Tag Archives: corporal punishment

The Hand That Flew

Well, I’m in a confessional mode this week; twice in two days. This time, though, my wife isn’t the person I’m feeling I might have let down. It’s my little girl.

I’m bigger on discipline (raising my voice, taking toys away, etc.) than is my wife, but I’ve never been keen on using physical force. I’ve never ruled it out (see Miz Pink’s post “Beat Down” because I agree with her 95% on that post) but I don’t like it, and there are other people in the blogosphere who have spoken eloquently on the pitfalls and uses of corporal punishment (Blackgirlinmaine recently in her Spare the Rod… post, a more light-hearted one at this blog, and a more academic take here.)

Last night, I smacked my little girl across the thigh. Didn’t leave a mark, but it still left her crying for a long while.

Now, I know that many readers will roll their eyes and say “Big frickin’ whoop!” You didn’t smack her multiple times, you didn’t hit her across the face, you didn’t use a hanger or something, so what are you whining about? And I know objectively that I didn’t do it out of anger so much as surprise, because my hand flew a split second after my little girl unexpectedly chomped down on my left nipple.

But the fact is, my hand flew.

And it didn’t need to.

I should be able to take the pain of a bite from a three-year-old. I should be able to control my hand. I don’t hit my wife. Never have, never will (unless she gets homicidally psycho on my ass, which is highly unlikely). I don’t get into fights now and I never have in the past.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not some hippie milquetoast here. Call my wife, daughter or son a certain epithet that rhymes with “chigger” and I’ll put your face into the pavement. Sexually assault my daughter, at any age, and there will be a body buried in the woods shortly thereafter. Try to attack me physically, and I will work on the assumption that you mean to kill me and respond with appropriate force. I have a very forgiving temperament and a very, very slow and long fuse. But push me too far and you could really regret it.

But what exactly did smacking my daughter accomplish that couldn’t have been accomplished just as well by yelling or throwing out one of her DVDs? What galls me is that my mom only had to spank me twice during my whole childhood. I don’t like the thought that my hand might fly faster than my reason or common sense can stop it.

I don’t fear that I’ll become an abusive parent; that would just be silly logic. That’s not the kind of person I am.

But I don’t like that a girl who doesn’t have a chance against me bit me, and probably had no clue how much that would hurt me, and I hit her. Doesn’t matter where and it doesn’t matter how minor the hit; I hit her and I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry, honeybunch, I really am. And I apologize to Mrs. Blue as well, even though she’s already long over it (and so is the little girl).

Now I just have to get around to forgiving myself.

Bonus Feature

I started work on the second chapter of my blog novel Cleansed by Fire, and I had only intended to get a start on it and then finish it by next week for my usual weekly posting, but I couldn’t stop writing, and now I have a finished part 6 already ready to post. In fact, I did post it, right before this post. I know the last installment was just a couple days ago, but I couldn’t help myself. So, if you’re following my first foray into novel-length fiction or would like to start, scroll down my main page or, if you came to this post directly from somewhere else, click here for part six of my novel.

Beat down by Miz Pink

My father is a law-and-order type. Literally. His job. Figuratively too. In other word, the home was ruled with an iron fist. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was abused. I didn’t get hit all the time for sport. My father didn’t get out his frustrations on me. But when I stepped outside the rules, even a little, you can best believe I got the beat down.

Sure, it was always the butt or the back of the thighs (Okay, except the one time I came home high and way after curfew….that got me a slap across the face. Calling my father a bitch once got me more of the same), but these weren’t light slaps and smacks. Objects were used. Sitting down afterward was a chore. Or walking right.

I’m not saying this to call my father out as some kind of demon. I love him. He could express love in his own odd way and in “normal” ways too sometimes. He was faithful to my mom. He provided. He made me laugh. He was and is my daddy. And I didn’t turn out messed up in the head. I know alot of folks want to make out like corporal punishment is always abuse and screws kids up but that wasn’t my experience. It was punishment. Harsh yes but not abuse.

REally though I think we need to be careful how and when we punish our kids. I think we need to go for something other than a spanking or telling the kid to go out and pick out his own switch. But among the Christian set, let’s be honest…more than a few will turn to a certain passage quicker than a flash if you call them on corporal punishment..the “old spare the rod” thing.

Proverbs chapter 2313 Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Hell. And then Proverbs 13:24 too..He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes.

Listen, mothers. Fathers. Steparents. Grandparents. Babysitters.

Heck, everyone. Listen up.

Those passages aren’t rooting you on to hit the little children or the big teenagers or any kids. Now I’m not telling you this out of some hippy dippy point of view. I’m not some granola crunching let my kid do whatever the hell they want anywhere anytime mom. I used spanking semi-regularly with my son. When he did something really serious. So, maybe a dozen spankings when he was a child. Total. Over maybe 4 or 5 years.  I had something called the pinch I used more often on his thigh to get his attention and prevent the need for something more serious.

With my daughter, I eased up a bit more. I tried to remember that too often her moods were the result of my moods. Her behavior was the result of watching my actions. I had to take some responsibility for when she didn’t “behave.” I also tried to find more creative ways to get her to do right and ways to punish her that were more fair and more appopriate. Doesn’t mean I didn’t spank her by the way. But I spanked her less than number-one son.

Now, I have a third child on the way. With this one, I hope to never raise my hand. But I also don’t rule it out.

The reason we are not supposed to “spare” the rod is because children need discipline. We have to bring them into line and teach them right because they live in a world of rules and because we want them to treat other people right. No matter what the hippiest-dippiest thinkers out there say (and I’ve read some of the more extreme non-punishment, never even use the word “no” kind of folks) kids don’t just naturally grow up and learn manners and good behavior and respect for rules. People just naturally want what they want and will take what they can and following the rules just isn’t fun. So parents must teach, and then correct gently if needed…and take things away if needed…and whup that ass if really needed.

The “rod” isn’t always a stick or even a hand and you aren’t really going to save a kid from going to hell just by beating them up alot. Shepherds used rods to get those sheep moving but I don’t think they were smacking the hell out of them. What good is a bunch of matted and bloody wool? Rods can be used to point the way, to gently nudge and to make a really loud noise to get someone’s attention. They dont always have to be for hitting.

In fact, that should be our last resort. You can be a good parent while using corporal punishment on a regular basis. But you can also slip into using it all the time and for petty offenses, and then you’re not such a good parent anymore in my book. You can also be a good parent by never using punishment if you get lucky with the personality of your child…or you can raise a snarky kid who does whatever he/she wants and talks back to adults, and then you’re a bad parent without ever having raised a hand.

Don’t spare the rod. But don’t swing it all the time. Do yourself and your kids a favor and learn moderation. Listen to them and talk to them more and hit them less. You’ll all be better for it. We all will.

(BTW, I really recommend people give some thought to the thoughts of Pam Leo and pick up a copy of her book Connection Parenting.)