… My parents whipped my butt and I learned the Switch Dance… I didn’t hate them… I didn’t have trust issues with them because of it… I trusted I was in big trouble when I screwed up and did things my way!!! I didn’t fear them… I feared getting caught doing wrong… But I sure respected them… I learned what my boundaries were and knew what would happen if I crossed them… I wasn’t abused by no means what so ever… I was disciplined when i asked for it … This is why some children nowadays have no respect for others ….. *Re-post if you got your butt whipped and survived!
The above passage is from a Facebook status update that I read this afternoon. I’ve seen it before on others’ status updates from time to time, and I always feel decidedly unsettled inside when I see it.
I was born in 1955 and grew up in an era where nothing at all was thought of giving a kid a “whipping” with a hand, a belt, a fly-swatter, or a switch off a bush. Some kids received their punishment with a ping-pong paddle, a hairbrush or pancake turner. The whippings were usually administered to the back of the legs or the buttocks. I received my share of spankings with both an open hand and a leather belt.
I honestly don’t remember in any detail the early whippings when I was younger than about five. I remember one that I received when I was about five and walked out the door when my dad told me to stick around. I was shocked at him suddenly spanking me when I thought we were just messing around. He hit me hard and I spent the rest of the day sleeping, not feeling well.
I remember the occasion of one whipping when I was in sixth grade. My mother was working the early shift, 7:00 to 3:30 everyday, and I was alone to get myself up, ready for school and out the door where I would walk the six blocks to school. One morning I didn’t feel well and stayed in bed. I didn’t call her at work to tell her. She had a factory job and was not accessible by phone easily. For some reason, I got scared to tell her that I stayed home, and I got dressed in my school uniform before she got home. A classmate of mine called later that evening, my mom answered the phone, and my classmate asked why I wasn’t in school that day. My mother hung up the phone, grabbed a belt, and wailed me. She struck me again and again with that belt, sinking her fingers into my arm, screaming at me, her eyes blazing with anger. She was out of control and I was genuinely frightened. Why would you not ask a child first what was wrong and why she hadn’t told you she was home that day before grabbing a belt and striking it repeatedly against the child’s bare buttocks? I will never forget how frightened and how assaulted I felt. I prayed to be taken home to Heaven that night.
When I became a mouthy adolescent — and I had plenty to “mouth off” about given what I was seeing in my home at the time — my mother more and more often took to smacking me on whatever body part she could reach. My own anger mounted at this treatment. I was being treated as a nothing, as someone who didn’t matter, as someone who was just suppose to put up and shut up with whatever inappropriate and hurtful behaviors I was seeing from the adults in my home (excessive drinking, lying, marital discord and infidelity, etc.) When I was a young teen, my mother raised her hand to smack me yet again and I raised my arm to block her. I grabbed her arm in mid-smack and we had a stare-down. I had had enough of her acting out her frustrations on me in that manner. I saw the trepidation and doubt in her own eyes at that point, and I didn’t feel bad about it. She did not hit me again.
When I was a few days from my 15th birthday, my parents and I had a run-in regarding a guy they didn’t want me having any contact with. I understand their viewpoint completely — now. I didn’t then and said some things that were blatantly disrespectful. As a parent, I don’t know how I would have responded in that situation where a teenager is clearly out-of-line. I can tell you how my father responded. He got up and hit me several times in the face. He was very angry and out of control, and I was afraid that he wasn’t going to stop hitting me. I have never been so scared in my life. My father was a 180-pound truck driver with upper arms built like hams. He could have easily broken my nose or my cheekbone. Did he earn my respect for terrifying me like that? No, he most certainly did not. I’m sure that one of the hardest things he ever did was apologize to me several weeks later. I think that apology helped to salvage our relationship.
Is there a place for a parent smacking or spanking a youngster? Perhaps. I can make allowances for this when a child is very young and is in the process of doing something very dangerous to their well-being. For example, a parent may grab the arm of a 3-year-old who is about to run out in the street in front of a car and reinforce the total inappropriateness of this behavior by a smack on the butt. It’s a smack designed to startle the child more than inflict pain and make the child aware that his behavior was a huge no-no! He’s inclined to remember that lesson! (And the parent needs to be keeping a sharper eye on that 3-year-old!) Another instance is when a small child reaches out for the hot toaster and her mother administered a brisk smack to the back of the hand accompanied by a sharp “No! Hot!” Again, the jolt is designed to reinforce the danger of the situation. All other early childhood situations — toys not picked up, sibling arguments, temper tantrums, defiance of authority — can be dealt with in better ways than hitting.
If a third grader comes home from school with a bad grade on an assignment, is a whipping in order? No. If a 9-year-old utters a swear word, it is appropriate to hit him? No. If a 12-year-old comes home late from a friend’s house, is taking him to the bathroom and lashing him with the belt appropriate? I should hope not. If a 13-year-old “sasses back,” do you hit her in the face to discipline her? That really doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Granted, most of us have survived our childhood spankings with our mental health intact and are still on speaking terms with our parents. Fortunately, the majority of parents knew when enough spanking was enough, both in terms of quantity and force and what age to leave off with it. The kids of those parents have done okay, generally speaking, or at least can’t attribute their problems to the spankings alone.
However, in a society where spanking, whipping and hitting children is deemed acceptable behavior by a parent, it encourages other less emotionally balanced parents to engage in it as well. Why not? Everyone smacks their kids from time to time! It’s okay! It’s an expected part of disciplining the rug rats! These parents with poor control of their impulses and emotions are the ones who shake their crying babies until their brains hemorrhage, who break their toddlers’ arms by yanking them around, who blacken the eyes of their pubescent daughters for “back-talk” and lying. These are the parents with anger management issues who don’t know what else to do when upset and frustrated other than to strike out and hurt those more vulnerable. They raise children who are scarred, angry, depressed, and have learned in their homes that violence is an acceptable outlet for their emotions.
None of us want to live in a society where it’s acceptable to assault other people because they’ve frustrated you, dissed you, disappointed you, annoyed you. I think that most parents have spanked their children in situations where they’ve felt impotent and out of control of their kids’ behavior. Whipping and spanking was a way to get the upper hand again, to resume the position of authority and dominance in the quickest, most intimidating way possible. Was it the best way? Undoubtedly, no. There are better ways to discourage unacceptable behaviors without resorting to physical trauma and reinforcing all the lessons that such behavior condones and passes on.
I urge all parents to consider their emotional state when they want to spank their children. What is it saying about your sense of control? Is there a better way to demonstrate and reinforce right from wrong? Please consider the society you shape and the lessons you pass on when hitting is how you control the youngest members of your family.