letters to the editor
Dear Editor:
I am writing in response to Rabbi Yitzie Ross’ Yid Parenting article where he discusses the notion of parents spanking their children. In his article, Rabbi Ross expresses “three main ways you can hit your child” and gives guidelines as to when and how hitting is permissible.
I am not a psychologist, but I have done a lot of research on effective discipline and parenting approaches and have found across the board that psychologists, childrearing specialists and pediatricians agree that spanking or hitting your child is never an appropriate response. Ever.
The American Academy of Pediatrics even expresses that in cases where children do something dangerous, that still doesn’t warrant physical punishment. Spanking children teaches them that aggression is an acceptable reaction to frustration and can cause children to have tremendous resentment towards their parents.
In “How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids will Talk,” childrearing specialists Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, along with late child psychologist Dr. Haim Ginott, explain that spanking or any other form of physical pain should never be inflicted on a child. Rather, the child should experience consequences to his or her actions. Some of these consequences include a parent expressing feelings strongly, without attacking character, showing the child how to make amends, stating clear guidelines and expectations and practicing problem solving techniques so the child can understand how to behave next time.
Faber and Mazlish explain that rather than spank a child, the parent can “treat the child as a dignified, small human being by giving him information he can use now and for the rest of his life.” Since the research done by psychologists, child-rearing specialists and pediatricians alike have shown strong disapproval of any type of spanking or “potch.”
Chani Cooper

Dear Chani,

Thank you for your response. In the future, you can respond directly to Rebbe@yidparenting.com. I read your response carefully and can assure you that there are many people that share your concerns. However, I am sticking to my view and will share a few reasons.

  1. Using potching as a form of discipline is brought down my many gedolim and sefarim. The general consensus is that it should only be done out of love. A close friend of mine who has been a rebbe for many years quoted R’ Yaakov, zt’l, as saying “Hashem gave extra padding on the rear in case a child needs a potch.” I can’t 100 percent verify this since I wasn’t there, but the rebbe was very clear. When people respond to this saying “times were different,” I usually agree. In those days, children feared parents more and had more respect. Could there be a correlation?
  2. On a personal note, the last time I potched one of my children was about five years ago. My then 4-year-old put a hanger into an electric outlet. I picked him up, lay him on my lap, and gave him a loud-sounding (not so hard) patch. He cried for a few minutes, and I comforted him but cautioned about ever doing it again. A friend of mine who is a psychologist had a similar thing happen with his son. He sat him down and explained the danger very clearly. His son did it again the next day, my son did not. Although this is hardly a scientific example, it does prove a point. When done correctly, a potch can be very useful.
  3. One of the common denominators I’ve been noticing in the hundreds of e-mails I’m receiving monthly is that children have no fear of their parents. This is a very serious issue and can really cause many problems for parents. I believe that a large part stems from parents trying to be friends with their children, but it’s also because kids don’t fear their parents. The Torah says to honor and fear your parents.
  4. On the flip side, I have quite a few guidelines for potching that I share with anyone who asks.
  5. The one potching should never be angry. When my 6-year-old spilled orange juice on my brand-new laptop after being warned to move away, I was really upset. I explained to him how unhappy I was and told him he needs to more considerate. I would not potch him because I was genuinely upset.
  6. Both parents should agree before potching a child. I like when the father is the one potching, but the mother needs to agree that it is warranted.
  7. Certain children cannot be potched. If a child is stubborn or introverted, a potch will do more harm than good. Again, parents need to know and understand their children.
  8. A potch should not hurt. The point is to show the child how serious the situation is, not to abuse them.
  9. A potch is a punishment, not a consequence. In other words, telling a child, “If you do this I’ll potch you” is silly. Punishments for children should be extremely rare.
  10. If parents are constantly threatening their children with a potch, they’re making a mistake.

Obviously, this topic is highly debated and I’m sure we won’t change each other’s minds, but I would like to end with one thought. Our generation is suffering from a serious lack of respect for all authority. I’m not talking just with Yidden, but everywhere. A prominent child psychologist I know had a long argument/discussion about this subject with me last year—he agreed with you. The sad part is, his children have zero respect for him. He kept asking his 9-year-old to leave the room, and the boy ignored him. It was embarrassing watching him repeatedly ask his son to go out.

When parents tell me they don’t believe in potching, I applaud them, as long as they are parenting their children. My uncle is a big fan of potching, but in 27 years, he’s never needed to. When I hear from new-age parents telling me how wrong I am (happens all the time), I get a kick out of it. They insult, threaten, and punish their children, and they’re worried about a potch? I love teaching Torah, and my life is pretty much dedicated to helping children. I can assure you that a potch given (with love) twice in a child’s life is much healthier than years of empty threats or cynical remarks.

Thank you again for writing in. I don’t usually respond to all the comments I get, but since yours was written with such heart, I had to respond.

Have a wonderful week,

Yitzie Ross

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