It was a beautiful sunny day in Fayetteville, North Carolina. My mom and a family friend were out front mowing the lawn and raking some leaves.
One of my older sisters and I were playing around inside the house. For whatever reason I thought it was a bright idea to flip over the back of the couch and attempt to land feet first onto the cushion seats but I overdid it and my heel hit the glass table in front of the couch instead.
I came down full force and broke that entire side of the table. In that moment, my first thought was not the terrible pain radiating from my heel to my ankle from the impact as most people would first be concerned with but instead my first thought was to try to cover it up before mom saw.
My big sister and I took a sheet and laid it across the table hoping to mask the damage. Looking back now as an adult I see that was a silly and futile attempt but in my 10 year old mind, it made sense. Needless to say, mom eventually came in and saw her table.
She went back out on that beautiful sunny day and pulled a couple switches from a tree, came back in and beat me until I was covered below the waist and on the forearm in blue, red and purple welts. She beat me so bad, my sister ran out of the house to go get my grandmother from around the corner. My mom then ran a tub of alcohol water and made me sit in it. I'm assuming to try to keep the bleeding & swelling down. Afterwards, she made me put on my pajamas and lay down, but not before looking me over to see how bad the damage was. Most of which was not to be seen on my flesh but on my heart and in my mind.
I don't have very many memories of my childhood but this is one of the few I do have. My entire childhood up until I left my mother permanently at 15, was laced with spankings like these and I knew it to be normal. I never thought anything about it. Even into my late twenties and after I became a mother myself, I still didn't see an issue with physical reprimand. After all, it was all I knew and I can bet almost any amount of money that it was all that my mother knew as well.
I have never been a fan of "studies" or parenting books because in my opinion, there is no way any book can teach you how to be a parent. We all think we know what we would do until we are actually faced with the situation and everything we thought we would do goes out the window. All the research and all the studies in the world cannot account for the variables in parenting such as environment, personalities of both the child(ren) and the parent(s), any mental issues that may be had by either party and countless other things we have to take into consideration.
However, there have been tons of studies done on corporal punishment and their effects and most studies deem that it is detrimental to our children.
In an article published by Psychology Today, they went as far as to compare spanking children to a man beating his wife. I think that is so very extreme and are two different things entirely. A man did not birth and raise his wife. He is not legally responsible for her.
He is not tasked with teaching her the ways of the world as a child so that she can then go off as an adult and live on her own. She does not have to obey her husband in the same way a child would be expected to. So for me, "studies" like these do very little for their argument that we should physically rear our children but there are a ton of other studies, without comparisons like the former, that show that our children are suffering even long after the spanking has ended.
“There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”
— Michelle Alexander
Some studies and individuals have even insinuated that the reason a large number of blacks are incarcerated, murdered and/or being profiled and abused by police is for this exact reason; because our parents physically disciplined us as children.
I know we have all heard a successful black person say (usually as they are stepping on stage to receive some Oscar or Grammy of some sort) that if it wasn't for the whoopings they got as children, they would not be who they are today. Some would argue that being a celebrity or even being socially successful does not mean that there was no damage done to the individual that received spanking as a child.
In my research I have found that people also suggested that black people are more violent because of my physical rearing however, according to statistics from Statistic Brain, there have been 152 serial killers since 1980 and 52.21% of them are white and 68.21% of their victims are white. The race that we consider to be more lenient on their children and too passive. A race widely known for not physically disciplining their children.
Not to seem one-sided, there are also studies showing that non-physical discipline such as "timeout" is also not effective. As a matter of fact, according to CNN, in one study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, children who received timeouts behaved more poorly than before the timeout. Timeouts are also believe by some psychologists to instill a fear of abandonment into children.
It wasn't until Jereme (a mental health counselor, free-thinker and all around brilliant a**hole) posed the question to his Facebook one day a few years ago about corporal punishment, that I actually gave it any other thought.
It is a topic that has now haunted me nearly everyday since then because honestly, it is not something I have EVER thought about differently than I always have, that is that kids need to be spanked sometimes.
In most black homes, there is no other means of redirecting a child's behavior other than beatings. Timeout is deemed a laughable method used by white people, reasoning with the child calmly is nearly impossible because the parent is almost always way too upset to even consider speaking calmly, especially to a child and really, what grown up thinks they should have to discuss anything with their child, right?
You are the parent, they are the child and they are to do as you say period.
You don't have to explain anything to them, right?
Well, I am beginning to believe that we are wrong.
I read an article today from Stacey Patton over at the NYTimes that nearly made me cry.
In it she states:
"Before white America enslaved millions of Africans, whuppings were not a parenting tool embraced by my ancestors. In fact, there is no evidence that ritualistic physical punishment of children existed in pre-colonial West African cultures, where children were viewed as sacred and purer than adults, and sometimes even as reincarnated ancestors or gods.It is a European idea that children are “born in sin” and should have the devil beaten out of them with a “rod of correction.” That brutality cascaded across other cultures through slavery, colonialism and religious indoctrination.It should not be surprising, then, that black American slaves, who endured the trauma of their own beatings, inherited their oppressors’ violence and, for centuries, passed down these parenting beliefs. This is one of the saddest untold stories in American history — the way in which the victims of racist oppression and violence have hurt the bodies of their own children in an effort to protect them from a hostile society."
This portion of the article touched me so much and I sat with those feelings for a while. It made me realize that if I felt that so deeply, perhaps there is a part of me that realizes that I may have been doing it wrong all this time. My cognitive dissonance fights me and tries to make me uncomfortable when I consider entertaining the thought that spanking is wrong but that only means that I am on to something.
So many of us are only doing what we saw our parents do and they were doing what they saw their parents do but how many of us have actually thought about where this method of discipline was learned originally?
Are we now subjecting our innocent babies to the same treatments our ancestors were subjected to from their slave owners?
In all fairness, as parents, we can only do what we know how to do but is a cop-out to say that we can only do what we were taught by our own parents?
Do you contribute any of your failures or successes to the way you were disciplined?
According to this article, even timeout is detrimental to your kids. Some "studies" would even suggest that we do no more than offer a kind hand and a smile to our unruly and disrespectful children when they get out of line and this will create the perfect adult.
I call bulls***.
My son is 11 years old and tries my patience on an hourly basis, daily! I have spanked my son in the past and he may get 3 per year these days, tops!
That's mainly because I am tapped out...I am tired of trying to force him to be a bearable kid but also it is because I don't want to cause harm to him anymore. It breaks my heart in pieces to spank my son so I choose to not do it anymore.
But nothing works! Timeout, talking to him, reasoning with him, ignoring the behavior...nothing!
Should we not be physically punishing our children at all or is there a healthy balance to be found between physical and non-physical reprimand?
Did you grow up in a "hands-on" home or were your parents against spanking?
How did you turn out?
If physical redirection is not working and other non-physical punishments are not working either, what is a parent to do?
Let's talk about it below. I would love to hear your thoughts.