No room for beatings

Guy P. Harrison, thank for your recent column, Spanking children is Wrong.

As a Caymanian, you have my 100 per cent vote on the views you so eloquently brought forward on this controversial matter.

As a child I was spanked at times and whipped, even slapped in the face, and remember well the pain inflicted by my parents.

I came out ‘fine’ as an adult, but I cannot for one moment say that the spanking itself made me a better person, but it sure made me realize what I did not want done to my children.

I must admit however, through ignorance, that I am guilty of spanking my children (comparatively less severe than I was) on the odd occasion to get their attention, and to try to reinforce that I meant what I said…being a single parent was not easy, but still it was no excuse. Actually, it was an anger outlet for me, to be honest.

In defence of my parents, I will say that it was a rule to never punish us in public, which, in retrospect, softens those times.

My mother’s thought was that if she had to punish us in public, she had already lost the battle at home and it was useless and embarrassing for her as it drew the wrong attention.

Also, on the occasion she only needed to send us that look. You know, the look that says it all…and this was because she had made it clear that when she said ‘No!’ it meant ‘No!’ But again, that can be accomplished without getting physical.

As you mentioned, yes, my parents were also victims of child abuse, and were working with what they were taught, but according to their stories, they did not want to ill-treat us in the cruel ways they were…so they trying to soften the lessons for us, by being less cruel.

When I finally had my own children I decided that I would not spank my children as much as I was or for as long as I was.

I am happy to say that today I have two beautiful well-mannered children, a few years apart, who are both doing exceptionally well in school and are socially adjusted.

I noted with the first child that he became very embarrassed at age two if I spanked him.

It caused me concern as to how he viewed me and just how frightening it must be for him to stand there helpless, while I stood there angry.

Of course, most punishment sessions that include corporal punishment always include anger. My anger was because of my recent separation from the child’s father, but I was not aware of this until some time later.

When my second child came along, he was a little more temperamental and difficult than the first. To get his attention it seemed that he needed spanking also.

This is what I was taught and this is what I was still being told to do by my well-meaning mother, in order to curb his bad behavior. What’s that old adage? ‘Save the rod and spoil the child.’

I did not spare the rod, but once again I became acutely aware of this child’s signals that corporal punishment was not what he really needed.

To add to this, I found myself apologizing and trying to make up to them afterwards, and one day it dawned on me that I was sending mixed signals. And children never forget.

Positive attention was what both children were seeking.

I believe in bringing the matter to attention immediately and as Mr. Harrison has suggested, getting down to eye-level and talking matters out with that child.

Children understand more than we give them credit for.

I decided that I would teach my children how to love and not teach them how to react with violence.

I fully agree that children can be disciplined without being touched except for no other reason than extending a loving touch to them.

No one should endorse corporal punishment for the home or for the school.

It is cruel, embarrassing and demeaning and it has only scarred many an innocent life. There are many people today with mal-adjustments in our society trying to be normal on a daily basis because of (if there is such a thing as) well meaning abuse.

One day I observed a mother and her young child, no more than three years old, in the parking lot of a local supermarket.

What drew my attention was the young child running around in the parking lot apparently unsupervised, until I heard a woman yell out to the child threatening to beat her.

The mother proceeded to pick a stringy branch from a nearby tree, and peeled the tiny leaves from it, which, from experience would cause a terrible stinging sensation to the recipient.

Without even thinking I yelled at the mother saying; ‘You are not going to use that branch on that young child, are you?’

Thankfully, because I had intervened, the mother calmed down and the little girl was spared the brunt of her anger.

Scenarios like this bother me. Have empathy and think for one moment what it must be like to feel helpless as a child faced by an angry adult welding a weapon, whether it be a tree branch, a belt, a closed or open fist.

Let change begin with me.

Name withheld by request

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