Afternoon InquisitionParenting

Afternoon Inquisition 3.30.09

I find it intresting that the topic of spanking is still controversial. It seems to me that the evidence is in and that the consensus is against spanking. Studies show that spanking is no more effective for behavior correction than other forms of discipline, arguably even less effective. And yet, it’s still a widely accepted form of discipline… some people even think it’s ridiculous not to spank.

From the AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, Guidance for Effective Discipline (which I suggest reading, BTW):

Despite its common acceptance, and even advocacy
for its use, spanking is a less effective strategy
than time-out or removal of privileges for reducing
undesired behavior in children. Although spanking
may immediately reduce or stop an undesired behavior,
its effectiveness decreases with subsequent
use. The only way to maintain the initial effect of
spanking is to systematically increase the intensity
with which it is delivered, which can quickly escalate
into abuse. Thus, at best, spanking is only effective
when used in selective infrequent situations.

What is it about spanking that is so enticing as a form of discipline? Do you spank your kids? Were you spanked as a kid? Do you think it’s okay to spank kids?

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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78 Comments

  1. Occasional spanking is probably not a big deal for most children. I mean, I was spanked, but rarely, and I usually deserved it — meaning I did something really stupid or bad. I do not hate or fear my dad, and in fact I think he’s pretty amazing and a great father.

    My mom, on the other hand, always THREATENED to spank … but never did. That’s worse, I think; we knew we could get away with murder when she was around!

    That said, spanking is probably not a good idea. While most kids will survivie it with no ill effects, there are many better ways to discipline your child.

  2. An individual child’s psychological reaction to being spanked is probably impossible to predict. I was spanked. I did not appreciate it. Particularly given the circumstances (ex: accidentally spilled milk — how is a child supposed to understand why they were spanked due to an accident?).

    Since there’s no evidence for spanking and under no circumstance would I consider it ok to harm my own child physically on purpose, no I will not spank my children. There is nothing they could possibly do to make me, a fully-grown adult, hit a tiny child. Regardless of whether “they’ll turn out ok” if spanked, if non-violent alternatives are just as effective I’ll take the non violent approach.

    At my old work we had to do a lot of education with parents on alternatives to spanking and a lot of education on what does and does not constitute child abuse, as some of the “spanking” people thought was routine discipline was reportable to child services as a criminal act. For example, where I live it is illegal to use an object to spank your child, leave marks, or hit them repeatedly out of anger. Many people do these things as routine punishment with no evidence other than “my parents did it to me and I turned out fine”. You hit your kids to exert your dominion over them. *Did* you turn out fine?

  3. I was spanked as a kid, and I turned out fine! I mean, I grew up hating my dad’s guts and immediately moved as far away from home as I could after high school and never looked back, BUT REALLY I TURNED OUT TOTALLY FINE.

    *cough*

    Exaggerated, but mostly true.

    Anyway, the appeal is not hard to see. Swift and immediate physical punishment provokes an extremely visceral sort of satisfaction, a reassurance that justice has been done. It also doesn’t require follow-through, so we can wash our hands after the spanking and pretend that all our problems are solved.

    And it’s true that strong emotional responses (like, the “OH FUCK I JUST GOT HIT AND IT REALLY HURTS” response) do tend to reinforce memories.

    It’s just… well, it’s not very targeted. You think you’re reinforcing the memory of the lesson itself, but really what you’re reinforcing is the memory of intense disapproval and, obviously, of a moment of physical violence. Which is not, you know, especially constructive. In fact, it’s very explicitly de-structive.

    So yeah. If, non-existent God forbid, I one day have children, there’s no fucking way I’m going to spank them. Even if other disciplinary methods are harder to implement and maintain. Because, fuck Macchiavelli, I’d rather be loved than feared by my own damned kids.

  4. One of my idols Robert Ingersoll had a few things to say about this. Here are some of my favorite quotes.

    “I do not believe in the government of the lash. If any one of you ever expects to whip your children again, I want you to have a photograph taken of yourself when you are in the act, with your face red with vulgar anger, and the face of the little child, with eyes swimming in tears and the little chin dimpled with fear, like a piece of water struck by a sudden cold wind. Have the picture taken. If that little child should die, I cannot think of a sweeter way to spend an autumn afternoon than to go out to the cemetery, when the maples are clad in tender gold, and little scarlet runners are coming, like poems of regret, from the sad heart of the earth — and sit down upon the grave and look at your photograph, and think of the flesh now dust that you beat. I tell you it is wrong; it is no way to raise children!”

    “When your little child tells a lie, do not rush at him as though the world were about to go into bankruptcy. Be honest with him. A tyrant father will have liars for his children; do you know that? A lie is born of tyranny upon the one hand and weakness upon the other, and when you rush at a poor little boy with a club in your hand, of course he lies.”

    “When one of your children tells a lie, be honest with him; tell him that you have told hundreds of them yourself. Tell him it is not the best way; that you have tried it. Tell him as the man did in Maine when his boy left home: “John, honesty is the best policy; I have tried both.” Be honest with him. Suppose a man as much larger than you as you are larger than a child five years old, should come at you with a liberty pole in his hand, and in a voice of thunder shout, “Who broke that plate?” There is not a solitary one of you who would not swear you never saw it, or that it was cracked when you got it. Why not be honest with these children? Just imagine a man who deals in stocks whipping his boy for putting false rumors afloat! Think of a lawyer beating his own flesh and blood for evading the truth when he makes half of his own living that way! Think of a minister punishing his child for not telling all he thinks! Just think of it!”

  5. @Kimbo Jones: Yeah, thankfully my dad wasn’t an ass and didn’t spank me for accidents. It was generally reserved for doing something he told us NOT TO DO, and we still did it.

    Still, in 2009, do we really need spanking? There are so many other more usefull ways to discipline a child that don’t result in physical pain.

  6. There’s spanking, then there’s abuse. A quick swat when vocal admonishments do not work often turns a kid’s behavior around, but repeated savage abuse is never appropriate. A belt, a switch, a hairbrush, a shoe… none of that. A quick swat’ll do ya.

    That said, I don’t have kids. If I did, I would spank if I thought it necessary, but I would not beat my children. My parents spanked me once in my entire childhood (I think it was for lying) and it was so embarrassing and humiliating for me that I never wanted to get another spanking again, so it sure fixed my behavior.

    I think my husband had his mouth washed out with soap once for lying. When he was fifteen or so. It took both of his parents to hold him down to do it. I don’t think he ever lied again, though. Not that they found out, anyway.

