Thursday, August 18, 2011

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child - A Retrospective

Trying my best to sidestep, skip over, or avert my eyes from the overwhelming amount of news items pointing up just how stupid our leaders are, I settled in on a news item regarding a Christian Fundamentalist couple who beat one of their children to death with a plastic pipe for mispronouncing a word.

There ya go Mike, something real yet bizarre. Right up my alley.

Seems this deeply religious couple got the idea from a fundamentalist group advocating corporal punishment as one of the many go to tools for parents to use in raising their children.

Don't get me wrong here. Or well, get me wrong, or get me right. You'll process what I write however you like.

I am ambivalent about corporal punishment. Corporal punishment that stops short of being outright abuse that is. However, there are two problems with corporal punishment.

1 - It is too easy for it to get out of hand when being implemented by an adult with anger control issues.

2- Used on the children that really deserve....well, it just doesn't work. I know. I was one of those children. Logic and grounding worked better on me than a good smack. Limiting my access to the free world made me think more than twice about screwing up in the future. All hitting me did was make me angrier.

I am old enough to have lived through corporal punishment when it was indeed a normal way to deal with punks and punkettes of the small fry kind. I personally felt the sting of various and legally sanctioned blows to my body as trouble making was all I wanted to do when I was young. I really enjoyed pissing off adults. And often, their anger took the form of a paddle, a rubber hose, a belt, or in the case of my dear departed mother, a well placed slap up side my head.

Thankfully, both of my parents had their anger mostly under control. I was never hit unless I deserved and then expected it. My dad stopped pulling out his belt about the time I was in fourth grade when I was in one of my "I hate Mom" periods. I remember it well. I had done something serious enough that Mom said, "Wait until your father gets home young man. Go to your room." I sat in my room reading a book calmly waiting for the "punishment". By that point in my life, I actually looked forward to a few butt smacks with the belt. It beat being grounded.....Hands down.

So Dad comes home after a hard day at the office. I hear a heated discussion downstairs. "I don't know what we are going to do with that boy. You have to take care of it. I am at my wit's end." Mom is so angry, she passed it off on Dad. So Dad comes upstairs and begins "the ritual".

"The Ritual" always went down the same way. By the age of 8 I knew what was coming. First "the talk". Then came the rationalizing for the punishment. Finally, the 3 or 4 smacks with his belt. I muster up some tears and it was over. Easy Peasy. Life went back to normal.

Only this time I don't cry. I sat back down on the bed next to my father and glare at him. He looked at me for a moment and said something to the effect, "Well, I guess the belt is not going to work anymore, is it?"

Still glaring at him, I say, "Nope." So ended the physical punishment handed down by my parents. Oh, my mom still got some blows in, but they were wake up and pay attention blows that came out of the blue. Attention getters and nothing I would consider abuse.

I still had to contend with the publicly and legally sanctioned corporal punishment dished out in the various schools I attended prior to college. Besides the numerous wrist slaps and back of the head wake me ups, I was beat with a paddle in two different schools in Florida. The vice principal at John Hanson Jr High in Oxen Hill, Maryland paddled me very hard once when he caught me and another fool trying to cut class. But the worse beatings I received came when I went to military school in high school. Capt. Dimaggio had a rubber hose he called "Willy Whack". If you pissed him off in his class, he would say, "Macrum, two minutes after class with Willy Whack." If you really pissed him off, it could mean 4 minutes with Willy. His routine was what I would call true abuse. He would set up at one end of his class while I set up at the other end. He would say, "Now" and begin chasing me around the class while swinging that hose as hard as he could. And he was quick and wiry. Let me tell you, that damn hose hurt. It left welts that did not go away overnight.

Once I became an officer as a senior, he never threatened me with it again. But he would use it on other cadets, younger cadets. I had him for study hall as a senior. His arbitrary use of that hose for the slightest infraction always pissed me off. One day he went after a Prep (7th or 8th grader) after class. I hung around outside the classroom door. When I thought the poor kid had had enough, I went in and took the damn hose away from him. I received 50 demerits for insubordination.

And guess what? Those demerits and some 100 more I received that year meant I had to get more whacks the day before I graduated if I was going to graduate as a first lieutenant and not the buck private I had been busted down to. The whacks were dispensed by "the Colonel", the commandant of the school. The Colonel had the paddling thing down. He always gave you a choice, Whacks or hours marching with a rifle on "the track". Demerits were taken off at the rate of one demerit for one hour of marching. Or 3 demerits for each whack. As I still had some 30 demerits on the last day of class, he decided that I would get a special rate. He would wipe my record clean, give me back my first louie pips for 4 whacks. I jumped all over it. I really wanted to graduate as a first lieutenant. My parents were coming to see me walk the walk.

All of this went down in the Armory, a long room that had a desk for the Colonel and racks of rifles and shelves filled with ammo. The recipient would grab a rifle rack with both hands, thus placing the buttocks in the perfect position for a solid upswing stroke from the Colonel. His paddle was about the length of a baseball bat whittled out of a very thick board that ended in a paddle surface about 12x12 inches big. It had 5 big holes drilled in it. The holes allowed a free swing with no wind resistance and left round welts that did not go away for days. Every time I faced his paddle, the blows brought tears to my eyes. The Colonel did not fool around. You knew you were getting hit. One last time I left that last day with tears running down my face but with gratitude that he allowed me to graduate with honor in front of my parents. I had neglected to tell them I had been busted.

My wife and I made the conscious choice to not spank our daughter. Not so much that we considered spanking abusive, but more that it was ineffective. I know the fear of it never made me think twice about the trouble I was always brewing up.

An after thought or side note here:

While trying to come up with an appropriate image for this post, my initial searches only turned up links to naughty girl spanking sites or S&M sites. Apparently corporal punishment has now transcended punishment and become pleasure for many people out there. What a whacky world we live in.



Nan said...

As far as I can tell, the only things corporeal punishment achieves are teaching kids that violence is an acceptable solution to a problem and it's okay for the strong to beat up on the weak.

Ol'Buzzard said...

corporeal punishment was a standard in the Mississippi schools where I attended and graduated.

It is physical and mental abuse and has no place in public schools.

As a teacher there are some kids I would have liked to throttle...and teachers need more tools for handling disruptive students - but hitting and beating a child is not one of them.
the Ol'Buzzard