Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Don't Make Me Get the Belt!

Fellow Gentleman JohnOzkirbas posed a parenting question to resident relationship guru Max Nova recently. Should you ever chastise a parent for his/her child's behavior? If yes, how would you go about it? I think the question is apt and timely in today's society, and with that statement, I'm about to make a startling confession:

I was spanked as a child.

That's right, when I misbehaved, my parents used their hands to smack my ass until it was red and raw. Furthermore, when I mouthed off to my mother, she put pepper on my tongue. And on one particularly memorable evening, I was forced to sit in the bathroom with a bar of soap in my mouth for what seemed like an eternity. (I think my offense had been telling one of my sisters to 'shut up,' but I can't promise that I remember the incident perfectly.) I know that all of you gentle readers are already shocked and appalled, but I'm afraid I must make one more astonishing revelation:

I turned out all right, actually.

I'm not a social delinquent or a sexual deviant. I'm capable of having functional relationships with people. I still love my parents. And most importantly, you'd better believe that I respect rules and authority figures. When I did something wrong as a kid, I'd walk around for hours (sometimes days) with my hands over my butt just in case I got caught. The fear of punishment was usually enough to keep me from doing whatever it was again, and I've spent most of my life walking the straight and narrow.

And yet, these days parents can be arrested for spanking their children. In my education classes it was suggested that telling a wee young one that they're wrong might damage their precious psyches - and we can't have that, can we? The world seems to be going soft on discipline, and even worse, parents seem more than happy to grasp at any excuse not to take responsibility for their children's actions. "They're at that age." "I just can't control them." And my personal favorite: "I don't want to stifle their individuality by imposing my rules on them." 

The result? Kids have no sense of boundaries because parents aren't giving them any. When children have no parameters on their energy and they aren't taught that certain behaviors are wrong, they can end up running amok, leading to little monkeys swinging around the metro. There is a big difference between letting your child make his/her own decisions, and not setting a standard for appropriate behavior, especially in public. I see kids yelling and cussing at their parents, acting (and dressing - don't get me started) however they want in public, and completely disrespecting the lives of those around them, and not a damn thing is done about it. The more children are allowed to do whatever they want (and are given whatever they want), the more likely it is that they'll grow up into spoiled, indulged adolescents who become spoiled, irresponsible adults. Now, am I talking about all parents/kids? Of course not. But stay tuned for future posts telling stories of behavior that deserved a good smack - if only I'd been allowed to dole it out.

But who knows, maybe that's just the spanking talking. It could have had more negative effects on me than I know.

**Now, having said all this, there is a caveat to my musings: an adult should never raise a hand toward a child out of anger. If a parent rationally decides that a spanking is the best course of punishment for a child's action, it's one thing, but as soon as that parent hits their child out of anger, they are walking the dangerous line of abuse. Parents, don't beat your kids. Not cool.**


ali d said...

Ok, so maybe this does sound more like rousing support for spanking than I wanted it to - I was tired when I finally put the finishing touches on it. My point was just that kids need some kind of discipline, and it seems more and more that "discipline" is seen as a bad guy who's going to cripple their creative individualist output.

Spanking is just part of how it was done at my house. Put kids in time out, take away privileges, make them watch Heroes - I just think that something needs to be done so that kids recognize that there are appropriate behaviors and inappropriate behaviors, and are able to choose between the two.

Miasma said...

Agreed with your post. One thing I've seen make quite a difference in effectiveness is how consistent punishment is. When a kid knows that certain behavior will always receive a consequence that they want to avoid, they'll avoid the behavior.

But let em give you lip once about "how mean you are" for saying you're going to punish them and you've forfeit the game. Then, not only will they try to get out of punishment in the future (even if 'the lip' only worked once), but they won't trust your behavior and word to match.

Don't doubt your thoughts. Something Does need to be done. But there will always be inconsiderate people in the world.

Stephen said...

If only Lynne Spears read this blog, maybe she could add some insight.

Ozkirbas said...

I concur.
I would like to state that I think a big part of punishment is the concept of reinforcing guilt, as opposed to simply the fear of physical pain/discomfort. "Corporal" punishment can easily derail into the realm of abuse (or at least defeating the means of punishment) when parents get lost in the privilege and lose the point - the opposing pole to not disciplining your kids because you want to be a "fun and understanding" parent. In that sense, in the eyes of the parent, the parent is god and insubordination must be punished to ensure dominance (as opposed to teaching what is acceptable). A kid might eventually meet that as something to be defiant against or it could escalate into abuse, or both.

I always felt that punishment's end-game was more about just carrying it out than how its done. I think by doing so, you're finalizing more on "you should feel bad about this" as opposed to "do it and ______ will happen."