    I think children can be raised without spanking, but I don’t think that the occasional spanking is harmful in the long run. But I suppose there is a fine line and if you can’t trust yourself to control your temper around your child, you shouldn’t use physical punishment. And maybe you shouldn’t have kids at all.

    Often, a glare from my mother was more than enough to shape me up without a hand needing to be raised.

  7. I think that spanking is an enticing (nice word choice, btw) way to discipline kids because it takes next to no work on the parent’s part. It is a lazy way to punish your kid if you don’t want to monitor a timeout for several minutes or deal with enforcing a loss of privileges. Just *wack* *wack* *wack* and your disciplinary job is done.

    On the other hand, a little bit of physical pain/humiliation might be a good way to get an especially important message across to a child who can’t yet understand an explanation of why certain behavior is wrong, although I have no idea if the science bears out that hypothesis. I imagine that it might be useful when preventing future instances of the bad behavior is of paramount importance. That said, I don’t think that I will spank when I have kids for the same reason that I don’t smack my dog when she misbehaves–I don’t want to give them any reason to fear me.

  8. Some people see hitting when there’s spanking… and some people see the opposite. (I think, from memory, that was spanked once.. maybe twice..)

    Over here in New Zealand we have what became colloquially known as the “Smacking Ban” (not sure if it got repealed or not), a law against abusing kids, which some people reacted to a bit too overly. One set of typical responses was from Christians who saw it as their Bible-given right to smack kids around.
    See, for example, an old post of mine: http://jamasenright.blogspot.com/2007/12/bashing-people-for-christ.html (the blog title may seem harsh, yet I think accurate)

  9. I was spanked and my son got a few swats and my daughter a couple. The swats were usually applied when time outs had not proven effective and as I recall happened between the ages of three and about five or six. My wife and I were really big on consistent limits and known consequences which were always time outs of loss of privileges. Both children are now teenagers and are polite, well behaved and have tolerably clean rooms.

    As long as spanking is not done in a dangerous way or causes an injury I’m OK with parents having it as an option. The issue with consistent consequences and firm boundaries they take more initial time sand energy. The reality is that the payoff comes later as a child gets older and has learned self control and no longer needs as much external motivation. After quickly reading the publication there is a very good statement that is often omitted from this type of discussion where physical discipline is discouraged. Physical discipline is often much more effective in the short term. The issue is the long term impacts on the child’s behavior and the impact of spanking on the necessary goal of a parent to model self control and raise self reliant children who can internally motivate them selves. Parents must think long term, make plans and strategies and stick to them. However poverty, lack of education, lower intelligence, substance abuse, mental health issues and little or no family or social support often make these goals difficult of impossible to achieve.

    @davew: As long as there’s no high hatting!

  10. Spanking is right out as far as The Wife and I are concerned. It just ends up poisoning the relationship between parent and child. Plus, it associates the punishment with YOU, not the behavior. There is reduced compliance when you’re absent.

    Besides, it’s so much more fun to psychologically manipulate the little bugger…

  11. I don’t think spanking is an effective form of punishment, but I do think that it is an effective way to snap a hysterical child out of their hysteria, much like slapping.

    I think that people often resort to spanking out of frustration or anger. That isn’t good. The spanker should always be calm, in control of themselves, and interested in the other person becoming in control of their self.

    Usually, imho, holding someone will have the same effect.

  12. What is it about spanking that is so enticing as a form of discipline? Do you spank your kids? Were you spanked as a kid? Do you think it’s okay to spank kids?

    Being in the school of not spanking, and remembering the fear of being spanked as a child I won’t even try to tackle why someone would want to harm their children. I really do not see it as teaching anything but fear and do not like the idea.

    Never spanked my daughter in her now 17 years. Always tried to teach her instead, when irrational and tantrumming (sp) we used time out to help her regain control.

    We were spanked, my mother had 5 children and no husband by the time she was 23 and saw it as a way to control our behavior. Not really sure it worked, there was a lot of bad behavior from us. I am sure it made her feel a bit more in control.

    Never do harm to others unless in self defense, and then do as much damage as you can.

  13. @Elexina: Perhaps you can enlighten me but it is the distinction between “hitting a little” (a swat) and “hitting a lot” (beating) that I don’t understand. Although the physical harm may be less, the psychological effects may be similar because the lesson is equally useless. And the lesson is “do something a your parents don’t like and they will hit you if you’re caught” as opposed to “this is a bad thing to do”.

  14. It depends on the child. Children have different personalities and different methods work with different kids, just as with adults.

    Spanking worked very well on me, it happened maybe twice that I can recall as a child, both times for very serious infractions.

    Time outs or being sent to my room didn’t work for me, because I had such a rich and varied imagination that “Oh, so I get to sit in the corner and do nothing? Ponies!” And I’d bliss out on thinking about ponies or dogs or whatever I was imagining, and frequently my mom would have to come get me out of the corner when time-out was over because I was perfectly content to stay there and just daydream for hours.

    Spanking didn’t work with my sister, who didn’t seem to really feel it at the level my parents were willing to spank at. So they had to use other methods of discipline with her. And wow did it take a long time to find something, anything that worked. She was a stubborn little monster.

    Really, there is no one-size fits all punishment for children. Just like there is no one size fits all way of dealing with recalcitrant adults either.

  15. Also, I really don’t like it when people say, “SPANKING IS ABUSE! You’re BEATING your child!”

    My father didn’t beat me, thanks! He was/is a great father, and he was not an abuser nor did he beat his children. Was spanking the best option he had? Maybe not, but the few swats he gave me and my sisters weren’t abuse.

  16. I believe I was probably spanked once or twice as a child. That was all it ever took for me. After the initial spanking, I only needed to be threatened with a spanking to stop behaving like a brat. As I got older I was more interested in avoiding any verbal punishment, which I really find to be more hurtful than spanking.

    In any case, I think most punishment in general just makes a kid sad and/or angry. I certainly don’t think it leads to any long term change in behavior. I’m pretty sure that kids just do whatever bad or stupid things they want or need to do until their brains develop enough. Then, parents assume that their parenting (whatever the method) is the result of that change in behavior.

    I don’t know what a good alternative is, though. I don’t know how practical it is to follow your kid around and blow a whistle and toss them a piece of candy or a new Barbie every time they do something good. Positive reinforcement is so much easier with animals.

  17. I think spanking can be a valid part of a suite of punishments, but shouldn’t be the *core* of it. My mom spanked my brother and me when we were children–mostly when we were fighting.

    It wasn’t used for things like spilling milk, or something else that could be attributed to simply having the motor skills of a young child, it was reserved for when we were acting up, and *knew* we were acting up.

