After my last article about the man in Georgia who slapped a two-year-old in a Walmart got such vehement responses you’d think I had “666” tattooed on my scalp, I decided to address the issue of corporal punishment of children. This guy was nuts, no doubt about, and hitting a crying two-year-old is unacceptable under any circumstances and is not going to stop them from crying. I remember my parents saying, “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about!” Yeah, right, that worked.
But is occasionally swatting our kids on the butt, or slapping their hands, really wrong?
I came up in an era where instilling fear in your children, along with corporal punishment, was the norm. “Wait ’til your father gets home” ruined our whole day. The belt wailed for disobedience, hands got held over ranges for stealing, faces got slapped for insolent remarks, and fathers took their adolescent sons to the cellar and challenged them to fist fights when they got too big for their britches. Was this wrong? Of course it was wrong! Corporal punishment never taught me anything but anger. Today, those parents would be in jail! But it wasn’t as uncommon as all that in the 50s and 60s. Living through that era gave me a perspective on corporal punishment.
It goes without saying that babies and children under three with no cognitive understanding that what they’re doing is wrong should not be hit for any reason. But once a kid reaches three, they begin to learn what is acceptable and what is not. Every kid is going to misbehave, and fight with their siblings, and whine when it comes time for bed, and not want to eat their lunch, and be selfish with their toys. If you’ve raised them right, timeouts and privilege revocation will be sufficient. But there are always going to be those recalcitrant ones.
What do you do with a kid over four who does the same thing over and over and over, knows it’s wrong, and actually dares you to do something about it? You’re in the store, you’ve told him five times “no,” and he keeps it up, until he becomes an embarrassment to you and a nuisance to others. You take him outside and explain why you said no, and he kicks you. Yes, I’ve seen it! All psychological arguments aside, and assuming he lives in a normal household, does not that child deserve to be taken in hand, swatted on the bottom, taken home immediately and put in his room?
Sometimes all your other kids can be angels, and then you get this ornery one who is determined to misbehave. Yes, he wants attention. If’ you’re a good parent, then a kid that constantly “demands attention” by misbehaving needs to learn that he is not the center of the universe. That’s what children think they are, you know, the center of the universe. (Yes, now I’m ready for the comments saying that children ARE the center of the universe. Yeah, I get it.)
Nowadays, if you spank your own child, you can be arrested. With all this screaming about “taking away our civil rights,” I think this ranks right up there. There is such a thing as too much political correctness. I don’t advocate beating children. But I do lean towards the occasional swat on the butt. I don’t consider a swat on the butt beating or corporal punishment, it’s just a reality check. Sometimes a child has to be shocked into realizing that what they’re doing is unacceptable.
People who exclusively use timeouts and privilege revocations, and it works, are also teaching their children other things as well. That’s why timeouts and privilege revocations work for them. Their kids are usually respectful and normally obedient and wouldn’t dare think of causing a scene in public.
The problem is those parents who don’t discipline their children at all at home, let them do whatever they want, give in to their demands, and even let them use foul language. When that child goes out in public, how do you think they’re going to act? And when your little darling tells the little old lady to “get the eff out of my way,” what do you do? Well, the fact that your kid talks that way speaks volumes about you, so you probably won’t do anything. And the little old lady doesn’t want to get arrested, so she doesn’t slap your kid across the face, even though he deserves it. The first time your kid said something like that at home, should have been the last. Timeouts and privilege revocation are bogus in those situations.
Teenagers, as well, are a different story. First of all, they know right from wrong. If a teenager of mine were to use the language I hear today’s teens using when they’re out with their friends, or even in front of their parents and other adults, I’d have no compunction about cracking them right across the face.
In the discussion about children misbehaving in public, the core source of the problem came up — the parents. Parents who take their kids out shopping or to a restaurant after 9:00 at night are just plain wrong. Those kids belong in bed. I remember going out one night with my friend because she had had a particularly trying day with her four little ones and just wanted to go where there were no kids. We went to a bar/restaurant at 10:30 p.m., only to be seated in a booth behind a family with a noisy four-year-old who kept peaking over and kicking the booth back. Yeah, we could move. But we couldn’t move out of earshot. I went to Walmart one night at 11 p.m., only to see children under five all over the place. Sorry, I just don’t see any reason for a kid to be out at that hour unless they’re on their way to a hospital.
And so, in summary, I do not advocate beating children for any reason, but I do advocate the occasional swat on the butt. And, oh, yeah, actually being a parent.