Spare the Rod


I was in the grocery store the other day and there was this kid who was pitching a fit because his mother wouldn’t buy him a package of liverwurst.  The thing is, the kid didn’t even like liverwurst, he just liked the packaging.  His mom knew this, which is why she said she wasn’t going to buy it for him.  He responded to this egregious affront by slapping her in the face.  I froze, waiting for her counter-response.  After a moment of deliberation she responded with the “no response” response and simply wheeled on.  I confess I was surprised, and it got me thinking about how discipline has changed over the years.

In my day, had I attempted to slap my mother in the face, the punishment would have been death.  First she would have killed me, then my father would have killed me again when we got home, just in case I was only mostly, but not completely, dead.

For every other form of misbehavior however, spanking was pretty much the punishment de jour.  A few times we got it with the belt and boy, we sure did feel sorry for ourselves … until we saw our neighbors get it with a lilac bush switch, then we thought we had it pretty darn good.  And what was even worse was that they had to pick the switch they were going to get whipped with!  They usually picked the thinnest one, thinking it would hurt the least.  Wrong.  The thin ones hurt the most.  I remember staring out the kitchen window and watching in horror as my friend would cut his switch.  With my hands pressed upon the glass I’d scream at him, “Noooo!  Pick the fat one, dummy!  Pick the fat one!”

Sometimes I’d see our other neighbors, two boys, running down the sidewalk with their mother hot on their heels and armed with a wooden spoon.  They thought they were pretty funny.  I thought they were pretty stupid because their dad was a cop and he carried a gun.  Why would you even wanna take that chance?

Sometimes just the threat of punishment was enough to keep you in line, but it had to be really clever and evocative.  I’m not sure whose parents coined it, but two thumbs way up to the inventors of “skin you alive,” as in, “If I ever catch you doing that again, I will skin you alive.”  That was really effective for those of us whose dads hunted because we knew what that looked like.  A skinned elk hanging in the garage was a common sight during hunting season.  It wasn’t a big stretch to visualize your carcass up there in place of the animal’s.

I still remember the day my mother walked into my room and said, “Get in the car.”  She didn’t say why, or where we were going, which led me to the obvious conclusion – she had found out that I was the one who stole the piece of chocolate cake and now I was going be taken out into the woods, tied to a tree and skinned alive.  It seemed a cruel ending to my young life, but it’s not like I hadn’t been warned.

Turns out we were only headed to the airport to pick up her friend — but it sure did put the fear of death into me and I never stole another piece of cake after that … without leaving solid physical evidence behind that could easily be traced back to my little sister.

Things have changed a lot since then, though.  Nowadays, people are into “positive redirection,” whatever that is, and “time out.” Time out.  Pfff, please.  That NEVER would have worked on me but hey, it’s always good to try new things.  Except, just the other day I went to my friend’s house to play with her one-year-old and she was in a total panic.  “I just heard that time outs are bad!” she cried.  “Somebody said they’re the worst thing you can do to your child.  Oh my god, what am I going to do now?!”

I said to her what I’m going to say to all of you now, so listen up.  It doesn’t matter whether you spank your kids, or threaten them, or put them in a time out.  In the end they’re still going to throw you into some creepy, depressing ol’ old folks home that has one communal tv with no cable access, pink walls and smells like urine.  Let that thought be the light that guides you in your disciplinary decision.

Missing Missoula

CC The Trained Monkey

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BIO:  Carol Chrest is a bitter old spinster living in Los Angeles. When she’s not working ridiculous hours at her cruddy day job, she writes screenplays.  She drinks.  Back to CC’s Bloghomepage.