She bore 13 children and explained that some of us responded to just above normal level talking and explanation, some to shouting, some to spanking, which consisted of a limited number of strikes from her hand to the child’s hand or buttocks. Sometimes the spanking employed a ruler, in which cases she notes that you must not be angry during those times because you can misjudge the force needed to make your corporal punishment point. She also told me that some of us responding to privilege restrictions, while others needed whopping.
A whopping is different from spanking because its purpose is to strike clear fear into the child, who was tended to be male and between 10 – 12yrs old (however, female children were not exempt from wondering into this realm of punishment). Whoppings required an instrument: a switch (a specially selected thin flexible branch, sometimes several of them braided together), a belt (the kind men use to hold up their pants not the dainty fashion belts women wore), or a cord (from some discarded appliance). Unfortunately, whoppings are usually accompanied by fear and anger. My mother noted that unlike the fear and anger that accompany whopping, verbal exchanges that attack the child/pre-teen/teen’s self-worth and always anger. Hey, I’m just telling you me experience with this stuff…
My mother explained that by the time you reach whopping-a-child-level you have a bigger problem that the punishment most likely won’t fix. The idea here, is that you’ve already gone through all other non-physical and physical options and are now so despondent that you’re pissed enough to actually hurt this kid, who is probably at a decent age of reason, say, 10 – 14 years or so old.
I had the privilege of seeing how my six older sisters parented. I also had the experience and recall of only two physical altercations with my parents, as I was mostly a talk to child. At some time between 3 and 5-years old, I played with matches, which resulted setting my parents’ room on fire and almost killing younger brother and myself.
Yes, even at that age, I knew what I was doing and it felt great to set the matches catch fire! The sulfuric order intensified once the match was lit, the smoke stung our noses. It was a great few seconds or minutes of acceleration. However, once the curtains shot up to the ceiling in a reddish-orange stinking polyesterish intensity of heat, nothing I’d experienced up to that moment felt worth it. When someone opened the bedroom door in response to our screams, I shot past him/her and immediately sought a hiding place. When I was found, I got a whopping – I was the exception to the age rule – I was okay with the whole thing because I was alive. I never played with matches again. My mother never hit me in any way again. I think she freaked herself out with the amount of fear and anger she had when she whopped me.
The next time I recall receiving physical punishment, it came from my father. He had a sharp, biting, critical tongue, which I inherited and honed under his guidance. I don’t think he was aware of this until I said something to him that struck a nerve – I was being a sarcastic smarty-pants. Whatever I said in response to him, I said in an aloof manner while strolling past him, as if he were a peasant in my empire pre-teen rule. Just as the ending syllables of my “take-that” phrase left my lips and I was near clear of him, I felt a stark sting spread cross my buttocks and realized this person hit me! I could not believe my father spank my behind so hard that the force added an extra step to my haughty stride.
Tears immediately appeared in my eyes; I don’t think is screamed (but could be wrong because I had a dramatic flair at the time). I do know we made eye contact and he may have warned me to watch my mouth. I was about 12-years old and we both knew should apply to both of us. I also saw the shame and defeat in his face that my critical, sarcastic, biting based on truth words had pushed him to violence. He lost and I won. Like the time I played with matches, nothing I’d experienced up to that moment felt worth it. However, I became aware of my sharp tongue and awareness is the first step to reflective actions and choices. I cannot say I was never sarcastic and critical again.
- Limited spanking to “if you hit her, I’ll hit you with explanation” – EXAMPLE: one of my daughters once kicked her toddler-aged foot at another child and made contact. I gave her foot a tap/spank and talked to the foot as if it had a brain. Then I talked to my daughter about her foot and what happened to make her foot kick someone.
- I never whopped (I never got that angry or fearful)
- Okay, once, I slapped one of my daughters across the face. It was a total angered reflex at, guess what? Her biting sarcastic verbal skills and inability to shut up! I did not immediately apologize. I eventually apologized and we talked about how she won because I was moved to violence and I would never allow that to happen again. I have also vowed to find an occasion to slap the other daughter because I want my daughters to understand I love them equally. It’s been 8 years since that incident and to ensure my arm can’t reach her, the as-yet-slapped daughter makes sure her back talk is done from another room. I constantly point this strategic move out the once-slapped daughter. I assure both of them that the as-yet-slapped daughter will slip up one day and I’ll be able to put the universe right.
I Prefer Consequence &
Reflective Moment Discipline
Personal and Collective Responsibility:
- This disciplinary action required a phone call to my daughter’s school and a note to her teachers, which she had to write. To drive home the point of personal responsibility I once made my daughter carry an empty a dozen-sized Krispy Kreme box around school all day (middle school) because she ate the last doughnut and could not manage to put the box in the trash after several days of reminders. I thought, if she carried the box around all day, she’d remember to put it in the trash at the end of the day.
- Once time outs stopped working, (which I could tell because the girls had more fun sitting in a chair as they did playing about freely), I put myself on Time Outs! This only worked twice, but was worth it to bring their attention to their behavior. Yes, they were such an issue that mommy had to go to her room a shut the door. It was nice to hear the perplexity, as they loudly whispered outside my door trying to figure out when I might come out again. GREAT!
Hugging, Listing, Telling, Explaining: When they argued or dared say I don’t love/like you, they were sentenced to...
- Hugging each other for an unspecified amount of time
- Writing a list of good things about the person other and reading the list to the person
- Telling/explaining to the person how the felt/feel and would need to heal
- Yes, we allow our children to weigh in on disciplinary consequences for themselves and others
Think About Yourself:
- When there were issues, which happen in child-teen years, they were banished to their rooms to think about themselves for a while and write in their journals. When they felt ready to talk about the issue, they could come out. If they came up unprepared to talk about the issue, they were sent back, and could not come out until we (mom/dad) felt enough time had passed.