    I think the main reason it becomes decreasingly ineffective is just over-use of it. The psychology professor I had as an undergrad, who was a mother herself, noted that one way of disciplining a child was to reserve a certain behavior that would appear aberrant to them for when they needed to be disciplined. The reasoning was, part of the purpose of spanking was to make it clear to a child it was no longer play time.

    So, for example, she was a very loud and outspoken person, so when she suddenly *wasn’t* yelling or being loud and spoke in a very soft voice, her children knew it wasn’t play time anymore. And that circumvented the need of corporal punishment to make it clear they had gone too far and it was no longer a game.

    And this is starting to get off topic, but it also ties into something my mother had told me about dealing with toddlers that wanted to run off, and how you shouldn’t *chase* them, because that to them reinforces that you’re playing with them, which I guess is sort of ancillary of a note.

  18. @marilove: Consider a scenario where you grew up in a culture where adults never hit children in any capacity. Would you still not consider it abuse? I’m not saying it necessarily is “abuse”, but I often find that the other argument from “I turned out fine” is “it’s just a little tap”. Yeah, sure it is. From our perspective in a society where spanking is generally accepted. But if we hadn’t grown up that way, would we still be ok with it?

    @limedestruction: Animals (us) can be trained. It’s just a matter of what training method is chosen. Punishment is generally less effective than reinforcement as a means of modifying behaviour.

  19. @Kimbo Jones: I see your point, but context and culture does matter. My father DID NOT abuse me, and I find it offensive to my father, myself, and those who HAVE been abused to connect the two. Are there better options? Clearly. But it wasn’t, and it isn’t, abuse.

  20. I seem to recall that physical discipline, even when it works, does not work *as well* as other interventions like time-out or something. So, spanking a child is probably not the most effective way of punishment.

    However, it is quick, it is an aggression release (and sometimes parents may be quite annoyed), and it seems to come natural to our brains.

    Spanking the girlfriend, however, seems to work quite well, even though it *does* sometimes encourage naughty behavior.

  21. @MarlowePI: Ha! I realize that almost anything can be fetishized, but knowing what consenting adults do with spanking, I just have a hard time not being grossed out when considering spanking my kid…

    Having been spanked quite often as a kid, I always saw that type of punishment as a betrayal of our parent/child contract, but then again it may have just been the way my father handled the situation. Now as a parent, I understand why my parents chose that route, but more importantly I understand why that would never work with my daughter. She spends so much time emulating our behavior that we have to watch our every action (sigh, I really miss our toss-a-whore date nights). She sees any bad behavior from us as a license to commit the same mayhem on the rest of the unsuspecting populace, usually at daycare. It’s everything I can do to teach her how to behave and express herself appropriately without throwing in red herring behaviors and hypocritical statements. The one time I smacked her bottom, I saw the confusion and hurt on her face. She then turned around and hit her baby dolls, the cats and even tried it on me.
    Thankfully, she responds well to time-outs. She sees her time of social exclusion in the corner as a special version of toddler hell.

  22. I was spanked as a child 3-4 times. My siblings probably more, but I was the last and my parents were exhausted by that point, I think.

    My biggest point of motivation was not wanting to disappoint my parents. But sometimes that was just as negative. I learned to hide things that would disappoint them and that wasn’t perhaps the healthiest behavior. But maybe that’s more to do with my own ingrained personality than the way I was raised.

    I don’t have children. From what I’ve seen with children (nephews, nieces, friend’s kids, etc.) clear consistent punishments work the best, whatever they are. I don’t plan to try spanking, but I guess I won’t know until I actually have kids of my own. I do want to try to set clear boundaries and consistent punishments though, whatever they are. I imagine it’s a lot of trial and error to see what works for a child (reasoning, time out, removing bad influences), so I don’t want to assume I have it all worked out. :)

    Spanking and threat of disappointment never worked with my sister. My parents had to physically restrain her as a teenager sometimes because even though she was denied permission to attend parties she would insist she was going to go anyway and start to walk out the door. It wasn’t pretty, but I honestly don’t know what my parents could have done differently.

    There are definitely a lot of things I would do differently from my parents, but I think overall they did a good job of instilling a lot of good values into their kids.

  23. As someone who was spanked probably more than necessary as a kid, I still wonder at the division between light physical punishment and psychological punishment. I feel more confident and get along with my parents better than other people I know who were never spanked, but who were given arbitrary groundings, timeouts, and so forth. It seems to me that it’s case of consistency in application rather than the type of punishment. (Within reason: anything more than a light spanking with a hand is unnecessary and reflects more on the parent’s state of mind than the child’s.)

  24. Ever watch a cat wean her kittens? Claws retracted (so as not to scratch), she delivers a solid bonk! on the kitten’s forehead. And adult cats raised together will use the same technique to establish dominance and maintain hierarchy — “Excuse me, you’re sitting in my box.” Bonk!

    Other mammals, of course, use similar techniques for weaning and establishing proper social behaviors.

    Spanking remains “attractive” because it’s a pure, mid-brain, instinctual impulse. I don’t mean that as a value statement. Spanking isn’t “right” because it’s natural, or “wrong” because it’s animalistic.

    The more I observe people (including myself), the more convinced I am that consciousness (and therefore reason) is but a thin veneer over a whole range of behaviors that have more to do with ethology than psychology. We are more often rationalizing animals than rational animals. It’s easy to construct a post-facto rationale for spanking, and people have been doing so for centuries (spare the rod and all that jazz).

    But I think that we spank because that’s what bipedal primates do. At least we don’t bite fingers off like some hominoid apes I could name (*coughcoughchimpscough*). And we spank because we are mammals, and mammals have to be weaned, and mammals use mild violence to wean their young, and social animals adapt that weaning behavior to all sorts of social purposes.

    Of course, as thin a veneer as consciousness is, it’s still there. We’re not just animals, we’re animals with reason and culture. And we have a choice about how to behave, and can take an active role in shaping our own behaviors. Which is pretty cool, considering.

    (Full disclosure: I was not spanked as a child. Also, I have no children of my own.)

  25. I was spanked, very occasionally, very mildly, and only when I was really misbehaving. It was more like a couple of swats to the (clothed) backside, and it was a very effective deterrent, at least for someone with my personality, not because it was painful but because it was embarrassing. My parents used the Dr. Spock method, and the book they used (in the mid- to late 80s) still recommended spanking. They feel terrible about it now, which amuses me.

