This post is a continuing series of spanking survey questions about my childhood. This one drained me emotionally to write, so it’s taken longer to get on paper since I could only handle a little at a time. Previous parts of the survey are here: one, two, three, four, five.
Did you hear spanking threats? Yes, as a child and as an adult. I probably heard them far more often as a child than I actually remember. What’s below are just the ones I can recall because they were memorable for various reasons.
One day I was at a neighbor’s house for lunch. We were probably both about five. His mother was one of the only ones in the neighborhood who worked outside of the home, so he and his sister had a nanny. She was a grandmother type, though she always seemed crabby to me. I forget what he did or said, but she picked up a wooden spoon and started to threaten him. He didn’t get the spanking, but I am certain she spanked him with the spoon on many other occasions!
Another time I was over at a friend’s house. We were both around 6 or 7. I have no recollection of what transpired before the threat, but her father was sitting in a recliner and we were sitting on the floor in the family room about 10 feet away. Her dad said, “Sally, drop your pants.” She just giggled hysterically. I was sitting there in shock, worried about what was going to happen. He repeated his command for her to drop her pants again, and she just laughed again. Nothing else ended up happening at that time. I don’t know if this was code or what.
As an adult, I heard several, too. One that stands out was a two year old niece talking about spanking and her parents trying to stop her from talking about it since they knew it was not a parenting technique that was widely accepted by that point in the 1990s. When we were out at dinner once with the same niece, she was fidgeting a bit. It was taking forever (like over an hour) before our food arrived, and all things considered, she was behaving amazingly well. However, her mother still gave her a very stern and angry threat of, “Do you want to go out to the car with me?” Clearly this was an experience that our niece had already had as she quickly shook her head no and became perfectly still.
Another time we were having a party with a lot of friends and their kids over. It was time to go and the one young boy of about three was refusing to put on his shoes to leave. His father threatened him, “Do you want a spanking?” I was horrified. I didn’t know then and am still not sure now how to have told him, “I am not ok with you spanking your child in my house.”
In my twenties, I worked for several years teaching students who were 11-15. This was in a small town in Texas where belts are still commonly used to discipline kids in this age group, especially in certain communities. It isn’t considered shameful at all: Parent proudly boasted about taking belts to their kids. No one within the communities is going to disagree because they all do the same to their kids. Over my years of teaching, I heard many threats to students from their parents. These are some of the more memorable ones.
I had one student whose behavior was out of control; she was acting out for other teachers as well but was particularly acting out in my class because of some boys she was flirting with. She was going to end up unintentionally pregnant at the rate she was going given the norms of that community. I called her aunt who was her guardian, and we set up a meeting the next day with her aunt, her, me, and a few other teachers. During the meeting, the aunt announced, “I whipped her butt good with my belt last night. Real good. I let her have it.” The student’s eyes filled with tears both from embarrassment and from the memory of the beating, I’m sure.
Another year, we had a male student who was acting like a little monster. All of his teachers had had it with him. One of the other teachers called his mother in for a conference. She was shocked and infuriated by his behavior. She had no idea he was acting like that at school. She started chewing him out in front of the teachers including saying, “I am so mad at you. If I had known this conference was going to be this bad, I would have brought my belt and whipped you with your teachers watching. I am furious.” I have no doubt she would have. I am also sure he got it when he got home. For the rest of the year, he was a complete angel for all of us.
Because the community I taught in was so small, there were a lot of interconnections between students and staff. One of the regular substitute teachers was good friends with the father one of the students we had trouble with on a regular basis. The one day I was near the substitute teacher when he was telling the troublesome student, “Your father would have no problem with me taking a belt to your backside. If you don’t knock it off, I’m going to take you in that office and give it to you good.” Again, I am sure he would have followed through on that promise. Even though it was technically against district policy for staff to use corporal punishment, I am sure no one would have complained.
One year, I had a student who was hearing but had two deaf parents. They came to “Back to School Night” with an ASL interpreter. Because of the communication difficulties between us, I had not spoken with them previously. I told them through the interpreter that their son was being uncooperative during class. Despite not understanding ASL, I had no problem telling that the father turned to the son and gave him a very angry lecture. His head hung in shame and tears started. I would not be surprised if he got the belt when they got home.
