Recently I came across yet another article discussing the subject of spanking. To its credit, this one observed that “spanking” covers a rather broad spectrum and doesn’t mean the same thing to different people, and that can skew surveys attempting to determine how often and how hard spanking is employed as a child-rearing tactic.
However, like every other article I’ve seen, it failed to consider the context of the spanking. I think the effect of a spanking depends a good deal on when it occurs in relation to the transgression. I am often reminded of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series, where trainer Henry Daily, on disciplining the spoiled filly Black Minx, comments that, “One good blow is worth a dozen taps poorly timed and placed.” On the opposite end of the spectrum is an old “Mary Jane” joke:
Once day Mary Jane was playing with matches and accidentally burned the barn down. “Wait ’til your father gets home!” her mother said. And Mary Jane laughed and laughed, because her father was still in the barn.
Not a very funny joke, is it? But how many “Mary Janes” do we have nowadays? How many teens treat the world as one big video game because parents didn’t want to employ physical punishment back before their kids reached the age or reason? Just last night I was watching Nova’s “Rise of the Hackers,” which started off with a guy getting his entire on-line life deleted by a teenage kid getting his kicks without considering the consequences of what he was doing. Think he got a good spanking when he was a kid? (My money’s on “no.”)
I commented something to that effect about the article. A 74-year-old came back, saying, “I have 74 years of experience (thinking,observing etc.) in life and DON’T AGREE with Physical Punishment.” Said 74-year-old didn’t mention any observations, only his thinking that physical punishment is never good, and seemed to regard anyone who disagreed with his stance as evidence that they didn’t turn out right because they were spanked.
Since I spent so much time typing out my “thinking, observing, etc.” response, I thought others might want to read it, too:
A mother with eight sibling (raised on a dairy farm), a father with three (also raised on a dairy farm), three sisters myself, and three nephews (and two step nieces). Nobody afraid to give a spanking when warranted.
Also: Getting beaten up four times on the way home from school in the same year. Twice by a classmate who cracked me over the head with her math book–I’m pretty sure her parents didn’t give a lick about what she did (boy, was I glad when she failed eighth grade), and harassed me at the fair (threatened to sue my “mother” for swatting her hand and telling her not to be a jerk when my sister intervened); twice by a trio of kids from elementary school that I never could figure out who they were–so they got away with it.
Palling around with a substitute teacher that often complains about how out-of-control kids are–stopping their antics as long as the teacher’s talking to them and going right back to them as soon as teacher’s back is turned–because they KNOW the teachers can’t do anything of consequence to them.
I know I was spanked–with a wooden spoon if I was bad enough–but the only spanking I clearly remember was the one I didn’t understand; it was from a first-grade summer school teacher who accompanied it with a “Don’t ask stupid questions,” when I asked, “Why can’t we make those (“stained glass” suncatchers that were simpler than the one I had made in kindergarten)?” And I never developed an aversion to the wooden spoon, maybe because it was the same on we used to mix Kool-Aid with.
And then there was the toddler in the library while I was using a public PC. She’d toddle around in circles, toddle up toward the table, toddle away, toddle a little closer, toddle away. You could see she was working up the nerve to go at my purse, which I had on the floor because there wasn’t a lot of room on the table and was strongly inclined to roll. I waited for her parents to, well, parent her–at least tell her that she shouldn’t be poking at other people’s stuff, but they just sat and smiled at her, encouraging her to think that invading complete stranger’s space was a perfectly acceptable thing to do.
I did my best to ignore her, but when she started to reach into my purse, I pulled her arm away and gave her a quick, two-finger tap on the wrist so she would know what the “NO!” was for. She looked at me in shock, and then looked at her daddy. Seeing he was worried,she started to cry. And then they went and got the librarian, because I shouldn’t have defended my property from her explorations–apparently it was my responsibility to make the chunk of public property I was occupying child-proof in case some indulgent parents wanted to let their kid toddle around in it. They think a kid that isn’t morally developed enough to understand that things out in the world are not theirs to play with (Stage 2 in Kohlberg’s theory), but is developed enough to be disciplined with assuming a Stage 3 level of morality.
Yeah, there’s kids that can be raised without raising a hand to them. But there’s also kids who need a good paddling or they never learn to respect authority. Narcissism in kids has gone through the roof with psychopathy right behind, thanks to all this PC child-rearing liberals are forcing on schools. And parents.
P.S. I thought the “Mary Jane” joke was . . . crass, but when I read this blog post to my writer’s group on Oct.16, they roared at it.