  26. My maternal grandfather was rather quick to use his hands. As such, hitting was a HUGE offense in our household. If we hit, we were punished.

    So I can count on one hand the times my parents ever spanked me. And I use the term generously – it was more a single swat at my (or my sibs’) general behind. It wasn’t hard, but it was used to emphasize the few times we had stepped over the line. (Generally speaking, it was when we got exceptionally, deliberately, and undeservedly defiant.)

    Regular spanking I’m not a fan of. But the unexpected swat at the instant that we had done something *very* wrong made it very clear how much trouble we were in. It was always followed up with more traditional punishment.

    My parents were whizz-bang at creative and effective punishment, or simply learning to work around the smaller problems that some people spank for. Spanking just wasn’t necessary on a day to day basis. General parental fear was well instilled. ;)

  27. Hit submit too early…

    The favorite trick of my mother’s that I pass on is for the kids who won’t eat lunch/dinner.

    Once in a while, my sibs and I would decide en masse that we didn’t want to eat dinner. So my mother would “give up” and let us have …. (wait for it) …. cocktails.

    My grandmother, almost until the day she died, had cocktail period every day. Had to have her martini, but also nuts, pretzels, chips, what have you.

    So my mother would then proceed to put luncheon meats on frilled toothpicks, hard boil some eggs and slice ’em up, and put out crudite with a little dip. Our drinks would be put in big “adult” glasses, instead of our smaller ones. And we got to *gasp* eat at the coffee table…on little square napkins!

    We thought we were SO cool – we got to skip “dinner”. That we probably ate more food during this faux cocktail period than we would have while we sat our table protesting never occurred to us. It also didn’t occur to us we missed being punished because we were actually doing what our mother expected us to do.

    Sometimes, you just gotta know what battles to pick and/or use your brain to work around it. Kids – while very smart – are also kinda easy to fool ;)

  28. I was spanked as a child-liberally. I was also raised in a private school that spanked. Think its really one extreme or the other. Either you will have a very well-behaved kid, or an unholy terror. But, anedotally, I learned REAL quick what I couldn’t do, and yes, I knew a spanking was in my future if I did them. That, I think was the real punishment.

    I think the concept of progressive punishments will need progressively harder spankings if fallous. Under that logic, you would have to take more and more freedoms, until you’re locking your kid in a cage.

    I don’t have kids, don’t want kids. I’ve had to watch some friends kids from time to time, and while they would give me permission to spank, I wouldn’t use it, I’m not the parent. I would put them in time-out. Down in the south, IMHO, its a spanking culture. We stick to tradition. Some of them good, and some of them not.

  29. I remember the threat of spanking when I was a kid and I’m sure I was swatted on the butt a number of times, but it was when I was so young that I don’t remember it well. I know it was always clothed, one smack, with an open hand.
    I’m pretty sure it was mostly because for my mom, *not* spanking your kids was basically unimaginable. She grew up on a farm with four siblings, and Grandma apparently used to deal out smacks with a wooden spoon, so physical punishment was just normal.

  30. I was spanked a lot as a kid. I also went to a school where it was permitted, nay, encouraged for the principal to spank us. My parents used their hands, my aunt used a wooden spoon.

    It made me defiant, it made me angry, it did not keep me from breaking the rules.

    What is the difference between spanking, swatting the rear end and swatting, slapping the face?

    For those of you who were spanked or who will spank kids… would you ever consider hitting (swatting) them on a different body part?

  31. @Elexina: I guess my point is, either way you have to ask yourself the question “is it ok for me to hit a child?” and if you spank, regardless of severity, either way the answer is “yes”. For me, particularly given the evidence, that is unacceptable.

  32. I work at a preschool. To be honest the only time it would be ok to spank a child is when you are calm and not in an upset mood. Which isn’t going to happen. That old “wait until your dad gets home” is silly because punishment for a child must be immediate for it to do the most good. Kids (little kids especially) have a short attention span. Hitting a child at all while you are angry is simply dangerous. Giving the child another punishment, like a time out, gets the kid away from you (and your anger) and social ostracization is a very effective punishment. In fact that old sending your child to Coventry (not speaking or communicating with the small child and not allowing anyone else to do so) is SO harsh a punishment that it is prohibited in our school. It’s actually worse than hitting according to many psychologists.
    Time out allows everyone to cool down. It’s also a known penalty. I screw up, I go to time out. Kids in a way like knowing what will happen if they mess up.

    A spank! Well, I was spanked. It got out of hand with my father. Thankfully I remember but little of his spankings, but I know enough that I swore never to spank my own chidren. The slight memories I have are enough to strike the fear of ever striking a child into me!

    We all make mistakes, and that is part of learning. When the punishment is not overly severe, children learn to NOT lie and cover up. They instead go “yeah I did mess up” and go sit in the corner and then have to come and tell the parent or teacher what they will try to do differently next time. If you spank a child, you are just teaching the kid to not get caught next time.

  33. Well, physical punishment has been very well discredited in animal training and has been replaced by positive reinforcement like clicker/reward training. What works for Fido and Flipper should work well for much smarter humans.

    On that note, I think spanking is a resort because the parent feels that it will give instant results. I use the word “feels” deliberately. It is an emotional response to a transgression.

    I support a quick, mild spank for a child that is in immediate danger of physically harming themselves, such as a 2 year old child that insists on trying to touch a red hot stove burner. For most problems, spanking is overkill. Most of the time, timeouts in the corner and small treats for good behavior when noted worked pretty well. I was not telling them ahead of time that they would get a treat if they behaved – that would have been bribery, which brings its own problems. (Raised two healthy daughters this way, so I can vouch that it worked. )

    My parents subscribed to the “Dad’s leather belt” school of spanking. Today, I would consider it borderline child abuse, as my parents spanked me (and my sister) hard enough to leave welts on occasion.

  34. I got pretty severe spankings when I was a kid. My mom used coat hangers or sometimes hair brushes. Looking back I have always come to the conclusion that my beatings were fair – it is not like they came without warning, or were arbitrary. I knew exactly what things I did that would earn me a spanking. I thought because I turned out ok that spanking wasn’t so bad.

    Now I know better. When my oldest daughter exhibited oppositional behavior as a preteen I sometimes resorted to spanking (open hand – not nearly as severe as my mother). My observation was that spanking, while making ME feel better for a very short time, didn’t actually help the situation. Made it worse usually. After some family counseling I learned that with oppositional children (which I was also, although to a lesser extent than my daughter) that physical punishment is the WORST option to correct behavior. It works better with “normal” kids – but again, it really is the worst option available to parents.