One of the most disturbing conversations I had as a teacher involved other teachers condoning abuse of one of the students. There was a female student who started harassing me in the hallway in between classes, calling me names and being rude and insolent. Yes, I was a teacher and yet she decided to start bullying me. She was not in any of my classes—she just decided to be rude for fun. When I told another teacher what happened, she told me, “Call her Daddy. He will beat her. Let him. Don’t call CPS. She deserves it.” I agree that the girl deserved consequences for what she was doing, but I don’t think the other teacher could understand that the abuse she was receiving at home was likely why she was bullying others as she misdirected her anger about her abuse. No child, no matter how rude or obnoxious, “deserves” to be abused.
Did you witness any others being spanked? Yes. Some of the following stories are hearing others be spanked rather than actually seeing.
There was of course my younger brother. I only have memories of him being spanked three times, though I am certain there were more. One was when he and I were little and were spanked together by our mother. Another time was when he was about 10 and got into a fight with my mother which he very much lost. The third was when he was in middle school, and it was outright abuse involving hitting and kicking by my father.
I also witnessed my mom hitting our dogs. One incident in particular stand out in my mind. My mother had a bad day, and the one dog got into the trash which she had left in a place easily accessible to the dog with tempting morsels (to a dog) in the trash. My mother beat the crap out of the dog. It was not ok. It was not disciplinary. It was abuse. That incident was one of the ones which helped give me perspective on how my parents abused me rather than disciplined me. Because I wasn’t the one being hit, I could tell how long and how hard she hit the dog. She was out of control.
There was an incident when I was about 6 when I witnessed a neighbor get spanked. She was a year older than me, but we played together in the summers due to a lack of other girls on our street. She didn’t play with me during the school year, though, because she considered herself older than me and therefore not willing to play with someone who was “so young.” Anyway, during this incident, her mother came storming into the kitchen and began slapping her daughter, followed by her pulling down her daughter’s pants and underwear; she was spanking her daughter with her hand while seated with her daughter over her knee. She was violently hitting her daughter out of anger. I don’t even remember what the friend had done to merit this treatment in her mother’s mind, but it was nothing we were doing at the time. The spanking just happened out of nowhere. I literally couldn’t watch because it was so terrifying for me. Once her mother pulled down her pants, I turned so I couldn’t see what was going on. I just stood there, frozen, until it was over. Once her mother stood her up, she told my friend, “Take your friend to the door and say goodbye.” I still don’t understand why she couldn’t have sent me home before spanking her daughter. Clearly she was too angry to give her daughter that dignity. As my crying friend walked me to the front door, I wasn’t sure what to do or say, so I told her, “I didn’t watch.” Between her tears, she said, “Thanks.” We never mentioned the incident again.
I semi-witnessed another cousin being spanked several times when we were growing up. Honestly, I was not and am not a fan of this particular cousin. I always thought he was a sniveling brat. He was an only child who acted like an only child—unable to play nicely with others except when he got his way. He was a few years younger than me, closer in age to my brother than me. The two of them would often play together leaving me out of their games which didn’t contribute positively toward my feelings for either of them. Anyway, the first spanking was on Christmas Eve at our grandparents when my cousin was about 3 or 4. My cousin was being a whiny brat, tantruming about everything. My uncle finally ran out of patience, scooped up my cousin, and took him out to the car. For some reason I asked my dad, “What’s going to happen to him?” My father very angrily said, “Exactly what would happen to you if you were acting like that.” Clearly my cousin’s behavior had made my father angry, too. I decided it would be a good time to make myself scarce given how angry my father was about his nephew’s behavior. Ten or fifteen minutes later, my uncle brought back in a sniffing, red-faced cousin who was much more subdued for the rest of the evening.
The other time I remember that cousin being spanked is much more hazy. I am fairly sure it was his father (my uncle) who did the spanking again though I know his mother did also spank. I can’t remember if we were upstairs in his room at his house or if we were downstairs in the playroom, but his father took him to the opposite place from where we were and spanked him because he wasn’t getting along with any of the other cousins who were there at the gathering.
I had another cousin on the same side of the family who was spanked by her parents, too. I indirectly witnessed one of the spankings and heard in detail about another. She was also an only child because her parents married late in life. My cousin was much younger than me as a result, so I ended up doing a lot of free babysitting for them when I was in high school. I had actually thought my aunt was anti-spanking based on one conversation we had wherein she told me spanking was not a good discipline method but people in our nation still used it. Surprisingly to me, I witnessed her giving one of those spankings to my cousin. I had come over after school to eat dinner with them before my aunt and uncle went out for the evening. My 5 year old cousin wanted an apple an hour before dinner. She was capable of getting the apple, washing it, and eating it on her own. Her mother refused because she was going to “ruin her dinner.” I’ve never understood this argument. If a growing child is hungry and wants a truly nutritious snack, let the child eat it. It’s not ruining dinner. It’s supplementing it. However, my aunt was overtired from work and got tired of my cousin whining about how she was hungry, so my aunt began a very violent spanking of my cousin while escorting my cousin up to her room to stay until dinner time. I was very shocked by the whole incident.
