Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Spank you very much.

       OK,  I'll admit right up front, that I spank my kids.  Going back to the old stand-by that if it was good enough for me, it's good enough for them, I used this as a tool to discipline all 3 of our children.  I learned to spank from my father, and as a kid, I never confused discipline with hatred,  nor did I ever think that my Dad didn't love me because I earned a spanking. It was simply a cause and effect kind of thing, you did wrong, you expected a punishment.  There are few topics though,  that draw such strong emotional responses from people, as whether it is "right" or "wrong" to spank your children.  I can only give you my thoughts, from my own personal experiences, and then let you decide what works best for you.....

     I don't remember my first spanking, but I do remember a time where I got spanked a lot.  When I was 7 or 8, I lived in the same bedroom as 3 of my brothers, Redface, Aquaman, and Ace.  Each night we would go to bed and we were supposed to go right to sleep, but each night we found this an seemingly impossible task to accomplish.  It would start with someone
Not actually us, but you get the picture....
whispering "Are you still awake?", and with an affirmative response, a conversation would ensue.  Inevitably there would be an argument about some current topic, who would win if Batman and Superman got in a fight (Superman, of course), or who the best Yankee was (Bucky Dent, of course), and our whispers would soon become a chorus of loud "Un-Uhs" and "Uh-Huhs, sometimes escalating to a full blown pillow fight, until the call came bellowing from downstairs to come down right now!  We were in for it, we had riled the Bear.  It was only years later, when I became a parent that I realized how precious those few hours or hour are, where your kids are in bed before you and you can not be a parent for a short time.  My dad worked 2-3 jobs at any given time. He had even less free time than most, so he did not like it when we misbehaved; therefore we were spanked if we did.  So the call would come, and we would fight for who was going to go down the stairs first.  In general the best position was the back, because sometimes Dad would spank only 2 of us, and then say "Let that be a lesson to the rest of you.." Score ! No spanking that night.
A pretty fair representation of what Dad used.

On other nights though, he might start spanking with his hand, and then halfway through call for the paddle.  The paddle I remember most was called "The Board of Education" and it hung on a hook in full view in the kitchen as a constant and visible reminder for us to tow the line.  It was about 20" long, 6" wide and 3/4" thick, and I never met the man who had a harder hand, than that Board, not even my Dad.  That was a bad time to be the last spanked, but for me, not as bad as the days he used his belt.  Occasionally the Board would be broken or come up "missing" so Dad would fold his belt over and use it like a strap.   That hurt the worst I thought, but even on those nights, I didn't feel the "burn" for more than 15 minutes after the punishment was doled out, and in fact, on a rare night, we'd start back up again, and get called down twice.  Those nights the argument would be on whose fault is was that we got spanked, with accusations flying back and forth until ironically we'd get spanked again and make the first argument immediately moot.  We were not bright kids sometimes.  Eventually Dad remodeled the house, added more bedrooms, and split us four boys up, but in that year or two, the spankings flew fast and furious.

     Another odd tradition in the Yarger household and apparently in a lot of  North American households, was the practice of giving "Birthday Spankings".  You'd have your birthday dinner, that you got to pick the menu for (I'd pick Shake n Bake Pork Chops each year), and before you got to open presents, you had to take your Birthday Spankings.  I'm not sure how such a tradition could have started, but it goes back a couple of hundred years, some say it is based on your first spanking by the doctor when you are born, you get one then, then 2 the next year and so on.
MMM, Shake and Bake Pork Chops
Maybe the point was to show how playful spankings could be, or to build character, kind of an extension of the "Pinch to grow an Inch" theory, but nevertheless, no presents could be opened unless you got your Spankings (Unless you were my sister Tear-y). Dad would push back his chair, signaling it was time for you to lay over his lap, and you'd glance at the pile of presents, and at his outstretched hand and eventually take the flying leap to land ass up, ready for your comeuppance. Dad would ask your age to presumably determine the number of swats you got, but I never knew a single sibling that got that prescribed amount.  Dad would "lose count" halfway through and restart or ask you a numerical question and restart at the point of your answer, and of course there were the extra spankings at the end with good wishes attached like "And one to grow on"  That one seemed not to work for me, cause as often as I got Birthday Spankings, I never grew taller than 5' 6.5".  The one for good health seemed to have worked though.  I started this tradition in my house and carried it through for a few years until my wife labeled it "Barbaric" and threatened to stop another North American tradition,  the one where husbands and wives sleep in same bed.  Char 1, Birthday Spankings 0. 

