Re: This Will Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You.

Like many black people, I grew up grinning at punchlines from black comedians about how creatively they beat their kids. I also grew up with a mom who, like many black moms, kept a mean set of belts hanging on the wall beside her bedroom closet.

I basically understand Alisa’s point here:

In urban environments where there were high stakes for lack of parental control and misbehavior this effect was particularly strong. The possibility of children getting lured into criminal behaviors such as theft or drug dealing or simply the greater dangers posed by them being in the street rather than in the house made it necessary to go to greater lengths make them comply with their parents.

…but I can’t really agree that it holds as a reasonable motive. Knowing my own mom, I understand that it probably explains why she whopped me — I was going to impress a college admissions board one day, whether I liked it or not! — but I knew plenty of kids in my (slightly) younger days whose parents whopped them worse despite their apparent disregard for their kids’ misdeeds in any other form. I’m talking about the parents who hit their kids but never bothered to show up for the parent-teacher conferences.

I’ve just never been comfortable with how much we boast on beating our kids. It’s not like young black boys are generally and especially well-adjusted as a result. I don’t say that as collective self-deprecation; I mean that the parents who brag the loudest about hitting their kids never seem to raise the most inspired children.

Again, I’m sure — from my own childhood, at least — that plenty of black parents beat their kids to snatch them back from the precipice, but some parents hit their kids when their kids get in their way and then apparently ignore them otherwise.  The belt, for some, is tough-love policing, but for some I think it’s pathology.

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  • Indeed, like yourself I got my ass whopped when I was a kid and for me it turned out to be my first lesson in hypocrisy. I would get in trouble for fighting because, “violence is the tool of the ignorant.” Then my folks would turn around whip my ass for some transgression with the paper-thin rationalization that spanking your children wasn’t violence, it was a corrective technique or some such bullshit. Although to be fair, my folks were always first in line for parent-teacher conferences and were pretty good parents in most other ways.

    I have two kids of my own now and I’m not going to hit them, I just don’t feel that it’s necessary. Whenever I’ve felt like corporeal punishment might be appropriate, it’s always been when I’m in a state of extreme anger or frustration with my child’s behavior and I know that’s no good.

  • Alisa

    Hey R.A.B, thanks for the thoughtful reply.I think what I was trying to get at is there’s a range of narratives, perceptions and feelings that parents and children form around the issue of physical punishment and that affects whether we view it as traumatic or not. I didn’t intend anything I wrote as a defense of spanking – it was just a personal perspective. Also as quad said in her comment on my original post we have to look at all this as things our parents did nearly 30 years ago. Things have most-assuredly changed since then. For myself, I’m not comfortable with the idea of hitting a child above the size and age at which they can be reasoned with and if I’m honest with myself the only reason I am okay with the spanking I *did* get was the heavy amount of discussion and attempts to talk to me that came with them. There is only one time I recall being hit in what was anger or annoyance and it was one of the last times I was spanked for anything. I was an older child by then too.

    I agree with you about the phenomenon of people who are quick to tell you how often they beat their kids. I didn’t want to glorify any of that. It’s so touchy. Perhaps this is why at the end of the day the best premise is “don’t hit” because for every parent who tries to be thoughtful and reflective about it there are 10 who are just throwing their weight around and going upside their child’s head without doing any other kind of parenting.