 
  4. The discipline that follows should be progressive. For the first incidence, the repercussion is _____  (time out, restriction, removal of item). For the second incidence, the repercussion should be more harsh (longer time out, longer restriction, longer period of removal of item). The third incidence (three strikes you're out) should be long term or permanent loss of privilege.
  5. The discipline should be administered in a controlled and loving manner. If a parent is angry, the parent should walk away, take a breather, and then continue to address the incident. 
  6. The discipline should never be the parent taking their frustrations out on their child. 
  7. The child should know that he / she is loved and thus in a safe and secure environment-- not with a parent that is out-of-control. If the parent is out-of-control, trust is lost between parent and child; therefore, discipline is less effective.
  8. The parent should lead by example. If the parent has a tantrum (like this judge in the video), what is the child learning? 
In this video, the girl apparently: (1) didn't use the computer strictly for school as instructed and (2) downloaded items that should have been downloaded from a pay-site. If the judge wanted to use a controlled spanking after he spoke with her about the two infractions, she should have known ahead of time that the repercussion is ________ number of spankings for each infraction. The discipline would have been calmly executed. After the spankings, the father should have lovingly spoken to her about what to correctly do next time-- reiterating that the computer is just used for school and no downloading of any kind. If this was the 2nd or 3rd infraction, progressive discipline should be administered.

I feel the more effective discipline, however, is restriction from use of computer as well as going online to pay for the downloads legally. Since she is 16 y/o and able to reason and discuss what is acceptable behavior as well as what is legal use of the Internet, talking to her in depth about these issues is valuable not only short-term but long-term. What did she learn about legally downloading items online by getting whipped and hearing profanities screamed at her? Additionally, having her research digital piracy, penalties for digital piracy, and other legal aspects of online usage related to her infraction would be greatly beneficial.

Another point is that the discipline should have a clear beginning and a clear ending. This judge did not have a clear ending with the whipping discipline. Therefore, in the case of a spanking, the beginning should take place after the initial talk about what she did incorrectly. The spanking then should take place with a countdown. Once the spanking is finished, a discussion of what needs to be improved should follow. This would conclude the discipline session. In the case of time outs or restrictions, again, there is a talk prior to the discipline. Thereafter, the time out or restriction follows. Once the time out or restriction ends, a follow-up discussion takes place regarding future expectations. 

The definition of physical abuse is abuse involving contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm.. This judge is illustrating abusive behavior due as he is clearly intimidating her by cowering over her, whipping her front / back / sides, picking her up off of the floor by the arm and pulling her back onto the bed, getting into her face, and more. He also intended to cause injury as he was using a belt (the biggest one he could find as he stated at the beginning), whipped her all over her front even when she wouldn't turn around for her bottom to be spanked, and kept beating her even after her cries for him to stop. He also caused physical suffering by continually coming back into the room for more as well as continuing to beat her when she refused to flip over onto her stomach.

He does not appear to want to improve her behavior but take out his rage on her, verbally and physically. Whipping her up and down the front of her body-- as well as chasing her around her bed-- is not teaching her anything about what she did wrong or how to correct it. What his behavior is simply doing is teaching her not to respect him. And with parenting, respect is of utmost importance. 

The mother is culpable as well. She did nothing to stop the father from taking out his temper tantrum on the daughter. She actually aided and abetted, adding in commentary to further wound the child mentally. The father shows that he is a control freak, and the mother further solidifies this stance by demanding the girl to be a submissive woman. My heart cried out to see a mother take this position-- and to compound the incident worse by taking the belt and whipping her daughter one time. That whipping was almost like kicking the dog one more time 'just because'... kicking the dog when it's down. Very sad state of affairs. I feel for this adult child of this abusive man (and mother-- who didn't have the courage, care, or insight to stop her raging husband). 

Bottom-line, we should love our children, lead by example, and solve issues with careful and controlled discipline. We are bestowed the greatest responsibility in the world, and we should take that responsibility and treat it with respect. We are the parents, and we should lead the way to a happy, secure, loving world. Flying of the handle uncontrollably and treating your child with such venom is not a way that child learn effectively. In fact, that type of treatment wounds the child, damages their sense of self, and hurts the child to the core. 

So is spanking or whipping a form of child abuse? If the spanking is used in a manner that is loving and respectful, then for SOME children, this MAY be an acceptable and productive way to discipline. Spanking is legal. But is spanking the right thing to do? There is a FINE LINE between spanking and physically abusing. Remember: physical abuse is abuse involving contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm. Spanking in any case would be intimidating to a child, cause injury by bruising, and cause physical suffering by the mere act itself.

I have worked with children in all sorts of capacities, and I have always had to use discipline procedures that involve time outs and restrictions. I have never been able to use spankings- nor would I. I cannot imagine spanking, physically striking, or whipping a child.... period. And with all of the decades of dealing with children, I have been successful with children of all types using time outs and restrictions. The main key is consistency and progressive. I have had no problem getting compliance from large groups of kids by communicating expectations, having consistent repercussions for misbehavior, and follow-up with areas to improve. 

We tell our kids to keep their hands to themselves, not to hit, and to be nice. Shouldn't parents do the same? And if the school systems, day-cares, and other child care organizations don't spank, why is spanking alright for the parent to do? I say, let's treat our children with love-- as much love as possible. And let's give them the attention they need-- namely positive attention that let's them know we see what they're doing and care. And I believe you will get the best out of each and every one of them. As far as this judge, I pray he doesn't get re-elected. He presides over child abuse / custody cases and doesn't illustrate clear judgment about these topics as illustrated by this damaging video.


