Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Welcome to Corporal Punishment

Okay, yeah, not disability or lesbian or sex related, well not intentionally. For those arriving here who want to be spanked by a woman in a wheelchair please send money (don’t come see me, just send me money, and consider yourself punished!).

I had a dream last night about my father and corporal punishment, which is the technical word for spanking, for ‘discipline’, for beating, for hitting, for one person inflicting pain on another, usually a child, for educational purposes.

Now I was sent to a private religious school in part in order to preserve that biblical adage; “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” And every year my parents signed a waiver which allowed the school to provide whatever physical discipline they deemed necessary. My parents, in a odd bout of revisionist history, in one of our last conversations, months ago, said they were “unaware” that anyone was actual punished; and certainly not me. I pointed out that when every single day multiple people in just our class were given corporal punishment and often the ENTIRE CLASS (if for example the teacher felt there was too much talking) this wasn’t something high enough to call the parents about, that is WHY they signed the waiver after all: so that I could be hit! And after all, the ministers who worked at the school openly boasted from the pulpit how ‘liberal’ it was now because you didn’t automatically get sent for corporal punishment for dropping a pen or pencil. Actually that came up a lot in church, how in the UK it was threatened that hitting your child would be made illegal! There was much praying that God's order and instructions to hit children would be maintained in North America: not like those Godless Europeans.

See the irony was that at the same time I was in this school MY father was in charge of teaching ‘family discipline.’ in our church (or giving special lectures on it). He specifically taught how to physically discipline a baby starting at 3 to 6 months of age. This discipline was, in the end, all about church. A child HAD to be taught by a very early age to be absolutely silent and still for 2 to 2.5 hours (the length of a church service (by the age of two)). Linda and I remember how we would see children who would be too noisy or cry and within seconds, they were being hustled toward the door. Then the screaming started (because they knew what was coming!). These were "poorly trained" children. The parents of THESE children would be directed to my father.

So how do you accomplish this absolute obedience, silence and stillness. First you teach them to obey you, so between three to six months you start disciplining them, particular if they cry in a “rebellious manner” using two fingers swiftly applied to the hip, not enough to bruise but enough to sting, while stating “No!” Then, from six months, when the baby cries in the night, you apply this instead of feeding and then, after a time starting at six months you simply do not come, no matter how much the baby cries or screams. And using this between six and nine months the baby will stop crying for feeding in the night (and stop crying if sick, or if fevered or bleeding, etc). Also leave things for the child to play with in the crib.

Believe me, I am not advocating this, I am merely repeating, pretty much verbatim, what I heard my father in his position of authority instruct young parents over and over again. Then there is “blanket training” which is done before the baby can walk; a blanket with a book or toy which is silent. When the baby tries to crawl off the blanket, a “No” and a spank. This is repeated until the baby is reinforced to stay on the blanket for 10 minutes, then over time that is increased to 2 hours at which time, the child is ready to come to church. Training them to sleep helps too.

I remember at the age of three and four and five sitting in the kitchen with a timer. I was on a stool and if I moved, moved at all including turning my head or squirming, then I was spanked and the timer was reset back to the original time (I think about 15-20 minutes). This wasn’t because I was bad, but just part of my “training” in order be obedient in public. If I was told to sit, I learned to sit.

Our church was fairly strict on the grounds of discipline and I do not remember a limit on what kind of discipline a parent applied. I remember more the sermons that recently there was too much “running” being seen, or “loud laughter being heard” from the children or that a child had talked back to an adult without using "sir" and that parents had better bring their children in line. So when parents got together people talked about what they used; one used a ping pong paddle, another used a spatula: was wooden or steel best? It was generally considered ‘no on’ to hit or bruise the face.

Now at school, they used the classic large wooden paddle which once you got to junior high and high school (yes, they kept doing corporal punishment once you were in 10, 11, even 12th grade), they would use the Gym Teachers, who generally had the muscles to do it. Particularly if they were doing a “class corporal” which is where if a teacher left a class and came back and most of the class was talking or such then EVEYONE would be sent for punishment (this drove the ‘good students’ crazy because they were acting perfect and got punished anyway). Now, THAT was a good day to have been sick. We were hit until we cried. Of course some girls played up to this and had a good sobbing going before the first swat. Others (perhaps someone we know), particularly if they believed that the punishment was unjust would only cry when the pain forced the tears out of the body. But the stare straight ahead never changed. Willful. (that’s a punishable offence too)

When I was older, I was hit on the open palm, first with a belt and then with the back of my Father’s hand. It was almost always clinical. I was punished not just what I did, but what my facial expression was (“rebellious”, “sullen”) or my thoughts (“Having an non obedient attitude”) or said, ('negative', 'critical', 'sarcastic'). As you can see, it worked a treat. Once punished I was required to thank the person giving punishment and then say, “I love you.” to my father. And if that did not sound sincere enough, I was punished again, and if I was not sincere enough in thanking for punishment or the statement of love, I was punished again…and again.

