Dad, and corporal punishment

I wrote my father a very angry letter, expressing great disdain for his use of corporal punishment. As a result of my letter, dad stopped talking to me for about six months.

spankingOne of the issues the National Football League has been dealing with this month involves Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson [being] indicted for allegedly hitting his son with a switch [small tree branch] until he left open wounds and welts. Interesting to me that Charles Barkley, former National Basketball Association star defended the behavior as of the culture. But Cris Carter, Hall of Fame wide receiver who played primarily with the Vikings, passionately decried as something better left to an earlier time.

When we did something wrong, or perceived to be so, my father used this brown leather strap, the kind used to straighten and polish the blade of a straight razor. Worse, he made us retrieve from its location in the kitchen, lest the punishment be even worse. As I noted at length HERE, I NEVER thought it was justified, at least when it came to my behavior, and it codified my disdain for using it myself.

And though I disagree with it altogether, 10 or 15 blows, which Peterson is accused of inflicting on his four-year-old, goes well beyond the goal of having the child “learn a lesson” to uncontrolled rage on the part of the person meting out the punishment, IMNSHO.

Moreover, as the article suggests, I believe it creates a cycle of abusers and victims. The article quotes activist Renee Martin:

How is a girl to form healthy relationships, when those that claim to love her the most hit her. Is it not a possibility that she will equate this form of love, to violence that she may encounter later in life? What about boys? Does this violence not teach them that if they are dissatisfied with someone who is smaller, or physically weaker than them, that it is appropriate to hit them for their own good?

There was a period in my early twenties, when I wrote my father a very angry letter, expressing great disdain for his use of corporal punishment. From the article: “Think about how many adults who were hit as children can’t remember the trauma and fear they actually felt at the time but say that being hit was a ‘good’ for them because they’ve only held onto the rationalizations used to justify the violence against them;” that was not me. Then again, perhaps my spankings (except for the one cited when I was five) weren’t as bad as others experienced.

As a result of my letter, dad stopped talking to me for about six months. Finally, I couldn’t stand it, and I wrote him a nice letter, mentioning all the good stuff he had done. He started talking with me again, and we never discussed the incident.

I should own up to my single use of corporal punishment. I was watching the 13-month-old son of a friend of mine. He kept pulling the tail of the cat, and I thought the so-far patience of the feline might end, with him getting scratched. So I took his hand in mine, and with the index finger of the other hand, I tapped his hand, and said, “No.” He looked at me, more stunned than anything, and then started to wail for about three minutes. But soon he forgot about it, yet he left the cat alone.

My takeaway: it’s the rod, and not the sparing of it, that spoils the child.

I had something else, more pleasant, planned for the day before what would have been my father’s 88th birthday. Sometimes, the blog just will do what it will do.
Chuck Miller: Adrian Peterson, the switch, and his (finally) deactivation.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

7 thoughts on “Dad, and corporal punishment”

  1. I get the whole “the blog just will do what it will do.” When the Ray Rice video came out and everyone had their opinions about what Janay should do and what she was thinking, I had this incredible urge to throw in my opinion (rightly or wrongly I didn’t.)

  2. There’s a fine line between a sometimes necessary swat on the back side and abuse…which I think it where the Peterson case lies. It’s a fine line and one that requires control over our own feelings and a high level of discernment so it’s constructive and not destructive.

  3. If we must thrash people for their crimes against humanity, I can think of a whole lot of adults who are much more deserving than anyone’s kid.

  4. Both of my parents physically punished me in different ways, and the contrast gives me two different examples. My Dad would spank me occasionally if I’d done something very wrong, and he’d explain why he did so. I’m not saying I agree with that or would do the same, but I want to illustrate the difference from my Mom, who would just react and slap me when she got frustrated. The quote you pull from the article is basically me; I internalized the example that lashing out when you’re frustrated is normal, and I’ve always had a pretty short fuse. That’s a nice way of saying that, for some time, I had a pretty violent temper, which I didn’t start to address until the one time I hit my girlfriend (now wife) about 18 years ago. I did it without thinking, out of frustration and impatience, and immediately felt utterly horrible. So I now have a rather dim view of corporal punishment, because the line is so fine that it gets blurred too easily. I know my Mom is sorry about ever hitting me, but the effects of that still haven’t gone away; she learned it from her mother, and so on, and that played into my decision to never have a child, because I didn’t want to perpetuate a cycle of abuse.

  5. I hate parents who hit their children. It’s the easiest and most stupid way to do so as they are physically stronger than a child. It’s a leak of intelligence. My parents never hit me, maybe I have gotten a little slap, but I don’t even remember. Their education for me was based on explanations of what is wrong and what is right. When I had dropped something I hadn’t done it on purpose, so why should they hit me ? We raised our son without any corporal punishment and he became a good man. When once he had broken all the windows of a hut where workers used to change their clothes, I went with him to show him that now they were freezing because of the broken windows. He was so upset of what he had done, it was punishment enough !

  6. Yes, I HATED how Dad would keep the strap hanging up, the strap of 9 tails that he cut to make the whip more potent…and that if we delayed in retrieving it, it would result in more strikes from the belt…

    I am sorry for being the cause of you being on the receiving end when you were 5. I lied out of fear. He painted on the walls and pianos and I thought it was a good idea too. When he asked who drew on the walls, I couldn’t fess up right away and you were the only other culprit. So sorry about that.

    I was very proud of you for standing up to Dad in your letter, and I admire you for doing that. It took a lot of courage. The ramifications were real..he did not speak to you for about 6 months, and even though I would have liked to share my heart with him as well, I was not able to put myself on the receiving side of his silent treatment. In hindsight, perhaps if I did write to him as well, you and I could have been a united force and perhaps he would have taken note..but alas, hindsight is indeed 20-20. Nonetheless, I am so proud of you for standing up to him, for speaking your truth,for weathering his extended silent treatment, which was much longer than he usual silent treatments, and for extending the “olive branch” of peace. In spite of that, Dad would have been 88 years old today, and I love him and miss him more than ever. And today, I have the courage to share with him my heart, and I think he was developing into someone who could begin to receive it. That change started with you taking a stand, Roger, and again, I am so proud of you for doing so. Much love to you. Leslie

  7. The proverb, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” did not mean beat your kids. The rod is used to guide sheep – and sheep are very stupid, so sometimes there might be a bit of attitude in the guiding. The staff is, of course, to show where the lead human is, as well as to aid in climbing.

    I told my Fundamentalist sister, who used to MAKE HER KIDS TEAR A SWTICH OFF THE WILLOW TREE FOR THEIR OWN PUNISHMENT, “Have you ever seen a shepherd beat sheep? Did Jesus ever raise a hand and smack the shit out of his disciples or anyone else? Any WWJD Wrestling? NO.”

    I have a betterrelationship with nieces and nephews that they have with their mom…A

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