    Denying privileges is a much more effective motivation to all kids whether or not they are oppositional.

  35. @jrpowell:It’s so true.

    Getting spanked just made me bitter.

    But when they took away my books and wouldn’t let me read… THEN I shaped up.

    Other things that worked on me, not letting me do things, go places, and banishment to the backyard.

  36. The AAP’s statement matches my experience. We used to spank our daughter for defiant behavior, but we found that the spanking didn’t change the behavior, so we read some books and began to let her be in charge in some situations (children aren’t like dogs; you can let children lead sometimes), and the defiance seems to have stopped.

    I remember being spanked a few times as a kid, but the only times I remember were unfair, so I don’t know what good it did.

  37. You know, my parents were opposed to corporal punishment in all forms. But my Mom used to withhold affection when she was mad at me. That left me fucked up in completely different ways.

    They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad,
    They do not mean to but they do.
    They give you every fault they had,
    And save some extra just for you.

    For they were fucked up in their turn,
    By folks in old style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Philip Larkin, quoted from memory (spot the mistakes!); it’s the dysfunctional family anthem.

  38. I really just can’t figure out what’s so wrong with spanking. I was spanked when I was a kid. It’s not like we were punished this way all the time (threats were enough). But we knew that when we went too far, that was the consequence. And as I remember it, when it did happen, we usually deserved it.

    And it didn’t make me or my siblings timid. Or violent. Or hate our parents. Or require counselling. Obviously, there’s a difference between spanking and abuse. But that’s kind of my point too. If you’ve gone far enough to be unsure of whether you’ve crossed the line, then you’ve definitely gone too far. Our parents usually didn’t even hurt us when they spanked us (we’d bawl anyway — that’s how we manipulated them in turn. It’s what kids do). It seems absolutely ridiculous to me to equate it with violence, because that wasn’t what it was about at all.

    And I’ll admit I get my hackles up when confronted by tongue-clickers who have gone in completely the opposite direction: people who won’t even raise their voices to their kids, who let their children control the relationship, who are terrified of damaging their frail offspring in some way (kids are hardier than that, trust me).

    In the end, it’s well known that we blame far too much on our parents anyway. I think of my parents generation, and how everyone spanked their kids when they were growing up. And they’re good people. They turned out just fine. So did I. I look at the issue the same way I look at video games: study after study tells us they’re bad for us. The verdict is in there too, but I’ve yet to see the fallout.

  39. I used to get spanked, but as I got older it changed to being thrown into doors and being punched in the face. It really annoys me when people condone spanking. Why would you hit your own child? It makes no sense to me. It’s an ignorant solution for any problem.

  40. Yeah, gotta comment on this…

    Just for the record, the only time my dad ever spanked me was when I showed overt disrespect to my mother. Who was a wonderful woman, but on occasion could be argued to warrant disrespect…

    Nevertheless, it was a valuable lesson:

    (1) Never fuck with a woman. If she can’t fuck you over in return directly, she might have a man behind her who can…

    (2) Never fuck over anyone, period. Because you never know who might have their back. So, you thought you could get away with it, did you?

    All in all, a valuable lesson that taught me the wisdom of being nice to those to whom you thought, mistakenly, that you didn’t HAVE to be nice to.

    And yeah, something about the Golden Rule in there too. Although — I did not enjoy being spanked, but in retrospect, I know that I somehow deserved it. She was a good woman, and tried hard.

    And yes, I still love my mother and father immensely. They weren’t really dicks, regardless of the fact that my dad REALLY didn’t like to see me mouth off to my mom.

    If, perhaps, more people got spanked for bad-mouthing their relatively non-deserving-of-being-badmouthed mothers, maybe our world would be a better place… family cohesion and all…

    R

  41. @dacy_ebd:

    It’s an ignorant solution for any problem.

    Well, it’s not a solution at all. It is not going to solve anything. It’s not even really punishment. But that’s not to say it’s never necessary, or never the correct action.

    I mean, jeez, do any of you observe the people around you?

    I’m a peaceful person, and it sincerely hurts me, emotionally and physically, if I cause anyone else pain. But many kids — and many adults — deserve to have the shit beat out of them. Not because they’ve spilled something or because they’ve disobeyed mommy, but because they’re pricks.

    And it’s not a matter of teaching a lesson or applying a deterrent to a particular behavior. It’s a matter of leveling the playing field that some little asshole has tilted away from everyone else that is behaving acceptably. It’s not to punish the kid as much as it is to make things fair for everyone else.

    Of course a lot depends on the severity of the behavior. Most behaviors DO NOT require spanking. But when I was kid, and I got spanked, it was always appropriate for what I had done. In fact, I think I would have lost all respect for my parents had they put me in a time out for doing the things I did.

    For example, I once shot my best friend in the mouth with a pellet gun, and my dad whipped my ass. I mean, he whipped my ass good.

    It didn’t teach me that shooting people was wrong. I already knew that. It didn’t stop me from doing it again. The horror I felt after I did it was more than enough to put the brakes on any friend-shooting bent I might have had. But I got my ass whipped because that’s exactly what I deserved.

    And it didn’t have an adverse affect on my relationship with my parents. I still loved them, and they still loved me. But they recognized that I was being a little prick and needed my ass whipped, and so did I.

  42. I’m with the formerly spanked and bitter here. I was also subject to such fun as dad’s fist through the wall (at least twice) and the terror of being screamed at by a frustrated, large man (dad). The worst was when he would threaten to, say, burn my most beloved stuffed animal…but anyway.

    Yeah, looking back, I wasn’t even really a defiant or difficult kid. My worst transgressions involved messiness, and I think that most of it was just my dad’s frustration and inability to control his anger. I kind of still hate him for it, and when I look at kid the age that I was when I was spanked (3-7 or so), I can’t fathom doing it.

    However, sometimes when I watch nanny 911, I can see how certain kids could be such little terrors (hitting, extreme tantrums) that a parent might lose it and go a little nuts. HOW EV ER! On that show, it is clear that the parents are always to blame because of soft neglect or by leading with their own shitty example.

    So, yeah. don’t spank, but also, don’t be a stupid moron and have 5 kids in quick succession when you are/are married to (or both) an irresposible rageaholic who doesn’t really give a shit about child development and don’t understand how kids’ minds are shaped/what their capacity to understand stuff at different ages is.

    I’ve see far worse (in public!) than what I went through and all I think is “ah, yes, training a future teenage runaway, are you?”