I was always punished for saying something negative; that was a house rule, saying something negative about anything resulted in punishment. I was corporal punished for not having my church clothes ironed properly, for not having my shoes shined in the time I was ordered to, in not having all the forks exactly aligned at meal or putting out a utensil that had not been washed properly.

But for me there were two big ones. At school I was whipped or paddled for “talking” and at home it was for “stealing.” It was reinforced over and over that everything belonged to my Father, even our clothes and food was heavily regulated. I was so underweight that I tested below 2% body fat. But I was not allowed to eat from the fridge, that was ‘theft’ (it belonged to my father, and below that, to my mother, but not to me). Also I had a sweet tooth, so sometimes I would, when my parents were gone, have a few chocolate chips or five or ten marshmallows. This was between 14 and 17. I was invariable found out because my parents were on the look out after my “addiction” was discovered. Even when I used my own money my room would be searched and if “Sweets” were found (my parents didn’t believe in sugar or butter or white flour so this would have been things like dried pineapple or Carob Bars) they would confiscated and I would be punished. I remember, at 17, staring ahead as I was hit over and over for eating two pieces out of a box of chocolates we had been given a month before as a gift.

Now, today, I am not allowed to have an opinion on corporal punishment because I don’t have a child (only slightly tongue in cheek). But if Marla Bates (go read her blog), after adopting a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder can change that child with hard work to a person who still has Autism Spectrum Disorder but who tries very hard to explain her limitations and when she is going to erupt and Marla did that without resorting to corporal punishment, then I have to wonder about hitting six month old babies.

I had a dream last night and in it my father was determining what I was allowed to think, ALLOWED to SPEAK and when the time came to leave, more and more was taken from me (as it belonged to him). In the end, so determined was I to be free, to be me, that I left naked. At which point my father ran me over with the car.

I say that corporal punishment has changed me in that when I see something wrong, and people try to stop me, they speak harshly to me or threaten me, I indicate that they better do better than that. I used to suffer agony to speak my mind when I was nine, I used to be publicly hurt and humiliated when I was 14 or 15; so if they think that anything short of breaking some bones and rendering me unconscious is going to stop me, they are a bit niave.

Linda says it changed me in OTHER ways: my 13 years of an eating disorder, a conviction that I am a “bad person” and that “I am incapable of good.” Plus regularly there is my insistence, which rises to a point of madness. a madness where I have to be restrained, becuase I feel I “must” be hit; because ‘that is who I am.’ and 'that is what I deserve!' And if no one will strike me, I will begin methodically striking my face, back and forth until the face is swollen and bruised, then the body, and still, still I need to be beaten, for that is who I am; a THING to be beaten. She says that THESE are the evidence she sees of my “discipline.” I can say that with three exceptions all before the age of 16, I have never hit another person; only myself. In fact, during one time when a homophobic, probably intoxicated, man threatened to give me a beating, I simply smiled and closed my eyes and said something like, “You’ve finally come.” Which must have freaked him out enough because he didn’t do it.

And yet, I know that my upbringing was mild compared to others. My father never left scars. Never used a wire on me (did on my brother once), and only hit my face once. And the odd thing is I love my father. He did what he thought was best. I just wish we could talk about it and put it behind me. Now days you would never know that was what he taught dozens to hundreds of young couples to do; how to scientifically hit their children.

I do not like corporal punishment. I remember as a young child going back to my room in tears, my face pressed into my stuffed animals in humiliation (I was punished for not coming when called within two seconds; for not barking out “yes sir!” or “Yes ma'am”, for not coming with an “attitude of willingness to obey”) and vowing to myself that when I grew up I would have children. Oh yes, I would have children so then I could BEAT them and BEAT them and then I would finally not be on the receiving end. I was about four when I first made that vow (and fantasy, of endlessly beating these future children) and I kept saying it when I was eight. A good motivation for having children, eh?

So, a wee controversial topic, but I don’t mind, if corporal punishment was the best thing that happened to you, if watching your siblings writhe on the floor as one parent or another lay into them with a piece of wire; watching for minutes as they squirmed to make the blows land in different places was a good experience, let me know. Or if there is some good way to hit, some way it helped you, let me know.

All I know is that I believe my Father was severally physically abused, and that when angered, that side of him came out, and when not angry, his clinical application, the demands of sincere loving at being reduced to tears was in some ways worse. My father was an abuser. And so am I. I have simply turned it inward, so that the only person I destroy, the only one I hit, and the one I reduce for being “bad”, for being 'eternally bad' is myself.


cheryl g said...

The demons appear to be out in force at the moment...

Linda is right on all the points she makes. You are not bad or evil or any of those other things the inner voices tell you. Listen to Linda, listen to me - those voices are liars.

Huge hugs for you Sis.

yanub said...

