Is it OK to spank children?

Our niece Erin is a perfect example of that of which you speak.
She was a very doting parent when their firstborn son was born. All out care and over the top in how Everett was treated, from placing him on the dryer to get him to sleep, (turned on air only with 2 prs jeans inside) for the vibrations and sound which soothed him, to allowing him to tear off his diaper and go streaking throughout the house, often soiling or wetting the carpet and nice hardwood floors, until she would find him, and have to clean up his tracks. But it gets better… scooping all the dirt out of her plants, which at first seemed so adorable and proved he had good dexterity, and the plants went outside. {Dallas weather helped plants survive year round}. She began to finally say ‘No’ to him when he would try, unsuccessfully, to bathe their kitty, in the toilet. But this showed good hygiene habits in her mind, and although kitty went outside too, after a failed episode of flushing, everything was done not to discourage him from testing every limit, climbing as high as he could, etc.
Little by little, the little prince became mischievous, and forced the parents to put everything high up to keep from getting broken, to lock doors throughout their home so that he would not have access, a long baby gate across the dining room archway, etc. This kept the linens and good silverware from getting pulled out of the credenza and places set under the dining room table, for his action figures and stuffed animals.
And I’m talking about many times, not the occasional ‘curious George’ syndrome that all kids go through. When she was expecting their 2nd son, and Everett was almost 4 years old, she decided to enroll him in preschool 3X per week. The teachers reported he was a smart kid, but could not follow one instruction during craft time, as he wandered around seeing what the reaction he could elicit from each child he decided was a wrestling partner; or what would happen as he smeared glue over the table, then leaned into the plastic trays to get the google eyes and little bits of paper and felt all over himself, rather than the project at hand. When made to sit in the corner for time out reasons, he would get infuriated and have a melt down, which terrified the other kids; when asked what type of discipline or restraint my niece used at home to control him, she was unable to give a reply as all she’d done for 4 years was give assent to his funny and obnoxious behavior, or lock away items, or place baby gates across entryways to rooms. When precious Owen was born, he luckily was an easy going baby who didn’t need the dryer treatment to fall asleep, and didn’t need constant attention, since the house was already child-proofed, except for their playroom downstairs (a converted office). He didn’t have access to all the household items and would play with all the many toys and keep himself busy most of the time, until he became a wrestling partner to his much larger and older brother. Erin was so happy it was time for kindergarten, and it ‘gave her time’ to have one on one with Owen from 8-3 everyday. Not saying she played with him for that period of time, but at least he wasn’t being cornered and challenged every time Mom was out of ear shot or view. So many incidents, and so little time to describe them all here, but 2-3 episodes a day for a couple of years and you get my point.
He never got a slap on the wrist, a holler, a swat on the rear, nothing at all that would show displeasure except for the worn out mantra ‘we mustn’t do that sweetheart, you might get hurt, or it might break, or he will cry, etc.’ No frowning or scowling permitted by anyone who visited, like cousins, aunts and uncles, friends.
And at grandparents’ home, same treatment, except they couldn’t be expected to lock up all their affluent belongings, it was just too big a home. So she would follow him around all day there, repeating the mantra not to touch or throw or play with whatever garnered his passing interest. She could not spend time with the 6 brothers and sisters in law, nor chit chat with the in-laws, or meet their new friends.

Needless to say, Kindergarten was not the exciting place for him that had been promised, as there were more strictures like sitting at a desk for a whole hour, which didn’t please him one bit. He wanted to play with the new stuff, when he wanted to, which wasn’t pleasing to his teacher, who had to pick him up and re-sit him in his chair a dozen times a day. This took away from the other children, of course, and some of them tried his tactics when the teacher was beside herself. She requested an aide to help her keep track of him, because this was in a posh school district and they could afford such niceties. When approached by the principal, as to what measures should be used to check his ‘active mind and curious hands’, she was unable to help them out, since Dad came home early at 4 now, to watch and play with him, and she drove around with both kids restrained in their car seats for 40 minutes, and then only had to watch and follow him around for 20 minutes. When Dad got home, she flew out of the house with Owen to go shopping, visiting with friends, and would return on schedule every evening at 7 pm with take out meals from nice eateries around their Dallas suburb. Every day was a different place, so it didn’t get boring in the least. Weekends they packed him up and Grandma (my widowed sister in Houston) got the privilege of watching him until they picked him up late in the evening. She spent all her time with him, one on one, and they baked cookies, made playdoh, etc., and though she didn’t use any form of corporal punishment (not allowed by her daughter), she enforced the time out rule, and kept him on her lap for the 15 minute struggle that ensued. But he realized, finally, that he would obey when she threatened with taking him home, or would put away their activity, turn off the TV playing his favorite new movie, or just put him in the sparsely furnished guest room, that couldn’t be destroyed, save for the extra bed linens that were hauled out to make a tent. But at least she could compose herself during the half hour sequestered periods of time. But of course, she loves him to death and being all alone, and caring for him since birth, he’s more amenable to her than anyone else, for he senses her love and devotion, and hates to see her cry.

Moving on to first grade… after a couple of months, the school suggested he be put on Ritalin, and a home study was made by the CS department, to see if there was neglect or abuse (ha ha) going on in the home. The person who made the visit was amazed to see Everett romp all over the house, jump on furniture, wrestle his younger brother, and my niece so relaxed and composed. When asked if it didn’t bother her, she said no, Jon would be cleaning it all up later, while she went out with Owen to the playground with friends and their toddlers, or food shopping. The CS lady said she wouldn’t have believed it had she not seen it for herself, and my niece replied ‘kids should be allowed to be kids’ and ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘he will grow out of it’ and ‘it’s not that bad when it’s only for an hour’.

