26
Jun
11

Back in the Day… When I was that age…

I have often heard this phrase: “Back in the day, when I was a kid…” and it usually follows with some form or shape of how I need to spank my kids to make them behave better. If I would just give T a good wallop on the behind, he’d behave better. He’d listen more. He’d pay attention to authority figures, by god! If only I had a penny for every time I heard that! I’d be a rich woman by now! I get it from teachers, friends, family, and strangers alike. I even get it from my husband.

 

He wrote this blog recently: Back in the Day (http://aviewfromthemountain.wordpress.com/views-from-the-mountain/back-in-the-day/) where he discussed this viral Facebook status:

 

“When I was a kid I didn’t have an xbox, wii, ps3, or cell phone. I had a bike and a curfew a.k.a the street lights. I lived outside, not inside. If I didn’t eat what my mom made then I didn’t eat. I didn’t dare tell my mom “no,” or talk back. Life wasn’t hard, it was life. And I survived! Repost if you drank water out the hose and hand sanitizer didn’t exist, but you COULD get your mouth washed out with soap.”

 

In my husband’s blog post, he took a trip down memory lane, sharing the details of an incident from his childhood. He then shared a similar incident with my son and compared the two. He wondered if my son would learn the lesson being taught without the benefit of corporal punishment for any length of time.

 

Yes, he did. It’s been months now and he has not played with matches. He has not asked to play with matches. Or even the lighter and candle. Heck, we can barely get him to ignite the burn barrel now. And he learned that lesson without the benefit of his hands being smacked or his butt being spanked.

 

Let me say this first off: I do not believe that spanking in general is physical abuse. That is certainly not what my husband was referring to either. We are talking about spankings and not beatings.  He mentioned that he had survived the way his parents raised him. Yep, I got spankings too growing up (a whole whopping 3 of them). But, since he brought up my beliefs against corporal punishment for children, not just those with autism but any child really and especially for those with autism, I thought I’d share WHY I believe that while back in the day parents spanked all the time does not mean we need to spank now.

 

We, well, not me and my husband per se, but some humans somewhere, build bridges. We build them so we can get from point A to point B when there is something else in the way. That could be another road, a river, a ditch… whatever.  There were bridges 200 years ago even. Maybe not in America yet (heh) but we had them elsewhere in the world. Could you imagine building a bridge today like that which was built 200 years ago? Why not? We use different techniques today to build bridges because we know more now about building bridges. We can make them stronger, hold more weight, and be resistant to natural forces such as earthquakes.

 

We build buildings too.  Big, hulking, skyscrapers.  We didn’t do that 200 years ago (I’m not sure when it started) but let’s just go back 54 years like my husband did. In that 54 years, we’ve learned how to build houses so they are more efficient energy wise, so they are resistant to burning down in a fire, so they can withstand hurricane force winds and tornados. We can build big, tall buildings that are resistant to earthquakes even. That’s something we did not have just 54 years ago. So, if what we used to do, and what has always been done, is good enough in the world of disciplining our children, why do we bother advancing in other areas?

 

My husband loves his computer. He has a degree for his knowledge of how to make applications systems. All kinds of systems! He can debug them too. His knowledge is amazing to me. He created a phonebook application on my computer with just typing at some keys and clicking of a mouse and viola! I had a purple address book on my computer. And a recipe database for all my recipes. ALL of them. That’s amazing! Little things like that are truly wondrous to me. But we didn’t have that capability 54 years ago.

 

We do things differently, and in some cases better, than we have done them in the past because we know better now. We now know how to discipline our children with punishments and rewards to create the desired behavior we want. The problem isn’t that I don’t spank T. The problem is that I’m not (and my husband is not) consistent with the discipline. I fully take blame for T’s behavior for the first 8 years with him as I was totally a permissive parent. I’d often look the other way and pretend I didn’t see a bad behavior because I couldn’t cope with the stress of being a parent on my own. I admit it. I feel guilt over it. That is why T acts the way he does now. Not because I didn’t spank him, but because I didn’t discipline him AT ALL.

 

I have found a technique that works with T and when I can remember to use it, it works. Jerry even admits it works. So, why can’t we seem to stick to it? Our own old habits get in the way. He wants to spank or yell like he did with his kids and like his parents did with him and so on back through the generations. I want to look the other way and pretend I didn’t see it because I’m tired. 

 

Also, with spanking, we’re hitting our kids in an erogenous zone there on the buttocks. Their brains are still wiring themselves and forming synapses and connections. There have been studies showing a link between being spanked and forming “sexually deviant desires” known as bondage and discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM). Of course, some will argue that those are sexually deviant matters or preferences. And some will argue that they were not spanked and still have those fetishes.  But what’s true for the majority does not have to be true for all: there will be exceptions to every “rule.”