The other incident with that cousin also occurred when she was five, a few months after the previous spanking. I was at her family’s house for dinner again, and my aunt and uncle began discussing a spanking that had happened the previous day much to my cousin’s embarrassment. I felt truly sorry for her. They were taunting her and mocking her, asking what had happened to her the previous day when she was playing with her friend. She said, “I forget.” To that, my aunt asked my cousin if she needed a reminder of what happened, and my cousin got a horrified look on her face and shook her head violently “no.” My aunt and uncle found this hysterical. Later after dinner when we were doing dishes, my aunt let me know that my cousin had been playing with a neighborhood friend who always got her into trouble. The friend talked my cousin into playing with some of her dad’s hobby equipment which they broke (though it could be repaired with a lot of time and effort). My uncle was furious; he sent the friend home and then gave my cousin “a very harsh spanking” according to my aunt. They decided at that point that my cousin shouldn’t be allowed to play with that friend anymore since he only got her in trouble.
The only public spanking I ever witnessed was when I was home from college one year for Christmas. I watched a very angry father screaming at a young boy (maybe six years old) while the father dragged the son out of a Hallmark store by one arm. The father was using his other arm to violently spank the child anywhere hits could land on the way to their car where I’m sure the child was going to get even worse. To this day, I regret not speaking out. The scene wasn’t a reasonable parent disciplining a child. This was very much an abusive father damaging his son both mentally and physically.
Another spanking (or perhaps it is better described as a slapping) I witnessed happened when I was an adult and mother. I was at a gathering of friends with some of our kids present. One of the women had a son who was six months older than my son; they were about 15 months and 9 months old. Her more mobile son started hitting my son for no real reason. I was not upset. This is not an unusual behavior for kids that age as they explore others’ bodies and try to understand actions and reactions. However, the mother got very upset with her son and started slapping his hands hard while telling him “no!” repeatedly along with some other lecturing. Of course, after the first slap, her son started crying hysterically and was hearing nothing she was saying. I was not a fan of this woman’s parenting, but this incident sealed it for me. She truly overreacted to what happened. I always felt like she parented in a way that was showing off towards others who were watching.
The only spanking I have ever witnessed that I think was handled in an appropriate way was when I was in high school. The boy in question was 3, and I used to babysit for the family who were neighbors. We lived in an area where many people didn’t have air conditioning; open windows with screens were the way of cooling the house. This three year old boy had started the “game” of unlocking the screens and pushing them out the second floor windows. Since he was so young and he had a two year old sibling, this was a truly dangerous thing. I knocked on the front door and let the mother know that one of the screens was out of the windows upstairs. She thanked me profusely. Then, through the open windows, I heard her talking calmly to her son. “Tony,” she said, “I told you that if you pushed the screens out of the windows again I would spank you. You didn’t listen to me, so I am going to have to spank you.” A few seconds later I heard the sound of her hand on his bare bottom slapping three times. That was enough to make him cry and to get her point across. Never again did I see screens out of their windows. I felt guilty for years for having gotten him spanked until I realized a) I had no idea that she would spank him and b) it was a truly dangerous situation. The mom had already talked to him, but he hadn’t listened. She didn’t spank out of anger. She didn’t spank excessively. This was a case where if spanking is acceptable, the parent spanked appropriately. The fact that it’s the only spanking I ever heard or witnessed that could be considered reasonable tells me how often what we label as spanking is actually abuse of children by angry parents.
Did you like watching others be spanked? No. As a young child, I found spankings terrifying. I think this was because I had never seen one given in a loving manner. They were all the same in my mind: A very angry adult lashes out at a child, often for no apparent reason. They were not calm. They were not structured. They were not loving. Only one spanking I witnessed when I was a teen falls outside of those parameters.
As an adult, I still have no desire to watch others spankings in real life, and thus I have no desire to go to spanking parties. Different consenting adults like different things from their spankings, and for me, many of those things are triggering. If I am watching spanking videos at home, I can just turn off the video if I don’t like it. Going to the “cookie” room is not going to be far enough away in a party environment. I will still be able to hear what is going on.
(continue on to part seven)