This last Christmas, my sweet little nephew had to be disciplined by his daddy which got me thinking about parenting styles when it comes to punishing children. Now, I may be opening up a HUGE can of worms but, oh well. My parents were classic spankers…better yet, my mom was a classic “just wait until your father comes home so he can spank you” parent. Dad was the disciplinarian. We were spanked with the belt which may sound harsh, especially these days, but I must say, he did it with great intentionality. We always knew that a spanking was coming. I can never remember a time where my dad flew off the handle and hit us in any sort of reactionary form. There were five steps:
#1 – As much as we dreaded it, there was always a conversation beforehand. The spanking would happen only after my dad was satisfied that we knew exactly why we were being punished and that we understood where we went wrong. The last thing he would say to us before spanking us was “I do this because I love you.” Ugh! We hated that. We didn’t understand it at all.
#2 – Once the conversation was over, the spanking would commence. We had to bend over the love seat (pants up) and after a few swats, we would run to our room and cry it out. Usually my brother and I would be punished together and there was always the pre-spanking dance, where each of us would figure out a way to be the furthest back so we wouldn’t have to go first. This was important on two levels. First, it meant that we were delaying the inevitable. Second, the child going last could count the number of swats in anticipation because my dad always spanked us the same number of times. If I went after Pete, then I would count each swat and when it was my turn, I would count backwards in my mind. The Poor Little Rich White Mexican was an expert at positioning to go last.
#3 – Once we were both in the room, we would manipulate our cries. The volume and duration of wails was like science to us. It had to be loud enough to sound painful and long enough to sound meaningful to my parents out in the living room. To “under-cry” would mean that an additional punishment may be doled out (although I don’t think that ever happened – I was just worried that it might happen and it was better to be safe than sorry). Generally, I would push both the volume and duration of wailing in the hopes that my dad would feel bad and perhaps even worry that he had hit us too hard, lessening the pain of future spankings. I’m sure I was not at all obvious….not at all.
#4 – we would compare war-wounds and whisper-grumble about how unfair the spanking was. My brother, who was really scrawny, not as well-proportioned in the hind-quarters as I, usually had more severe markings.
#5 – after the hiney-examination, we had to go out to dad and apologize and he would finish it off with a kiss and a hug and an “I Love you.”
As an adult, I can see why he chose that particular ‘system’ but back then, I had quite a bit of resentment over it all however since he NEVER deviated from the system, I always knew what to expect which was probably more comforting than I realized.
As a parent, we did spank our kids but never with anything except our hands. Since J is a social worker he informed me that there are actual “legally acceptable” ways to spank a kid. Apparently spanking with your hand is OK because you feel the severity of each swat. I think that there are also “Approved” places to spank (i.e. Rear-end) and places where a parent is not supposed to spank but I forgot those specifics. The bad thing about spanking with my hand was that my hand was always readily available…I am sad to say that I occasionally would hit my kids in a reactionary style. Even with my mistakes, I still believe that there is room for spanking as a punishment especially with a more “levelheaded” parent.