Do you know what a meme is? They’re prevalent on Facebook — an image with a caption that conveys either a joke or a political stance or some wacky truism. Some memes are quite poignant, others are hysterically funny and some are just plain stupid.
By EMILY PARNELL
Special to The Star
For a while last fall, there was a rash of memes going around about spanking. Most of them showed an ornery looking kid across a lap, being spanked, in some sort of studio setting. It appeared to be dated around the “Leave it to Beaver” era. Below it was a bunch of hoodlums. You could tell they were hoodlums by the fact that they had their hoods on and were holding guns.
The caption was “If we had more of this (across the kid being spanked) we’d have less of this” (across the hoodlums). There were variations and a veritable movement of people urging others by meme to spank their children.
I remember one day that I had seen this “hit your children now to make better adults later” sentiment expressed several times. Now, mind you, if you search for statistics on this theory, you will find that virtually all violent criminals were, indeed, spanked (severely). I know a woman who counsels suicidal children and teens. She says that pretty much every single one of them had at some point been spanked with some instrument other than a hand.
There is definitely a correlation by the amount a child was spanked and their success in society as they grow older. It’s just not the correlation the pro-spanking people seem to think it is.
So on this day when several of my friends were promoting spanking as the best way, something even more shocking showed up in my feed. It was the day of the Sandy Hook tragedy. And it just so happened that in my Facebook feed, there were two “spank your kids more” posts followed by countless heartbroken people trying to come to terms with the violence that had taken the lives of precious children in Connecticut.
And do you know what? The spanking memes stopped. For a moment, our nation got down on our knees to thank God for our children. My kids came home, as yet oblivious to the tragedy, and were particularly ornery, but all I could do was hug them with a tear in my eye. And I’m guessing others were doing the same. I didn’t see another spanking meme for months. It made me think that even pro-spankers know at some level that spanking = hitting = violence against children.
Parenting is hard. Darned hard. Kids do rotten things and a parent’s job is to teach them how to act. Spanking can definitely put the kibosh on bad behavior. But there’s so much more to raising kids than that. We have to teach long-range skills. Appropriate alternatives. It’s a long process. We have to teach how to self-regulate but also why they should self-regulate.
We can’t look to memes for all our answers in life. They’re mini-blasts of wisdom (or otherwise) that can convey a grand idea, but can’t possibly relay the full story. They’re quick and witty, and they can pack a punch – or a photo of a wallop across the hiney.
But what I wish — I truly wish — is that rather than pointing fingers at others for not disciplining harshly enough, we would spend that time trying to support each other in loving parenting. Because that’s the harder road, requiring patience, research and support. It’s the road riddled with counterintuitive twists and frustrating turns, requiring creativity and patience. It’s the path that sometimes seems to be going nowhere. But if you look at the statistics, it’s pretty clear that it’s the high road that can take a child to the summit of success.
Overland Park mom and 913 freelancer Emily Parnell blogs at mom2momkc.com.