Monday, November 03, 2003

Do you spank your kids?

I saw this link in a post at
  • Serenity's Journal

  • Helena bus driver fired for slapping potty-mouthed child

  • I heard from
  • Velociworld
  • she was having a little rant for herself, so I went to join the fun. After reading the article and her post, and the responses to her post, I had a response of my own. I left a response in her comments on the subject, which I won't repeat here, but it got me thinking, and I decided to expand on it a bit for those playing along at home.

    Would you smack a child that was not yours or a relative? Would you go off and take a bus driver to court for hitting your precious bundle of joy?

    That child should have known, before getting on the bus, that he was expected to act in a certain way, was to obey that driver, because he is an authority figure, and the child's elder, and it never should have been an issue. When I was a kid and we played at our friend's house, or they played at ours, our mom's were all friends and knew each other well. We all had lived on the same street together since the beginning of time, or thereabouts, and we knew better than to act stupid in each other's houses, because one of two things would happen. Either the parent of the friend would send us home and call our mom, and we'd get our asses beat when we walked in the door, or the parent of the friend would, depending on the offense, swat us themselves, and we'd be sent home to get our ass beat again. Then, we wouldn't be allowed into that person's house again for a while, if we misbehaved bad enough. That was worse than the smack! We knew this, and we acted accordingly. We were taught from the get-go "respect your elders", "do as you're told", and "don't act up when you're outside this house, because we'll know, and you'll be sorry".

    Most kids today don't have that knowledge. Because of rampant legitimate child abuse and neglect, and because of stories of nannies and babysitters shaking and beating children who are too young to tell anyone on their ass, and foster parents abusing or killing kids, we have had to resort to more of a blanket hands off policy, to protect from the potential abuse, leaving the parents afraid to discipline their child for fear some neighbor will report them, and they'll be brought up on charges, or have their kids yanked by social services. Kids threaten their parents that if they hit them, they'll call the cops and have them arrested, and in some cases, it could happen. You could spank your child, and someone could report it, and you could end up on the news a child abuser. News at 11:00 "Mrs. Smith paddled her sons ass"! Though it is getting a lot easier, and in the case of parents and spanking there has to be actual abuse proven.

    The problem is, we still have parents who either don't hit, out of fear, or don't hit, because they think it's wrong to resort to violence. They think all that is needed is a "time out" or some sort of alternative punishment, and there is no need ever to hit. Unfortunately, they're wrong. In some cases, it may work. Some kids may be able to be handled that way, and still learn to act right, but for a lot of them it just doesn't cut it. They know mom won't smack them, and they don't fear whatever method of punishment that is usually given, and they know if anyone dared hit them mommy and daddy would sue their asses off, or they could even end up in jail. Consequently, they are little shits. Then, we have the lazy, or completely clueless, parents who don't discipline them, because they can't be bothered, so Junior is a shithead, running through WalMart unchecked, who is let loose on the rest of the world, misbehaving and saying "penis" at will, and will grow up to be a big shithead, unmannered, with no respect, and no idea how to behave in society.

    So, where does that leave the poor people..teachers, principals, bus drivers, daycare providers, WalMart shoppers... who are subjected to the little shit when he's out running wild in the world? Don't we have the right to expect that we will be able to shop or eat in a restaurant without some brat being a butthead? If you're in a restaurant, and some kid is running around making noise, disrupting the place, and his parents are sitting at their table saying "Jimmy, come here sweetheart. You have to sit down. Come here, please!" Do we have the right to go grab him and deposit him in his chair, and tell him to sit down and eat, or he's gonna die? No, not really. Though we may want to, we usually just mind our business because of boundaries. It's not our child, it's not our place. But in the case of the bus driver, he did have the right to say something, and to punish the child for not doing as he was told, but did he have the right to actually smack him? If not, who does? A relative, a friend, or someone with express permission, there is no question, but what about a baby sitter or nanny? Can you be sure a frustrated babysitter or caregiver won't end up going too far and causing serious injury? Or the next bus driver who gets pissed won't take out his frustrations and accidentally hurt someone? Because teachers and principals used to have the right legally to hit a child, did that make it right?. Teachers aren't perfect, they have personal problems and issues like everyone else, and what's to stop then, if they don't like a child for some reason, from targeting him or her and hitting them because they feel like it. Think it can't happen.. think again. If a child said that they didn't do anything wrong, and the teacher said he did such and such a thing, who would be believed? So a child could, potentially, be left defenseless against wrongful punishment. Where does that leave teachers who have to deal with the kids who act up in class and can't adequately punish them and make them behave?