We’ve been informed lately that he suffers from some personality disorder, and sees a psychologist twice a week. He said it would take months to correct this, if ever, because he refuses to obey verbal correction. He can do so very well, if he chooses to, but it’s always left up to him, or accommodations are made to handle the situation.

Enter his trip up north to our homestead/farm/estate, whatever you want to call it, with his Nana, to visit his auntie and uncle and see his great grandma maybe for the last time, since she was living with us, suffering from Alzheimer’s and 90 years old.

We put up with a few of his less serious shenanigans, but put a quick end to it when he entered the corals and began chasing the animals with a stick and yelling, explaining with a doleful look he only wanted to see how fast and far they could run.
Same thing happened in the hen house, with broken eggs on the ground instead of the basket he was supposed to put them in. At almost 7 years old I wondered about this, because he had really good dexterity. But it was repeated daily, until when confronted, he confessed he was looking for baby chicks inside, even though we told him there would be no chicks in there, positively and absolutely. He was given permission to break the eggs into a bowl if breakfast was to be scrambled eggs or french toast, etc. He wasn’t too happy, but accepted it because I pronounced that he would be getting ‘the switch’ if he continued to scare our animals, which could easily hurt him, since goats and horses can often be cantankerous and the goats can butt back quite hard, which he did find out, and now sports a ‘manly scar’ on his thigh, where he landed on the deck. These are pygmy goats by the way, and are not used to any rough-housing, ear pulling, or chasing. And let him know it, and he decided to stay clear of them, or walk among them very quietly. He chose to not get butted again, as the experience of getting slammed into the deck, made quite an impression on him. He was a fast learner as far as I could see. I threatened to use my switch after two warnings to stop doing something were clearly issued. He wasn’t quite sure if I was up to it, which involved chasing him down the first few times, but being a track star 40 years earlier came in handy. I applied it lightly to his bottom through denim overalls, and told him it would happen again if he refused to cooperate, didn’t come when called, or continued doing something dangerous to his health. He finally responded after the 3rd day, and it was like an uber Lazerus experience… he was transformed before our eyes. My sister was freaking out, not wanting to tell her daughter what we were doing to correct him, but knew the story would get out once they got home. She was so worried, but we told her to blame it all on us, that she wasn’t around when we chastised him, etc etc, for when they got back to Dallas and he would report on the wonderful time he had up north, and his experience with the ‘rod’ . Well, the two weeks went by so smoothly, that time flew by and soon it was time to drive them to the airport. He was collecting all his paraphernalia, new toys and outfits, looking under beds where I told him shoes would be hiding, etc. He would obey on the second command, and sometimes under his breath say ‘I’m sorry’. He may have gotten to feel the switch maybe 4-5 times during a 3 day period. But after that he was good as gold as they say, and was very tearful at having to leave. He asked to take back the ‘rod’ (really a 1/4″ X 2 ft long willow branch that you could form a circle with it was so bendable) because they ‘didn’t have those in Texas’. We ‘like to have died from laughing’ (as they say in the south). I would tell him when I used it that I loved him so much I didn’t want him to suffer worse, and that it was his choice if I used it or not, but that we hoped he would believe us and trust us.

Our daughters whom he fell in love with at first sight, told him that we used the switch on them when they were much younger. When he was incredulous, they told him we loved them too much not do so. On a farm, with all the obvious and not-so-obvious dangers, obedience can save a child’s life many times over. Did you ever cry, he asked them, to which they answered yes, sometimes. And so when they were packing up the van, he asked if I would go cut another willow branch, in case his got broken on the trip home, or maybe Owen would be needing one someday!
Again we had to swallow our laughter, because it is a serious subject, and we didn’t want him to think discipline was a laughing matter to be taken lightly. We were wondering what would happen back home when all was said and done, and when Erin called us to thank us for having them up here, she wondered what the rod had been used for, since it was way too short to be a fishing rod. He kept it on his dresser and told her it was a love stick. We spoke to him on the phone and told him we were already missing him, and if he would be more obedient to Mom, we would invite him back up next summer. This worked until last Christmas when after 2 weeks of being cooped up in the house because of extra cold weather, sent him back to picking on his brother again, hiding stuff, lying and making excuses. So that’s why he’s at the shrink now, and my niece has stated that she can hardly wait until he’s old enough to be enrolled in military school! I was like ‘whaaaaaaa?’

He will learn discipline there, we’re sure of that, but not the loving discipline that parents and other relatives can give. Loving is not part of the equation at most boarding schools, although adequate care and supervision do take place.

He’s coming back up north in 4 months, and he’s so excited he writes us little notes asking us to inform all his barnyard friends, and the neighbor kids and the store clerks. We told him to bring his ‘rod’ back with him, and he said he wished he could, but it somehow got broken, because he saw it in two pieces in his waste basket. He has a newborn baby brother now, an adorable Baby Benjamin. He’s not too impressed with that, since Mom can rarely spend any one on one time with him, and he’s back on the Ritalin, which is basically and amphetamine and cocaine in chemical structure. And schools get extra funds, for each child who has a ‘disability’ of his type, who is normally over active or just plain under-disciplined. So, no wonder half the children in New Jersey elementary schools are drugged in this manner, to keep them seated at their desks, acting like little zombies half the time, and receiving thousands of extra dollars for this ‘disability’.


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