     If there is an adage that I don't understand, it's the one about "Never spank your kids in anger".  To me it always seemed infinitely more cruel to wake them several hours later to spank them, than to deliver the punishment swiftly after the egregious behavior.

I'm guessing it's about being in control when you spank your kids to make sure you don't deliver too severe of a punishment, but if their bad behavior doesn't make you angry, your a better man than I am. We used additional parenting tools to spanking too, like time out and "Go to your room", losing privileges, and positive incentives (bribes), but I always liked to have the Spanking option in the tool belt.   I used it less with each kid, as we got better at parenting and learned what we could live with.  I likely mis-spanked a time or two, but I'm OK with that also (Maybe Molly isn't she still thinks life is fair).  I didn't appreciate it when it happened to me, I distinctly remember getting spanked in a whole line of my siblings one time, until someone else admitted to a dastardly deed.  I thought of how unfair it was, but later as a parent, I realized you don't get it right all the time, and there is a lesson in it either way.  I spanked Molly one night for pushing her younger brother out of a bunkbed, which was very dangerous, and she insists to this day that she was set up.  She may have not deserved the punishment, but she likely learned the ramifications of making false accusations against another, and her brother the accuser did too.  No Molly, it was not fair, but you do the best you can, it's called parenting, not perfecting for a reason.

     I should close the blog now, and I suspect this one will draw some comments both positive and negative concerning the practice of spanking, and it should.  We should always seek to improve, but that doesn't mean we have to throw out time tested methods to do it. I've seen many anecdotal examples of "Spare the Rod, spoil the Child" but I've also seen evidence of child abuse that made me consider never striking a child again.  Two defining moments as a parent, set my view firmly in place.

Once after spanking Nolan for a transgression, he left the room and came back with his blanket and snuggled up with me.  I was dumbfounded and moved immediately to tears.  As young as he was, 5 or 6 at the time, he could separate my job as the disciplinarian and my job as his parent who loved him unconditionally, and within a minute of the incident.  Clearly at that time, I had the balance right (Sorry Molly and Danny).  My friend Tor would undoubtedly make a comparison to God if he read this, so this time, I'll save him the trouble.  I like to think of God as a mixture of the fiery Old Testament God, punishing the wicked swiftly and creatively too (How about that locust thing, or the pillar of Salt?), mixed equally with the forgiving God who would and did, sacrifice himself for us.  I aspire to be that kind of parent, but I am a work in progress.  The second incident happened a few months ago as I took my son Dan to a poker game (What?  I just admitted that I was a work in progress, give me a break).  During the game a friend of mine, who was abused as a child but wouldn't admit it to my son at the time, baited him with the questions "Does your Dad still beat you? and "You won't beat your kids, will you Dan?"  His reply came promptly and succinctly as he simply stated, "You know Mr. T, I'm smart enough not to remove what might be a useful parenting tool, before I learn what the job is about"  That boy is polite, and smart, probably because I spanked him. 


Melli said...

I agree that it can be a useful tool to have and while my ex and I were still together it was one that was in active use. After we split however and I effectively became a single mom I found I didn't really have the stomach for it. I remember the last time I utilized that tool....it brought me to tears even though it barely phased him. Luckily my kids are so well behaved it rarely takes more than the "mommy look" to bring them in line. I never told them That it's off the table so who knows as they get older it may be re-visited, but for now...I see the value but not in my home :) great post!

cuzdee said...

Bill I've said it to you before but now I'll say it publicly I used to criticize your parenting skills all the time, but after being a parent myself I know you've done a fantastic job with you kids they are all well adjusted and polite and honest kids and I hope I can do have the job you and Char have done!!

Paul said...

Dad used to work 3-11 in Palmyra, then head home. If you got into it at 9:30 and mom called you down, you had to sit in the living room and "wait until your father got home". Often times the wait was worse than the whuppin.

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