Capitalism is Raising My Child
we don’t spank. so we have to resort to other methods to get good behavior out of the Unreliable Narrator.
usually i loathe emily bazelon, self-anointed high priestess of feminism, but she had an interesting point of view on no spanking that fraysters on slate went on to amplify. it’s kind of a freakonomics take on parenting and class difference.
basically, bazelon said she agreed with the san francisco state assemblywoman who recently proposed a law in california making it illegal to spank a child under the age of 4. if it reduces the incidences of child abuse, then that has to be a greater good in spite of how utopian and ultimately unenforceable the law would be, was her argument.
fraysters commenting on this noted studies that found people who have little money spank their children more than people with more money. this apparently holds true across culture, with african americans apparently spanking more on average and especially so among low-income african americans. (hey, i don’t invent the racially-charged findings, i just pass it along here.) i think chinese people must spank most of all, whether rich or poor, but the study results were silent on that bit of anecdotal evidence.
anyway, i guess the upshot is that if you have more money, you can take away more toys and privileges from your child as punishment…ahem, disincentives to bad behavior. whereas if you’re living closer to subsistence level, to take away what little a child receives skirts the line of abuse. so if you’re not going to starve your child into submission (the abuse part), then a whack on the butt may be one of the few disciplinary tools left at your disposal.
now a pollyanna part of me wants to pipe up and say, can’t low income parents offer incentives to good behavior that are free? i think about the things the UN and i do that are free, and playing at the public plyaground is pretty much it, right up there with gawking at construction sites. zoo? cost ya. hands-on kid’s museum? cost ya. skiing? puh-lease. bike riding? the bike costs money.
this whole business is weighing on my mind, as this morning i bribed, ahem, incentivized, the UN with a thomas the tank engine (grrrrr) bedside lamp if he would learn how to dress himself, every day, in perpetuity. (he’s fully capable, and has done so occasionally, but i think he’s not interested in doing it if it means less attention from mama.) so encouraging him to be a big boy and enjoy all the rights and privileges of big boydom is a hard sell. the little guy is smart: what’s so amazing about being bigger if it means more hassle and less doting? some days i think he has a point.
(i should qualify this by saying, most of the time we reward based on stickers or special days out or an extra story at bedtime. but none of the above have been all that effective in getting the little guy to climb into his clothes.)