Sounds simple, yet so few people actually try to do this.
The real family cycle
Parenting lost in translation
By Ivy Jacobs
JUST ASK ME
Born in 1964, I grew up in a traditional family of adults who took the time to ensure I would know the Golden Rules, common sense and the expectations of the world around me.
I know what corporal punishment -- spankings -- are first hand, and I’ve been yelled at when I was a kid, teenager and a few times as an adult.
One of my first memories is, “Don’t touch, these are NEVER EVER toys. These guns can hurt you, your family, friends and the people around you. Guns can kill if you don’t know what you are doing.”
Admittedly, it probably wasn’t that entire speech while I was a curious toddler. Honestly, if I touched one, someone in my family would have surely smacked my hand and said “NO,” immediately. If I did it again, well I got a verbal punishment and a firm swat on my diaper covered bottom. The standard of behavior was made very clear with an equal loving amount of education, patience, punishment, and forgiveness.
As many readers gulp down that gasp of horror over what can be perceived by many as child abuse: Please stop.
That was the reality of parenting a child 50 years ago. The responsible parents of that time didn’t wait until a child was old enough to understand right from wrong, that was considered too late, it started before curiosity and walking became skills.
You need to understand that childhood was different in ancient times.
Children, and parents, weren’t running around all over the place to do dozens of out-of-school activities a week. Not many households had both parents working, so an adult was home most of the time. We weren’t living on fast food and ready-made meals from grocery stores while in the car or taken out of microwaves and eaten alone somewhere in the house. There wasn’t the technology to entertain us 24-hours a day; like cable television, video games, computers, and the Internet do now. We saw and talked with our parents every day as they helped us with homework or ate dinner together. Children played outside, often until dark, and knew everyone in the neighborhood. There was respect for adults, teachers, doctors, law enforcement, firefighters and among each other.
As a kid, there was no hiding from getting into trouble. If you broke a window on the other side of town, your parents knew before you got home on your bike.
The party-line phone was for “emergencies only,” hung on the wall in the living room and my parents and none of my friends had one in their bedroom. There were three local channels to watch on the television in the living rooms of most homes, which were a focal point for families. We didn’t even get a color television in our family until I was maybe 9- or 10-years old. My dad said it was “a fad that would ultimately ruin people’s eyes and minds.” He bought one with a May tax check for my mother a few months after she watched The Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day, and she drove him nuts about it.
Think about this, packaging and selling frozen foods had been around since the late 1920s. Televisions were conceptualized in the late 1890s and also made available for public purchase starting in the late 1920s. By the 1940s both television sets and complete frozen dinners were being mass marketed. The two became forever entwined when Swanson frozen dinners launched a massive advertising campaign, coining the iconic phrase “TV Dinner.” After WWII, the lure of time-saving modern appliances and the growing fascination with television answered two post-war trends: Busy lifestyles and the family eating dinner in front of the television. I won’t even talk about TV trays!
By the 1970s some adults were horrified that children watched television programs totaling 2-3 hours a day. Now, technology is available 24-hours-a-day, with toddlers able to use their parents’ smartphones with more ease than the adults in their lives.
According to which study you look at, children up to age 8 are involved with some type of technology at least 3 hours; and for many children it can be more than 8 hours a day, with teenagers estimated on the side of 9-12 hours of their day on cell phones, computers, and video games, and some statistical studies have even higher numbers.
In our house, both watching television and TV dinners were a treat. At 5-5:30 p.m., we ate dinner at the table and then our parents ruled the television stations starting at 6 p.m. when the news came on. Our only time to watch cartoons, our shows, was after homework and household chores were completed correctly (usually around 4 p.m.) and the adult turned on the TV. (NOTE: You learned how to hand-wash dishes, dry and put them away right the first time when you missed watching Cowboy Bob to do them all over again a couple of times. Especially when your sibling couldn’t watch TV either because of the mistake!)
See, my parents and family adults could dole out punishment without physical violence too. The best way to handle getting into trouble at our house, as a kid, was as simple as telling the truth. The punishment was dictated by whether you lied about or tried to hide something. Many times, telling the truth meant no punishment at all, just a timeout in the bedroom.
Actually, I had an easy childhood when it came to being punished. Don’t get me wrong, I was far from being a “good girl.” There are stories out there, and I don’t come off as the good child in them, but the adults in my family took parenting serious and started early in my childhood to teach me right from wrong.
If I hadn’t learned “the lessons” and kept violating the rules of our family during my early school years I would get a small spanking, maybe with a small paddle, of three to five swats over my clothes, and the removal of a privilege was punishment.
During my preteen years, age 10-12, the punishment was intensified. Being older, capable of reasoning and rationalizing situations on my own, I was considered responsible and thus there was the interrogation of the facts, then my reasoning for the crime I committed followed quickly with an explanation of why and what my punishment would be, then the execution of the sentence.
