I can remember discussing punishments as a kid. The consensus among the kids in the neighborhood was that getting a “beating” was the best route. Getting a beating meant that you got your ass whooped and that was that. Punishment meant your parents ragged you for the next week about whatever transgression all while you couldn’t watch TV or play Atari.
When we moved to the suburbs, I was amazed at the perceived lack of discipline of the children in the surrounding homes. Kids would tell their parents to kiss their ass, yell at their moms, flip the eff out on their parents, and keep it way funky. My mom would give us the look of death, and my sister and I would sit straighter and “act like we had some sense”.
One of my goals as a parent was to always feel like my children and I could be invited anywhere because their behavior was exemplary.
Most of this is true. The Teen has been complimented for her manners and The Boy has been praised for his poise. This took nurturing, patience, teary phone calls to my mom and The Teen’s Girl Scout leader as well as The Mister holding me during sleepless nights, assuring me that we were doing the best we could as parents.
I was all for beatings. One of my in-laws said beating a child was the only way to get them to mind. I thought this advice was gospel. My mom, grandmother, and aunt all administered their share of whippings and with the exceptions of some Flowers in the Attic revenge thoughts, I survived.
IN the beginning, my children felt pain. Thinking I was doing the best for them, I used corporal punishment to get my point across: stealing was a pop on the hand; lying was a smack on the lips. Running in the street, touching the stove, or any other thing that could cause my child harm was met with a wooden spoon either to the palm of the hand or on the behind.
Two things made me stop this.
The first was reading I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla by Marguerite White. I was so incensed by her history lesson that the reason children are beaten stems from slavery and it was cruel to hit children, that I made a long distance call to rail against her. She was patient as I exploded with my anger that I was emulating white slave owners. She referred to some other resources, thanked me for reading her book, and wished me well.
The second was The Teen.
I don’t remember what she did, but I remember spanking her then placing her in her crib. Checking on her, I reached out to stroke her hair and she recoiled from me in disgust and fear. That cut me to me to my soul. Even though I doubted my skills as a parent, I knew that loving this tiny person was what made me breathe. Seeing her pull away from me was the day I knew raising my hand in anger was not a choice to make.
I haven’t followed this all the times. When The Boy was openly defiant in school, refusing to do homework, skipping detention, and being all over the map, I gave him a fewa a whacks with a wooden ruler more out of frustration than discipline.
The Teen was not immune either. During her last year of high school, I can recall an out-of-body experience where I found myself shaking the shiza out of her and slapping her across the face.
After each incident, I felt terrible. Trying to justify the fact that I used violence in the name of love did not sit well with me. I knew I had damaged my relationships with each kid, and I felt terrible for using violence to make a point. I know now that I was angry, frustrated, and completely at my wit’s end on how to crack the kid code.
Following the latest NFL debacle, I can’t help but think about how many people I know who talk about going to pick the switch that a grandmother or mom would use to whip their butts. We laugh and recall stories of how they would choose the smallest switch, only to be told that the switch wasn’t satisfactory, and a larger one was needed. We cluck over the Good Times arc with Janet Jackson as Penny, abused by her mother, and what is and is not acceptable tools for discipline. I know that when I watch kids act a fool in public, I think a good ass whipping could solve these antics, but I KNOW a hug and an open ear is what some of the children crave.
In my experience, spanking does nothing but create an unhealthy fear in a child. Time outs should be more for parents (I have spent many ten minute stretches in the bathroom doing yoga breathing and reading before I confront my children), and removal from the situation helps tremendously.
Lately, I find that keeping electronics and WiFi passwords are worse than punishment. The withdrawal symptoms my children go through from lack of YouTube, SnapChat, and Twitter proves to be the best discipline I have in my arsenal.
Let me clarify. I’m not above a swat on the butt. However, I find myself raising my hand more in love than in anger.
How do YOU discipline your children? Do you spank, punish, or do something different. Let’s discuss.