Tasha and I were talking about discipline today. Our children are about the same age, and we were discussing the pros and cons of corporal punishment. We were also talking about how much the landscape had changed as far as spankings go, from our childhood to our parenthood. When we were little, no one thought much about a parent taking a switch to a child’s bare legs, leaving welts and abrasions. Today? Someone whose opinion I value on the matter said that if the marks lasted longer than an hour, today we call it child abuse.
I don’t like to spank Thor. I’ve done it, but it usually means three or four good swats to the butt with the palm of my hand. I’ve certainly never spanked him like I was spanked: My mother holding me by one wrist, dancing me around in circles with the belt/switch/hairbrush/ping-pong paddle/wooden spoon/rolled up magazine/fly swatter chasing my backside from my hips to my knees. I’ll give her that she was creative in torture implements!
There are no pros to spankings that I can find. I’m not even sure that it enforces an idea. I mean, I can remember a lot of spankings, but I can’t tell you why I got them. Probably for lying, or mouthing off, or any amount of normal child behavior–because I never got caught for my worst crimes (at least not until my senior year of high school, and by then I was too big to spank.)
The only spanking I got, for which I can be certain of my infraction, happened at Cinderella City mall in Englewood, Colorado. The geography would have put me at about 3 years old. I happened to wander off while my mother was looking in the fabric store, and when we were finally reunited, it was not happy at all. Mom took me into a restroom to reinforce the idea that I should not wander off in shopping centers, and was about halfway through beating that sense into me with a wooden spoon, when two women came into the restroom to find me screaming bloody murder.
Those women, bless their hearts, tried to intervene. I still remember the look on my mother’s face as she offered to flush one of their heads down the toilet if they didn’t butt out of her business with my butt. And, I still remember my own horror when they offered to call the police. I told them that she wasn’t really hurting me, and that I was fine, that I was pretending to cry (I also clearly recall that I worried Mom would think I really had been faking it, and might spank me harder for it. Rock/Hard Place.) They left, my spanking resumed.
I never wandered off again, but it had much more to do with being afraid of my mother getting into trouble for disciplining me, than fear of the discipline itself.
In short, when I think of the differences between my disciplinary upbringing and Thor’s it is pretty much a difference of mine having been uphill, in the snow, barefoot, both ways. I’m sure when he is telling his children about how often his Wii was taken away, how many times he had to stand in the corner, or how often his mother bellowed at him, he will feel the same way I do. But at least he won’t have any stories about spankings that broke the skin.