  1. Additionally, the daughter said she was coming forward NOW because she wanted her father to get "help," she felt responsible for protecting her mother (the abuser) and her younger sister.
    Can we say "Parentified Child?" Can we consider "Stockholm Syndrome?" This young woman despite her composure and articulate discussion has IMO a long, long way to go to truly heal.
    How kind of mother to apologize. How we DO understand "Battered Women" and their apparent and real lack of options at times. However, the child DID NOT CHOOSE THAT RELATIONSHIP.
    I do not trust abusers. I do not trust that mother. And I surely hope her daughter has someone unrelated to her "mother" who is looking after her financial as well as emotional interests.

  2. Excellent points... thank you for sharing. So much to think about with this case. After I first saw the video, my head was spinning... and I have been thinking of it ever since. Thanks for adding more to the discussion. Much appreciated :)

  3. Icant watch it. I hope they are humilated by their community. Poor daughters.

  4. I don't blame you-- I had a HARD time watching it and it left me feeling awful for quite some time. And I pray for those daughters...

  5. I did watch it, and agree with all of your statements. I was a bit horrified at the comments attached to the video that I watched suggesting she set her parents up. EVEN IF SHE DID, the parents are supposed to be the ADULTS in the situation. She was obviously pretty sure of what she was going to get on tape.

    I'm not saying that she did this, I AM SAYING THERE WAS NO EXCUSE FOR WHAT I SAW ON TAPE. Now an occiasional swat (with a hand) on the butt a couple of times in life may be approrpriate.

    Here are some responsible things these "parents" could have done:

    1) not allowed their child to be on a computer unsupervised
    2) taken away the power cord, and be sure that the computer was only in use for homework, letting her know they would pop in and out during that time period.
    3) having a computer in a common area only for her use
    4) I don't know today, but one used to be able to do their homework without a computer. Certainly an option, and I am not sure that kids need online access even if they have a computer.

    I always like to view something before I comment on it, but was totally sickened by the total package of abuse as shown. And yes that "take it like a woman" comment struck me as bizarre as well. To me that means go find a bat, and hunt down the sucker that thinks they can do that to me!

    I bet some part of their "community" supports them.

  6. I was equally shocked with the people saying that this form of "discipline" is okay-- and that their parents did the same thing to them. Say what!?

    I like your list of things the parents should have done. I wonder if they are the reactionary type rather than proactive types. All of the things you listed take thought and planning... as well as supervision and time. Many parents these days are too busy for the proactive parenting so they end up frustrated and irritated and fly-off-the-handle after the fact.

    Thanks for stopping by-- love your comment and contribution. All my best~

  7. HI Gretel - I just wanted, first, to say "thank you" for this courageous blog. I've spent all day today reading it, and I think it can help my children very much. I was married to a woman with undiagnosed bpd for about 7 years after a whirlwind engagement - we knew each other about 4 months before we were married, and I was quickly "in love" and wanted to rescue this poor wounded bird from her terrible life and family, who were so evil they were warning me to be careful where she was concerned. How I wish I'd listened. But I was young, in love, and full of myself - hopefully not to the degree your father was, but enough to be drawn into this relationship and once it became hell on earth to keep hanging in there believing that things could improve - they cycle went to calmness and affection often enough to give me false hope - as a strong Christian I just didn't believe in divorce, and it wasn't until I started to fear for my children's safety and started to really understand the toll this was taking on them that I finally ran for the hills with the kids. So first off, thank you - I think your blog may help them come to terms with all that's happened. The oldest is 14 now, was six the last time she was under her mother's care for an extended period, but still struggles emotionally with the situation and with her own feelings of guilt and worthlessness. She needs validation like this, please don't stop.

    Second, I agree 100% that what was in that video is horrific abuse - but is not at all representative of effective use of spanking as discipline. The girl is 16 - spanking her?! wth? My son is 9 and I don't even consider spanking with him anymore. The window when spanking has a real and lasting effect is really about 4-8 depending on the child, and what you describe is exactly the way I believe it should be done - the child should know that choosing the behavior is choosing a spanking and it is about correction, not a parent's anger or frustration - if it is, that is a recipe for rebellion.

    Anyway thanks - I'll go back to lurking. I'm commenting anonymously as we are back in court on these aforementioned issues once again - her crusade against me continues at high cost to the kids....

  8. Yes, smacking/ spanking is abuse. It is never ever OK to hit a child. Parents can fool themselves with thinking it's discipline or 'for the good of the child', but it never is. It's the parents who's lost control, can't cope, or lashes out. And they can hide behind 'discipline' to make themselves feel better.

    One of my mother's friends was talking how upsetting she finds those child abuse adverts. But then went on to say 'I mean I can understand when you've had a really bad day and you smack.....' completely not understanding the irony. It's the parents job to stay in control, and if the smacking depends on the parents good or bad day, it's the parent at fault, not the child.

    Smacking is humiliating, invalidating, doesn't teach children healthy emotional expression and can escalate into worse abuse.

    It's also linked to self-harm, where the child learns to associate pain with being 'bad'.

    When someone says 'Well I was smacked and it didn't do me any harm, I don't see anything wrong wiht it!' I say, 'Well it did, because you think smacking kids is OK'.

  9. During a behavioral science class discussion shortly after the video aired, one coed observed what the mother did and what the father did was the difference between a spanking and a whipping. Much to my surprise, several other young women in the class nodded in agreement. The assessment offered by the coed was later confirmed when,despite repeated promptings by a talk show host, the daughter refused to condemn her mother's hitting the seat of her jeans with the same belt the father had used.