Discipline: the paddle or the tongue?

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Under the post "Black mothers are switch-hitters...," a reader asks:

To clarify, you aren't justifying beating your child so bad you leave possible scars (as in AP's case), you are advocating beatings in the vein that most of us received as kids; ones that made us remember what we did wrong and why we shouldn't do it again, correct?

I respond:

Dear Matthew,

Thanks for your question.

First, I would not use the word 'beating,' but rather 'spanking'. Spanking communicates punishment that is intentional and constructive whereas beating communicates hostility and aggression and the release of one's temper, all of which are wrong with children.

As for AP's case, I haven't read the details. Concerning scars in child discipline, though, marks aren't scars. Scars are permanent and I can't ever imagine a spanking done in love that would leave physical scars. On the other hand, I regularly see young adults and older adults who are emotionally scarred for life by...

the emotional abuse that passed for discipline in their childhood homes.

Concerning (temporary) marks sometimes left from spanking, every form of discipline leaves marks behind—particularly the sort of guilt-tripping and endless disapproval and irritation liberals who repudiate spanking use with their (one or two) children. Those who spank their children soon realize that spankings are quickly over and life moves on, whereas sending the child to his room, scolding, haranguing, guilt-tripping, name-calling, ridicule, and the host of other disciplinary forms employed by parents (who consider themselves enlightened because they don't spank) go on and on and on, leaving the child suffering throughout childhood with emotional scars that remain visible throughout their lives. Get it?


Daddy warns his son: "Johnny, if you take that toy from your sister, I'm going to spank you."

Johnny takes toy from sister.

Daddy escorts his son back to his son's bedroom, paddles his son's bottom hard so the son experiences physical pain, then hugs his son and tells him he loves him, followed by a warning to his son that he must not take toys from his sister. He may elaborate on this a little explaining the duty of boys and brothers to protect and serve girls and sisters, but the main point is the spanking.

Daddy and Johnny arrive back in living room all smiles and life goes on.

Time elapsed from warning (only once) to spanking to hugging to arrival back in living room: 5 minutes


Daddy warns his son: "Johnny, if you take that toy from your sister, I'm going to spank you."

Johnny takes toy from sister.

Daddy tells son that he told him once not to take toy from sister and he better listen to Daddy because Daddy is not going to tell him again.

Johnny takes toy from sister again.

Daddy yells at son, saying if Johnny does not give that toy back to his sister, "IMMEDIATELY, and I mean IMMEDIATELY," Daddy will send son to room.

Johnny takes toy from sister again.

Sister screams bloody murder and shrieks like a cat, yelling "MOMMY!!! Johnny hit me! (Johnny hadn't really hit her, but sis felt accusing him of hitting her was more likely to elicit the desired response from Mom than just accusing him of taking the Lego piece out of her hand.)

Mother yells at her husband, "Joe, where are you? I thought you told Johnny to behave! Yoo-hooo, JOE!?

Knowing the escalation could only arrive at an impasse and that his wife would not approve of a spanking, Joe has made himself scarce and is out in the garage working on the lawn mower.

Mother's tongue swings into action: "JohNNY! What's wrong with you!?! Why are you ALWAYS SUCH a JERK! to everyone!?! Don't you know little boys who are jerks grow up to be men who are jerks? And what kind of woman do you think will want to marry a JERK! What do you think GOD thinks about little boys that take their sisters' toys from them? Is that how GOD WANTS YOU TO ACT? YOU GO to your ROOM and read your Bible and pray and don't come back into the living room until you've learned how to be a nice brother and a good Christian. I'm sick and tired of your snottiness and selfishness, son. When will you ever learn! Go to your room and open your Bible and pray!"

Son leaves for room to learn how depressing it is to be all alone reading the Bible and praying.

Daughter holds on to the Lego piece firmly while smiling smugly, having learned that men and boys are ratfinks undeserving of any respect from wives, mothers, and sisters.

Daddy comes in from the garage and Mother says, "JOE! Where have you BEEN?!? YOUR SON hit his sister AND took the Lego piece from her after YOU told told him NOT TO!?! I sent him to his room. YOu know, he's just like you—that boy is just like you."

Time elapsed: 20 minutes, but really a lifetime of abuse and guilt-tripping and demeaning behavior within the family that continues through the reading of Daddy and Mommy's will after the funeral seventy years later.

Hope that helps explain what I was trying to say.


Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!