There was, and is, a difference between using corporal punishment to enforce punishment as a loving parent, not that of beating a child (or hitting anyone out of frustration or anger) into submission.
After every time I was punished, my family would sit down with me and talk about the “why” it happened. Not just their’s, but mine too, and every time the conversation ended with a real, heartfelt “I love you.”
Ultimately, there was a myriad of options for the adults in my family to choose from when it came to “getting the point into your thick skull.”
Entering my teens I knew the rules, but there’s something about budding hormones and rebellion that creates chaos. That’s when the yelling started, often by me, and the guilt trips, often by me too, that made for hostile living conditions from time to time in our home.
Yet, I’m proud to say, there was only one time my punishment became truly physical. I spewed forth hateful, condemnation -- so vile that no words can really take back -- out of my mouth for no real reason and my frustrated mother slapped me across the face. I stood there astonished, silent, not sure what to do at that moment. I watched tears run down her face as she stood, silently shaking in fear of what we both had done. WE both crossed the boundary of our relationship and violated each other’s trust and respect.
Even now, after so much time has elapsed, I admit tears well up in my eyes as I write this.
There are a few moments in life that, if given the chance, I’d go back in time and change or at least experience one more time, to try and make right. That is one of mine. Although we hugged, made our apologies to each other and never allowed that to happen again; I vowed to never do that to my child when I became a mother.
The sad truth is I did do it. Almost the exact same events occurred between my teenage daughter and myself, and I immediately fell to my knees crying and begging for her forgiveness. By that time my mother had passed away, and I was left alone to realize what had happened. There was no one to call and ask: “What do I do now?”
Since the tragedy of school shootings started all those years ago, I imagine most of the families of the shooters have done hours upon hours of introspection, trying to figure out what went so horribly wrong while parenting their child.
There are those who judge the families, and ask “Why wasn’t this kid taught right from wrong, or punished to understand right from wrong?”
Crude remarks appear on social media like, “Who didn’t beat this kid’s *bottom?”
The controversy and debate within the child development and psychological communities will always rage against the wind because they can’t agree or determine what is a “normal” amount of corporal punishment, which child-mediated processes are activated, and, in turn, which outcomes may be realized through the use of. Parents will also always be divided due to the taboo society attributes to the acts considered abnormal primal acts of aggression.
The reality of corporal punishment itself is it is different according to the way and how frequently parents use it, with what force it is administered, how emotionally frustrated/aroused when they do it and whether they combine it with less violent techniques and/or communication that reinforces a child’s self-esteem to learn from the mistake.
I don’t pretend to have the answers. No one should do that because the issue is too complex.
Many turn to the most famous words ever written regarding punishing children: The modern-day version of Proverbs 13:24 most often interpreted into something to like: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” However, according to which version of the Bible you read, it actually reads something like: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”
Bear in mind the book of Proverbs is one of the most poetic and beautiful tomes of the Bible, and it centers on creating a culture of accountability among families, society, nations and ultimately religions. It basically is a book of poetry that teaches the reader how to live and be a good example in the world, to be accountable.
When you consider the original Hebrew word “shebet” has been converted to “rod” in the many revised, and differently interpreted versions of the Bible; the meaning of the verse could be and mean something entirely different. Ever heard of lost in translation? Well, I put forth the theory that maybe it has happened throughout history.
The word shebet was used to describe many things -- including a stick for walking, writing/drawing/measuring, fighting, ruling, and even punishment -- but it is most frequently used to refer to the staff used by shepherds while tending their flocks. The stick/ staff was used to fight off prey attacking the flock and to gently guide wandering sheep while grazing, but never to beat them. The staff was used to rule over, protect and to help make sure the flock was accountable.
With that knowledge, maybe it’s time to contemporize Proverbs 13:24 again: “He who spares accountability hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”
That doesn’t remove corporal punishment from a parent’s arsenal of ways to punish a child for corrective behavior.
One child might respond to a harsh vocal reprimand, another being forced to sit in a corner, not watch TV or play video games could be the answer, while a swat on the backside might be needed for a strong-willed child who just doesn’t listen could be an answer. However, no punishment of any kind should be administered without a parent reminding a child of the lesson they need to learn and heed while making sure they know without a doubt they are loved and valued.
Sadly, I was a child that needed my attention to be acquired through a spanking at least a dozen times in my life, and there are others like me. I gave birth to two kids that also needed a swat or two along the way to adulthood when their inherited rebellious natures reared their ugly heads.
My adorable grandson has also shown more spirit than a 6-year old should have a time or two, and he got a swat. But his tears, much like mine and those of my children, were wiped away while talking about the whats, whys, hows, and reasons behind what happened.
The only thing different about the continuing cycle of corporate punishment in our family is we’ve included lots of hugs, kisses and positive reinforcements that will help him grow to be a stronger, positive and more responsible person in the future. There’s also a pudding cup or a banana along with some serious Lego time together, which creates family bonding.