Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child..Maybe Not

13 Jul

Like a lot of Black folks, I grew up with parents whose primary form of keeping me in line aka disciplining us kids, was to spank us, no correction was to whup the shit out of us. My two earliest childhood memories, go back to when I was 4 and 5 and involved me getting spanked. The first offense was for picking my nose and eating boogers, yeah pretty gross and I can see why my folks didn’t want me to do it, but was a leather belt across the ass really the way to handle it? Next big spanking was for going in my Mama’s purse… don’t know why I wanted to go in, but having kids myself now, I suspect that Moms purse just looked enticing. The penalty for that was getting whupped with an extension cord, and my ass still gets twitchy when I think about that spanking.

All that said, when I had my firstborn at 19, this was back before the internet and the age of easy information, when it was time to lay down the law and discipline my son, I chose spanking. Probably the first time I spanked my boy, he was probably 2 and my guess is he was probably spanked for doing something a 2 year-old would do. After all 2 is a funny age, kids really are still babies yet to many adults, there is a message that we must lay down the law or else the kid will get out of control. From a Black perspective, its always been if you don’t get em in line now, you will end up with a kid like that bad ass white kid in the grocery store throwing a tantrum in the aisle. The mythical little Johnnie bad ass, that we use as an example of why we must whup that ass.

Well, I will say that between the ages of 2-5 when I did spank my son, I often felt bad afterwards but figured it was part of parenting, hell my folks used to give me that sorry line when they were beating me, that it hurt them more than me.. really well how come it was my ass that hurt for days afterward?

Thankfully by the age of 5, I never spanked my son again, granted his Dad did but at a certain point I started to feel spanking was not effective as a discipline tool. Truth is all the spankings my Dad gave me simply made me sneakier and as I was growing up really made me think how the hell can I relate to a guy who will stomp a mudhole in my ass for simple shit?

Well when I got pregnant 3 years ago with my girl, I made the announcement to the spousal unit, that I did not want to spank. He was supportive though uneasy since he felt spanking could be a good tool in a pinch. Its too long to get into but I will say that to date we have stumbled a bit on this but for the most part we are keeping this commitment, I will confess that when mini-me was a little over 2, I did tap that thigh only to have her repeat back to me what I taught her, hands are not for hitting. Busted.. what can I say? I am human.

Now you may be thinking but these kids today are bad, they need to be spanked, that’s what’s wrong with em, not enough spanking. Historically Black folks in America were whipped by slave masters to keep us in line, one could say it did not keep us in line, it only helped to increase the tensions after all how the hell can you have respect for someone beating your ass? I can’t. (I am not still mad at my Pops, I know he did the best he could, but its taken years to get to this place) Later on, I believe we carried the lessons learned at the hands of the cold-hearted masters and transmitted it to our children in this new land.

Moving ahead though to modern times, we have prisons filled with Black men (I know the justice system is unfair but that is another post), Black folks in general are in a state of disarray, sorry, but I think its time to toss out hitting folks as a way to discipline them. Spanking as a form of discipline has never gone out of style in the Black community like it has in some parts of the white community, yet we got more issues, more drama. Perhaps that is because we have stopped taking care of one another like we used.

Once upon a time, we looked after one another, we cared, we nurtured each other but somewhere along the way, Mamas and Daddies and the extended family stopped doing their job. We used to understand we needed a village to raise each other and our kids, instead the village fractured, yet we were still spanking and guess what it don’t work.

Now let me just say that just because you don’t spank a child does not mean wild kids running around, a parent who is a true parent and there for their child can let a child know they are an authority figure without ever laying a hand on a kid. I will admit, it takes time and its a lot harder though than spanking and I say this having an almost 3 yo who is what I lovingly call high spirited.. mini-me can work my nerves but I love this child too much to want to break that connection and break her spirit by spanking. Old folks used to say we could break a child’ s spirit by spanking, but why the hell would we do that? We need to raise hard headed kids who will turn into hard headed adults who have heart and will not take no when they are out in this world. What we want to do is channel that energy and drive that makes us want to tap that ass into more positive channels, yet to do this type of work takes energy and time, something so many of us as parents are short on.

What we need is a village, we need each other, not only for ourselves but for the kids too.

8 Responses to “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child..Maybe Not”

  1. Chi-Chi July 14, 2008 at 12:41 am #

    What a timely and insightful post. It’s something I’ve meditated on for quite some time now and I decided a long time ago that spanking does not equal discipline. One of my most vivid recollections of a spanking was because I had been cursing in school. Till this day, I can still cuss like a sailor albeit not around my parents. I actually struggle not to be foul-mouthed. My father would always talk about breaking my spirit. I don’t ever want to break my child’s spirit.

    Sometimes I slip up when I get frustrated and I do hit my son. I apologize right after because it makes me feel awful. I can’t say I’m completely on the gentle discipline bandwagon but I’m definitely against physical violence as a way of correcting behavior.

    Yes, it takes more energy, time and creativity to discipline without violence but IMO, it’s well worth the effort.

    Again, great post. Will be sharing it with others.

  2. blackgirlinmaine July 14, 2008 at 12:12 pm #

    Its hard when they get in a bad patch and the desire to spank is so ingrained in us, there are times when as I tell folks, I put myself in time-out to avoid hitting my daughter. I am not 100% down with gentle discipline either but I do feel that corporal punishment just doesn’t work.

  3. Shade July 16, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    Studies have shown that black children who are spanked tend to show less aggression:

  4. Big Willy Style July 19, 2008 at 3:12 am #

    my moms was crazy with the belt like eddie’s was crazy with the shoe
    ’nuff said

  5. July 19, 2008 at 9:02 pm #

    Hi there,

    The problem with conditioning black children to behave only under the threat of violence is that when they are older and are being reprimanded by….um… the police for example… they seem to only shut their mouths and cooperate when the cop pulls out his taser….when threatened with violence THEN they will respond to a directive….

    This mentality is fostered… at some level… but the conditioning that is ingrained with parents using the threat of violence on their children in order to have the obedience of the child.

    Thanks for letting me blow my trumpet!


  6. July 19, 2008 at 9:06 pm #

    @ Chi-Chi

    I have read that punishment and discipline should never EVER be given in the heat of emotional reaction…

    I know that it hard to digest but that’s what I have been reading… all of the “specialists” seem to stress the importance of the parent regaining composure, processing anger, developing constructive feedback to give the child…AND THEN issuing punishment.

    I often see parents screaming and losing control with a child.. and sometimes…they have to scream to stop that child from running out in front of a car in the shopping center parking lot or whatever…but once the child RESPONDS to that scream and stops… the parent needs to chill and wait until they are in the car and the emotions are SETTLED and not scream and yell and curse all the way to the car… that is completely out of control behavior.

    I have seen it over and over and over.

    Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

  7. SereneBabe October 9, 2008 at 5:33 pm #

    Did you hear the This American Life piece on the Children’s Zone in Harlem? Hugely touching, especially when talking with the parent participants of “baby college” where they talk about not hitting the little ones. Part One of this episode:


  1. The Hand That Flew « Holy Shit from Deacon Blue - July 18, 2008

    […] 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 […]

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