 

And, as my husband did mention in his post, T would not connect the dots between his behavior and his receiving a punishment. We’re still working on that. I wonder if it has more to do with the bipolar disorder than the autism, but whatever the cause, he equates the punishment with the person giving it and not the behavior he’s being punished for. So while my dear husband may say he did not fear his parents, I know T fears him.

 

We want our children not to pick up the message “Oh, when Mommy or Daddy gets mad at me, they hit me.” We want them to get the message that “When I make a bad behavior choice, I get a bad consequence I don’t like.” We do not need corporal punishment to send that message. It brings to mind an episode of SuperNanny that I saw. This poor woman had 7 children within 8 years. She was stressed beyond belief and she constantly spanked (really, swatted) her children’s bums, and yelled almost constantly. I was hard pressed to find a time, in the beginning, when she talked to her kids in a normal tone of voice. I am not judging her, just stating what I saw. Once SuperNanny, Jo Frost, got the mom to agree to try something new (don’t get me wrong, I don’t like time outs either)… we saw the mom getting very frustrated as her daughter pushed her buttons. Her daughter was TRYING to get her mother to spank her because she wanted to prove that her mother hadn’t changed, wasn’t going to change. There was a moment where mom was yelling, at the top of her lungs, at this child, in her face. It was quite disturbing to watch. Jo pulled her away, grabbed mom by the shoulders and began speaking to her, asking her how was she feeling, what did she want to do, etc. The mom said she wanted to spank her daughter. Jo asked why, and Mom said “Because I’m mad!”… Jo pointed out that mom only wanted to spank her child to relieve her own frustrations and it was not about teaching the child the lesson at hand. Quite an impact on a person when it’s shown so clearly like that.

 

I realize that not every parent who spanks does so to relieve their own frustration and tension. For some, a rare few, it is all about the teaching of a lesson. But for most?  It *is* about the anger the parent is feeling because their child dares to do something they, the parents, do not like.  And in the end, kids DO fear their parents and not the punishment. It’s not “oh man, I just did XYZ and I’m gonna get it now!” No, it becomes “Oh man, this is gonna tick off Dad and Mom! They’re going to be so mad at me!”.. and what we really want, if we’re using aversive tools to try and teach correct behavior, is fear of the punishment, not the punisher.  I believe there are far more effective techniques that parents and doctors and other people have learned over the last 54 years about human behavior and child development that we no longer need to do what we did “back in the day.”  Jerry and I just need to parent our children consistently and make a plan of discipline we both can agree on and make sure we both follow through with THAT plan so we do not resort to past habits.

 

Now, as for the rest of the post, I can genuinely agree with him. I miss those days from my childhood, just 20 years ago, when we spent more time outdoors than in, when we came home when the street lights came on, when we drank from the hose, when we built forts in the woods behind our houses and camped out in them, when we could go trick or treating age seven with our pals, when we could ride our bikes around the neighborhoods, and so on. There are so many things kids are not allowed to do any more for their “Safety” (and some of that is not so bad), but it has taken a toll on the way society lives now. We are less free to be than we have ever been before. And it is not because we do not spank our children anymore. If anything, it’s because kids who were spanked more are now grown and out there in the world practicing sexually deviant behaviors on children. (Okay, so that is a bit of an extremist view there! And not sure I really believe that but it seems logical to me).

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4 Responses to “Back in the Day… When I was that age…”


  1. June 26, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    That was an interesting perspective, and you used some points that are ‘new’ to our ongoing discussion. I honestly think your view gained credibility in my mind (NOT that I discount your opinion, *ever*).

    I would like to make one rebuttal, though. Do you think that *everything* that is “new” is also better? Try to tell that to the people who rejected the “New Coke”, or the Edsel, or those who want to privatize Medicare/Medicaide…

    I repeat, too, that I did NOT fear my father. I feared his punishment. There IS a difference.

    I love you!
    Jerry

    • June 26, 2011 at 11:32 pm

      I love you, too, more, dear hubby 🙂

      I know you never discounted my opinion, you just didn’t agree with it necessarily.

      No, I did not say that just because something is new makes it better. I said when we LEARN something new AND better, we should use it. As in the case of “New Coke”.. we learned something new. But not new AND better… so we learned from THAT and went back to the original formula. And what’s an Edsel? *giggles*

  2. July 14, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    First off I would like to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do
    not mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing.
    I’ve had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.
    I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted just
    trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips?
    Kudos!

    • July 25, 2014 at 1:29 am

      That is quite common for all writers. The trick is to just start writing. Just start typing whatever comes to mind. That is because you will find yourself finally finding your point, usually a lot quicker than just staring at a blank page. You go back and edit anyway and can chop off the loose rambles later once you’re done.


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