    I babysat a lot when I was younger, it was very frustrating at times, and the hitting policies were different for each case. One parent said no hitting, but Kimmy didn't know I couldn't really hit her, because we told her that I could. With her, the threat that I could beat her if I wanted was usually enough to make her listen. She was 8 and generally a good kid, but she was mouthy, bratty, testing her boundaries, and her mom didn't want me to hit her. I would put her in her room or not let her watch T.V. etc, and then I told her mom and she would get smacked or punished as she saw fit. Then there was Mikey. Jess and Mikey were 4 and 6 when I sat for them. Their mom said I could smack them if they needed it, and they knew it. Jess was an angel, she listened well and was quiet and good. Mikey was the devil in Underoos. That child was hell. He was really cute, I really liked him and he made me laugh, but GOD he was a handful. One night, he was supposed to be in the bathroom, which was off the kitchen, putting on his PJs and getting ready for bed. When he'd been in there for a while, I walked in the kitchen to see what was keeping him, and he was standing naked on the kitchen counter peeing into the sink, laughing his ass off. For no reason... he just wanted to. I pulled him off there, smacked him on the ass, yelled at him, and told him go get ready for bed. He didnt cry, he wasn't hurt, but he did as he was told. I never hit him again, but I sure made him think I was gonna plenty of times.

    The worst of all was when I lived with my friend Jo. She had two boys, 4 and 7, named Eric and Jason. I had known Jo all my life. She lived across the street from us, but she was about 9 years older than me. When I graduated from high school, it just so happened she had just gotten divorced and was looking for someone to watch her kids. She couldn't afford day care, it was really rough on her. So, I moved in and babysat in exhange for room and board. Jo had a cocaine problem and was dating a guy in a band. She worked all day, came home, and then would go out four or five nights a week to watch her boyfriend play. She would come home in the early hours, coked out and drunk, (it was the 80's) sleep a couple hours, get up and do it again the next day. I was pretty much left to take care of the kids all the time on my own. I couldn't hit them, at all, in any way, and they knew it. I couldn't threaten to hit them, because they knew better. All I could do was do my best to punish them with grounding or early bed times or whatever, and then tell her and let her deal with them when she got home. But she didn't deal with them, because she wasn't there and didn't see what happened, so it was no big deal to her in her coked out state. She also felt guilty for being gone all the time. When she was with them, she didn't want to be "the bad guy", so she would usually end up letting them off their groundings, on top of everything else. They didn't listen, and acted up constantly, they had no fear of any real punishment. I havent seen them in years, we eventually drifted apart. I know Jo got off the drugs, eventually got remarried, had another child, a little girl, and straightened out her life, but I wonder sometimes how those kids turned out. Would I have beaten them if I could? I don't know. I don't like to hit kids, but I think if they believed that I could, or if just once I had swatted them real hard on the ass, that's all it would have taken.

    Now, if I had kids and some bus driver hit them, I'd be pissed off. I'd kill my child for acting that way and not listening to the bus driver, but I would expect the bus driver to be told to leave his hands the hell off my kid, and to let me deal with him. I certainly wouldn't want him to lose his job over it or take him to court, but I would want him to get a warning or something. And any teacher who dared, better be able to prove it was justified. There has to be a middle ground between an open handed free-for-all, where any authority figure or adult who doesn't agree with the way a child acts, or thinks a child needs to be punished, can just smack them willy nilly, and the compete lack of discipline that lets a child think it's permissable to be rude, disrespectful, destructive, or unruly because they have never been taught how to act, and have no fear of any real punishment. Question is..where is this middle ground, and how do we get there from here?

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