  43. We have a rock system that seems to work very well for us. They earn little rocks for doing things like putting plates in the sink, brushing teeth, and the like. I have a list of infractions and how many rocks they lose and a list of how many rocks needed to “buy” certain privileges like playing the Wii. Works for my 6 yr. old, but the 4 yr. old still hasn’t caught on. I have popped them on occasion, but have not done it in a while. Just the threat of losing one of those precious rocks seems to be enough. The “mommy look” works pretty well, too.

    Spanking is not ideal and probably only works if done rarely. I think the impact of spanking depends on the underlying relationship of parent and child and the degree of spanking. I don’t like it when people say this is my child and I can parent how I want. I think one of the most important thing for a parent to remember is that the child is an individual with the same need to be valued as any adult. Teach a child how to communicate with you and the need for spanking will diminish greatly. At least, these are the things that have worked for my family.

  44. I was spanked. (I’m 56, and everybody in my generation was spanked.) I see two problems with spanking: the first is that while it corrects the immediate problem, it generally results in increased aggression at a later time.

    The second is more personal to me, although I did experience the first as well. You see, my father would take us to the basement, make us lower our pants, and whack us on our backsides, hard, until we cried. So you either got wise and cried right away, or you got stubborn and got whacked a lot.

    But after a time, as we grew, he worried that we weren’t being punished enough by a simple hand to the backside, so he escalated to a wooden paddle. A grown man can put an awful lot of hurt into a paddle.

    But eventually, even that seemed insufficient, and the next thing was a ping-pong paddle. You know, the kind with the little rubber nubs. Finally, he started using a rubber hose.

    I only got the hose once (my brother got it several times) but you simply cannot believe how painful that is.

    My brother mentioned it to our school counselor and my father was stopped, although nothing particular happened to him.

    The thing is, he did it out of a sincere desire to discipline us. His father hit him, and he thought he needed to hit us.

    Now I find I must physically restrain myself from hitting when a child disobeys or smart-mouths me. I know, intellectually, that hitting is not the answer, but the reaction is there, and it’s strong.

    I’m sorry this is so long, but it’s important to realize that the downside of spanking doesn’t usually happen right away. It can happen in a few years, or a decade or two, or a generation or two later.

  45. I think spanking is an excellent way to make your children hate you, but achieves very little else.

    When I was spanked, and beaten…

    …it made me hate and fear my father and *genuinely* wish that he was dead, or that he was little and I were big so I could hit *him* and make him see how it felt.

    (I used to bite my pillow with all my jaw strength and pretend that I was biting my father as revenge for his violence.)

    …it made me dead-set determined to avoid doing what he wanted whenever possible.

    …it made me lie to avoid punishment.

    …it did not change my behaviour in any constructive way.

    I still hate him to this day. Hell, I moved 3900 kilometres away from where my family live…

  46. Lawls…of course kids shouldn’t be allowed to do whatever they want. You should definitely stop your children from doing what they shouldn’t be doing. Punishment (or whatever you choose) most of the time puts an end to the child’s current unwanted behavior. I’m just saying that I think that a lot of the time, attempted behavior modification on the parent’s part doesn’t do much to -permanently- modify the child’s behavior. So when you spank your child for being bad, or praise them for being good, they may continue doing what you want for hours or days or weeks, but more likely than not they’re going to start doing it again. They’re still young and immature, and young children just aren’t on the same developmental level as adults or even older children.

    In general, young children are less well behaved than older children, who are less well behaved than adults. Two year olds throw more tantrums than 12 year olds, who throw more tantrums than 22 year olds. There are of course exceptions…But in any case, I think that more lasting change has more to do with the child aging and their brains developing than with anything their parents do to make them more well behaved. So…you can’t force a child to be a perfect little angel all the time when their brains just aren’t physically capable of performing that task, and hitting them isn’t going to make it develop any faster.

    I’m also well aware that humans, as animals, can be trained by positive reinforcement methods. It’s just a heck of a lot harder. People tend to over-think things….a lot. Plus, a person is probably a lot less willing to learn to be nice and well behaved for a piece of beef jerky than your average golden retriever.

  47. @Thinking: Punishment is a behaviour modification. Why punish someone for doing something wrong if you don’t intend for them to learn the lesson that what they did was wrong? Problems with this are 1) they may learn the wrong lesson (i.e., make an undesired association), and 2) they may become resentful of the punishment rather than respectful of the rules.

    Positive punishment is less effective than negative punishment and positive reinforcement. Time out is a form of negative punishment (have them sit in a spot quietly for a pre-determined amount of time that is proportional to the offense). Spanking is positive punishment. By positive and negative punishment I mean adding something and taking something away, respectively, to decrease a behaviour.

    Positive and negative reinforcement effective at increasing desired behaviours, although negative reinforcement is impractical (as it involves the removal of an already-present negative stimulus).

    So the recommended punishment “regime” is one of negative punishment and positive reinforcement. Eventually, the need for each will decrease over time as the child learns the rules as opposed to how to avoid positive punishment. But these methods are time-consuming and can be frustrating, so some people find it easier to hit.

  48. I was going to rant on how spanking is really about control for the parent and doesn’t teach the child anything but pain and fear. Then I was going to do a preach about natural consequences, and what they are and how they can be affective in teaching a child about societal/family norms.
    But you know, to each their own. Who am I?
    My wife and I have taken a nonviolent approach to raising our daughter and we think she is an honest, caring, responsible 17 year old. If something else works for you, that is your business.
    Those children may be picking your nursing home someday so I hope you have reconciled whatever methods you used before ther time comes. :)

  49. Since I don’t have kids I can’t really say what I would do as yet. I certainly won’t rule out an occasional spanking though. I was spanked as a child, never hit multiple times. I guess a lot of this depends on your definition of a spank. Any crying I did after was purely an attempt to influence guilt, it never worked. Most times we were spanked it was because we were hitting each other and always we were sent to our rooms to reflect on the situation.

    I never got along with my Dad when I was younger, but he never spanked me. It had nothing to do with punishment and thankfully we resolved it as I got older.

    I have seen a few friends and my sister who are going with the time out idea. I only see one example of it working.

    I really think it depends a lot on the child. Like anything else you have to examine the outcome.

    I would personally be very leery of the rocks idea. Since I don’t know all the details I won’t say it is wrong. However I do think with young children it could fail to teach good behavior and instead simply reward it. I see to many examples today of people expecting something for doing something.

    We had chores and were expected to do them without reward. I can’t ever remember refusing to do the dishes or clean my room.

    What I don’t see in raising kids that I would definitely carry over to any kids I have. We were never treated just as kids. When we acted like children we were treated as such. But when we acted as young people it was encouraged. My parents listened to what we said. I have seen many parents today simply treating their kids as kids and dismissing them as too young to understand anything.

