I have read a few people’s blogs over the past week or so that mention child abuse. Two acknowledged that what they experienced was physical abuse, but, if I recall, there was one who made light of the abuse done to themselves. I wish I had saved the blogs because I’m a little fuzzy on the details. I believe the person was saying something along the lines of what they experienced not being abuse because of the instrument of choice. This person thought what they were beaten with wasn’t serious enough of a weapon, so they didn’t see it as abuse.
That got me thinking about my childhood, and the physical manner in which my siblings and I were punished. I remember being chased with fly swatters (Don’t be fooled – those things HURT), yard sticks, and a red metal spoon, which was my mother’s favorite weapon. She claims the spoon wasn’t metal, even though it left oval-shaped welts on my legs. I suppose it couldn’t have been metal since she broke it when she was using it on my brother. She went through a lot of yardsticks and other big kitchen spoons that way, too.
My mother would claim she was doing nothing wrong and justify her actions by telling us horror stories of how her father would use a thick leather belt and whip her and her siblings. I say abuse is abuse, no matter what weapon you prefer.
I’m not against spanking children. I think it can be very effective, if done correctly. I don’t think it should be done with an instrument other than one’s hand, and I don’t think it should ever be done in anger. When I was in high school, I was friends with a married couple who had three small boys at the time. Whenever the boys needed to be disciplined, one of the parents would tell the boy to go to his room so the parent would have time to let go of any anger they felt. When the parent was sufficiently calm, they would talk to the boy, explain why it was necessary to spank him, tell him they loved him, and then spank him twice on the bottom with their hand.
My mother may disagree with my memory of the physical discipline she administered, but I would have to point to the picture I drew in school in first grade as proof. I drew a picture of one of my parents standing at the bottom of the stairs with their mouth open and angry words coming out (yelling). The other parent was standing near me, holding what looked like a long thick stick. It was actually supposed to be the paddle that my paternal grandfather gave my father on his wedding day. I know, I know. I come from great stock. Anyway, I got in a LOT of trouble for drawing that picture, even though at the time I had no idea I had done anything wrong. We had been asked to draw a picture of our family. That is what I drew. I would say there are significant problems if a six-year old child draws a picture of one parent yelling and the other parent coming after them with a paddle when asked to illustrate their family.