Do you still spank your kids?

That’s a rhetorical question. I already know the answer. Many (but not all) Black people use and condone the use of corporal punishment to discipline their children… despite loads of evidence that it can be harmful.

Every few years, the question of ‘to hit or not to hit?’ makes its way to the national forefront, and the collective community response is always the same. 

*”They don’t know what it takes to raise a Black child in America!”

*”Time out? My kids would look at me like I’m stupid!”

*”I got beat and I turned out fine, my kids will be fine too.”

Or my personal favorite:
*”The Bible says, “spare the rod, spoil the child.” (Actually, the Bible doesn’t say that — not exactly. That’s a line from a 17th century love poem, Hudibras.)

For every reason given why parents shouldn’t hit their kids, we have a clap back for why we need to (the most obvious being that it’s highly effective in the short-term).

“Seriously, I wonder what our discipline styles say about how we see our kids and inevitably ourselves,” wrote Black mom and therapist (and blogger) Dr. Christina Edmondson in her latest post, “Slippers, Switches and Belts: Understanding Black Folks’ loyalty to and love of Corporal Punishment.”

“The long fingers of slavery still touch the psyche of Black America, and for some it has produced hesitant attachments and an overly critical image of their own children.”

For clarity, she adds: “While in no way am I proposing that some Black folks of today intentionally beat their kids like slaves (although as a therapist I have seen some pretty ugly stuff), I am suggesting without apology that the immovable resistance to try a multi-faceted approach to discipline and not just ‘whupping ‘em’ is likely rooted here and in other baggage.” 

She may be on to something.

“During the times of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow many African-Americans used corporal punishment because they were afraid of what would happen if their children were “caught” by Whites doing something wrong,” wrote a commenter to Edmondson’s post.

He added: “Despite our advances and accomplishments, racism is alive and kicking… that is why I occasionally spank my children. If they fear my response when they are tempted to do wrong, they will most likely not do it. I’m relying on my own experience when I say that fear and proper instruction will keep them out of jail and possibly the grave.”

Instead of a whuppin’, Edmondson recommends the “authoritative” style of parenting, one which combines “firm, consistent boundaries, high standards, with abounding and tangible love.” She calls it Big Momma Parenting 101, where “hugs are as firm as her boundaries. The warmth, attention, and concern invested into her children are without debate. She is no hypocrite and lives what she preaches. She shows children how they ought to behave in how she lives. She is respected because she is respectable.”

Can the Big Momma method — sans the hitting — work in your home?

Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now.