    Personally I think that does far more damage than an occasional spank.

  50. @dacy_ebd: Yeah you see i got thrown into a garage door for not locking up my bike properly. I think we will have to accept that our previous experiences aren’t going to lead us to the same conclusion. I cannot remember one thing I did as a child that even warranted a slap round the face. I wouldn’t slap my girlfriend round the face, so why the hell is it deemed socially acceptable by some to slap my CHILD round the face. Please show your working……

  51. Sam Ogden:

    Well, it’s not a solution at all. It is not going to solve anything.

    Later, in the same comment:

    But many kids — and many adults — deserve to have the shit beat out of them. Not because they’ve spilled something or because they’ve disobeyed mommy, but because they’re pricks.

    Thank you, Sam, for illustrating irrationality of (most) violence.

  52. @jabell2r: There are most certainly ways to spank without causing permanent harm, and I never meant to suggest otherwise. But it can be a very fine line, and, particularly if you spank in anger, easy to cross.

    I just think that as a general rule, if you’re going to have a general rule, it’s better to discourage spanking.

    My own take on it is that if I can’t come up with something better than hitting a child, I’m not much of an adult.

    I never want a child to look at me with fear, the way I looked at my father. It’s one reason I never had children. I was afraid I’d do to them what he did to me.

  53. @Soresport: Those children may be picking your nursing home someday so I hope you have reconciled whatever methods you used before ther time comes.

    Indeed. When my father was too feeble to live alone, my sister asked me to take him in. Happily, I realized that I would be unable to refrain from doing to him what he’d done to me. I said no.

  54. I have many memories of childhood spankings. My Mother was an abusive screaming/slapping shrew who forced the tougher discipline onto my Father. He was a trucker who would come home after 3-4 days and wouldn’t get the chance to put his little blue suitcase down before she’d be on him to beat my sister and I for a catalog of offenses.

    After years of bare-butt beltings he eventually told us to cry while he beat the crap out of the hassock. His heart was never in it.

    You know what warped me more? My Mother’s twisted punishments. I actually preferred the belt.

    My Grandfather (her Father) would take us out back on our birthdays and beat us for “everything you did bad this year that you didn’t get caught at.” How is that for twisted logic?

    As a young parent I was more on the abusive side until I was taught other methods. By the third child I learned all about time-outs and groundings (which I suck at because I have such a short attention span myself) and taking away privileges for infractions. Mostly my two younger kids and I would talk stuff out, but that first child- the one I spanked for just about everything – battled with me his entire life. If I could do it allover again…

    Now, helping to raise HIS daughter – she’s 2 – I see my own mistakes and we’re working together to calm him down and help her learn.

    All that and I still think the occasional swat is okay for serious infractions, or in her case insistence on repeating those behaviors. It says “I mean business right NOW.” And now just the threat and her belief that if she doesn’t control herself Grammi will act is effective.

    Spanking should be a short term attention getter. There are more effective long-term ways teach them what they’re doing is wrong. And it sure beats the heck out of those parents that refuse to act and just whine and wheedle their spawn. I’d rather see a parent swat an out of control child than endure that child going on and on and the parent do nothing.

  55. Ok, I get really frustrated with “more effective behavior modification” argument. The purpose of parenting is not to modify the child’s behavior until it’s more fun or convenient for the parent. The purpose is to produce an autonomous adult.

    The adult world does not run on reward it runs on punishment. Cops don’t send you money when you drive the speed limit. They ticket you when you don’t. If you scream at the cops they don’t give you a timeout to calm down, they beat/mace/taser you into submission.

    I rarely spank, but I never forget that I am raising my daughter to function in the world that is, not the world behaviorist tell us it would be better if we had.

  56. Spanking, as generally practiced, seems to be mostly about humiliation — and I don’t think that humiliation is an effective form of negative reinforcement.

    For kids “punishment” doesn’t work, but reinforcement does – the difference is time: reinforcement occurs very quickly after the behavior.

    As such, there are times when the “quick swat” can be effective: not something that causes any real pain, but something that reminds the child that the behavior is inappropriate. It’s the communication of displeasure that’s effective, not the delivery method.

    And, like any animal, humans respond to positive and negative conditioning: one alone doesn’t help much.

  57. @truthwalker:

    I believe that it is never acceptable to hit a child. I agree, my job as a parent is to raise my child to be an independent person and thinker. That said, it is not ok for one person to hit another when they disagree.

    I was spanked occasionally as a child, and yelled at as well. I understand the urge to do so to my own children, but rising above my instincts is one of the things that got me into skepticism in the first place.

    Even for skeptical parents, intuition is NOT a basis for making decisions. Rational thought, and critical thinking are. Children are people, albeit much smaller. It is not ok to hurt other people unless it is in self-defense, bottom line.

    When your child goes into the “real” world, they will not be allowed to hit people they disagree with, nor will they have someone there to “whack” them when they make a mistake. The purpose of parenting is to raise children who can make decisions in a critical manner with rational thought.

    Violence as a behavior modification system is neither rational nor ethical. I truly believe that people spank because it makes you feel good to hit something that pisses you off, bottom line.

    Now consensual, sexual spanking?? Bring it on!

  58. @autotroph: I think that’s a good point. The one time I remember being spanked, it WAS humiliating and I was embarrassed and ashamed and horrified that I had disappointed my parents to the point that they felt they needed to spank me.
    It didn’t hurt me physically, just my feelings, and it didn’t make me afraid of my parents. It just made me not want to disappoint them again.

  59. I find it interesting no one mentioned child development. When my daughter was 2 she thought it was funny to hit me. If she accidentally hurt herself she also thought it was funny, so spanking wouldn’t work then. She’s now 5 and still eager to please knowing that she’s disappointed us by not fulfilling WELL DEFINED rules is far more of a punishment than spanking would be. I suppose if I could spank her in front of her friends at the age of 12 or 13 it might be effective if humiliation is an effective punishment.

    Overall I don’t see what use spanking or time outs for that matter are. I also don’t see what the difference is between hitting and swatting both are done in anger. Think about it if you were calm and collected and able to deal with the situation would swatting or hitting someone really be your first choice?

  60. “When your child goes into the “real” world, they will not be allowed to hit people they disagree with”

    Let’s see, unless she is a cop, soldier, or politician.

    “nor will they have someone there to “whack” them when they make a mistake.”

    Unless she has to deal with cops, soldiers, drunks, the pathologically uninhibited, bullies at school,bullies at work, criminals of many stripes, and politicians.

    “never acceptable to hit a child” So why is that? What is the peer reviewed evidence that says that is NEVER acceptable to hit a child? I am aware of studies which include things like “having objects thrown at” or “repeatedly punched” are bad for children as they are for everyone else. But I have yet to read a study that shows negative results to an occasional quick and harmless swat.

    I’m not a spanking advocate. I think spanking is in general, a dumb idea used by uncreative parents. My duaghter is 5 years old and been spanked (one short swat to the rear) perhaps 3 times in the last year, because those few times, I thought about it and believed it to be the best of all possible actions (including inaction) on my part.

    I think abusive psychopaths and religious nutjobs have given a perfectly fair, appropriate parenting tool used by all higher mammals, a bad name, and that most studies about it have made no effort to sort out people who use occasional, non-abusive spankings from people who beat the hell out of their kids.

  61. Parents who spank are parents who feel they are not in control. Spanking is a simple but brutal way to get back in control. KittyNH has it right– parents need to be in control to deal with bad behavior, and once they feel they’re in control, they don’t feel like spanking– unless they happen to be psychopathic.

    There’s a world of difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment makes the inflicter feel better; discipline offers the miscreant the room to consider better ways of behaving in the future. And enough commenters here have shown how punishment warped their relationship with their parents and derailed to a greater or lesser extent their own developmental progress.

    I cannot recommend time outs too much! If you are a parent, learn how to use them! I raised my child without knowing about them, and he paid the price, even though I never, ever laid an angry hand on him.

    Google aborticentrism!

  62. @truthwalker:

    As I said, I believe that it is never acceptable to hit a child. I did not claim that was a fact, I said it was an opinion that was based on fact. The fact being that spanking is not effective.

    I do not believe it is ok to hit people. Children are people. Therefore, I do not believe it is ok to hit children. Why is it ok to hit children, but not your spouse? No seriously, I want to know. Perhaps because while we have outgrown the notion that women “belong” to us, we still think that we “own” our children’s bodies.

    It seems odd to me that it not acceptable to hit adults capable of defending themselves, yet it is ok to use physical punishment on some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

    Imagine that a loved one of yours has Alzheimer’s or a stroke, or something that causes them to regress in behavior. Is it then ok to hit them when they run out into the street to “teach them a lesson?” Is it ok to hit them when they need to be controlled?

    I have no doubt in my head that they majority of people who spank their children mean absolutely no harm, and indeed, cause no harm to their children. Just as the millions who flock to church, or go to a chiropractor, believe in homeopathy, or refuse to vaccinate their children believe that they are doing the right thing for their children.

    However, I still “believe” that all of those behaviors are instinctual, uneducated, ill advised, and remnants of a stone age culture based in fear and the acceptance of the strong lording their authority over the weak.

    Also, monkeys and ape throw poo, but I am not about to do that either.

  63. Maybe I should explain the background a bit. I was raised a bible thumping, gun toting ultraconservative. I was taught that spanking is God’s chosen method of behavior modification, and that any attempt to restrict spanking is Satanic plot to overthrow America (God’s chosen nation). The unspanked children would be vicious little monsters who would vote in communism and pacifism as soon as they turned 18.

    Obviously that’s crap. When I started to question my faith, I realized that I had never been comfortable with spanking my daughter and I put huge amount of study into spanking, making sure that I read the source studies in their published form.

    What I found was that, by and large, most studies which condemned spanking used an extremely lose definition of spanking that included actions like “struck in the face and head with fists” or “had hard objects like plates, cups and books thrown at.

    While I find no fault with the studies that prove that punishment is, in general, less effective than reward as a method of behavior modification, I worry about raising a kid to expect a life that changes behavior by rewards rather than punishment because that is not the world we live in.

    I believe it is OK to hit people sometimes. My wife and I both hit each other occasionally. It’s not abuse, sometimes a light kick to the shin or punch in the arm is worth 2 hours of “Honey when you say things like that it makes me frustrated and hurt.”

    I disagree with your idea that “instinctual” is necessarily interchangeable with ill advised, or base.

    I also want to know where you live that the strong do not lord their authority over the weak.

    And no. We don’t throw poo. :)

  64. @truthwalker: The idea is not to teach the kid only to do things by rewards either. The idea is to teach them socially acceptable behaviour by the more effective methods. Eventually the need for reward and punishment is reduced (or not necessary at all) once they learn appropriate behaviour. Also, it’s not that all punishment is ineffective and therefore inadvisable – negative punishment is very effective. It’s positive punishment that is generally ineffective.

  65. Okay, some personal experience. I attended Jr. High and High School in the early ’60’s. Everyone had to take “gym”. All the coaches (and some of the male teachers) used corporal punishment, supposedly to “build Character” and get us ready for our stints in the army. To do this, they used fraternity-type paddles. Only bigger. The erring student was told to bend over, grab his ankles, and *POW! A “Swat”. Painful, humiliating, and heaven forbid you sob, or cry — then you were a sissy who couldn’t take it.
    One time they lined us up and asked when I had washed my gym uniform. I answered truthfully that my mom washed it every two weeks. “Lazy! You are supposed to wash it WEEKLY!” *POW! “Quit crying, Sissy!” One time, I was so tired I forgot to address a coach as ‘Sir’. *POW! Goiong into the *Varsity* side of the locker room (Not marked in any way): *POW! They made the whole class march around and around the gym. Get out of step? *POW! They had us fill out a complicated form. After turning it in, I realized I’d made an error. I immediately went to the coach and asked to correct it: “We’ll take care of that later” Two days and another request later, “You messed this part up!” *POW!
    All this abuse did have a couple of effects. For one, I have never felt comfortable in a health club or YMCA–inwardly, I’m afraid I’ll go into the wrong part. I know no one at the Y has those two-handled paddles, but my gut doesn’t. Heck, I’m almost 60 and I still remember the details, that should tell you somethin’.
    Second, I believed the common idea that, if you got punished at school, you’d get another licking at home, so I never told. When I mentioned casually to my Dad, years later, ho I hated what they did to us, he said, “What! If I’d known that, I would’ve stopped it! They had no right!!” I never loved him more.
    Third, my kids were under standing orders: NO ONE was to hit them for any reason. No one ever did, which is good, although I had been looking forward to marching into school, making the offending person drop their pants in front of their students, giving them a wonderfuyl two-handed *POW!!!!!!, then breaking the paddle and announcing that the era of character building was over.
    Ah, well, I probably would’ve got in trouble for that.

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