Damn, Elizabeth. Whatever abuse your dad took, he shouldn't have made it your problem. And he gets special abuser demerits for having turned other parents into abusers. And the fact that he didn't leave marks doesn't make him a nice guy. Waterboarding doesn't leave marks, either.

My dad used to spank me, too, on occasion. But first, he would snap his belt loudly as a warning for us to behave, and if we didn't, then the blows came rather half-assed, with no real attempt to keep us from shielding ourselves with convenient objects. It was obvious he spanked because he thought he was supposed to, not because his heart was in it. No, that "honor" belonged to his dad, who abused Dad the way your father abused you and, worse, publicly despised him and taught the other sons to also. So, really, I don't care what sort of childhood someone had, my dad is pretty good proof that you don't have to repeat your own abuse on future generations. And so are you. Despite your preschool oath, you have avoided passing along the pain. I always say abuse is the "gift" that keeps on giving, but the fact is that such gifts don't have to be passed on.

I wish I could jump back into time and shield little Beth from what was done to her. She is worthy of much better treatment, of hugs and patience and explanations and peace. I know you have taken the treatment you received to heart, that you learned to abuse yourself because that was the lesson taught. But it isn't too late to learn new lessons. Be kind and gentle to you. You deserve it.

Now, do I believe in spanking? No. I believe in a tap just for attention-getting purposes. If it hurts your own hand, you are using too much force. A disapproving look or words will be felt by a child as punishment enough. Children want to please adults, but they just don't do a good job of it, simply because they are still learning. They will learn whatever lesson is being taught, at whatever rate they can take it in, regardless of how they are treated. So every bruise and tear from spanking is unnecessary cruelty that brings nothing positive to the learning experience.

Victor Kellar said...

Thanks for writing abou this. Obviously, you did have it very bad. Obviously, your scars are on the inside and those are the one that heal slowly, if at all. I hope you can have that dialogue with your father to heal both your scars but they may not be realistic.

I have no complaints from my family life. I think my father was pretty mean but he left at an early age. I'm pretty sure my mother whacked me on the butt or on the arm a few times but, by herself, with eight kids, I cant fault her and I dont think it damaged me in any way. To whit:

When I was in elementary school in Ontario corporal punishment was still permitted in schools. We had the "strap" this big, heavy, nasty leather beast that would slice across your upturned, open palm. The first time I got the strap was probably Grade 2 and I got it because I was late back to recess due to the fact I had just been beaten up by six other boys in the yard and my legs were shaking. But I was late. When the principal brought out the beast and started to wail on me my first reaction was total shock, cause this stranger was hitting me and not even my own mother hit me like that ... and her I could understand.

I also received some smacks on the head from teachers or the years and was once tossed up onto a wall .. because after that first strapping I never cried, I never ran, I never yelled, I just stared them in the eyes and took it. And I learned that force of will was stronger than physical violence

And yes, you can loathe and protest corporal violence even if you don't have kids. Collette and I don't have kids. But we have nieces and nephews and neighbours and stranger kids on the subway .. and I dont want any of them to be hurt. Collette has spent the last 25 years as an advocate for childeren in one form or another, so she has a voice regardless of her motherly (or not) status. The fact that you have your inner scars, that you have been thru this personal experience means that you should speak up against corporal violence (lets not call it punishment) because you know what it does.

Your father is the other voice that should be heard on this topic. That may never happen but if it does, it could be a good thing, maybe, for everyone involved.

Neil said...


Abuse. Child abuse. That's all that is, Beth. I know it's hard, but try to remember that what was done to you was WRONG. WRoNG, WRONG, WRONG!

You, a bad person? NO!!!

You, Elizabeth Fucking Incredible McClung, are without doubt one of the BEST people I've ever met, either in person or online.

Your parents, especially the man who did that to you, should be apologizing to you, and begging forgiveness. Their church should be apologizing.

That behaviour is your parents' fault, NOT yours. Now, report to Linda for a hug and kiss, and a second of each from me, because THAT is what you deserve!

But this wouldn't happen to have anything to do with Vice President Harper's official apology to the survivors of the Indian Residential Schools, would it? A little memory helped to the surface by current events? Or the thrice-damned inner voices again? I tell you, ignore them laugh at them; you are far FAR better than that, Beth.

What your parents and church did was EXACTLY the sort of abuse our Prime Minister was apologizing for today in the Common House. And a Certain Regina Lawyer is $35 million richer because of that abuse. THAT man makes ambulance chasers look like saints.

May you sleep peacefully and wake guilt-free. You deserve no guilt at all.

Zen hugs, and DAMN but I wish I was there to give you real hugs!


SharonMV said...

So sorry that you had to endure all that as a child, Beth. You write about it very powerfully and clearly. And with restraint. I can feel the anger build with your argument, but it is held apart, held perhaps in your steely gaze, bent to serve your purpose. Your words serve now to prove that argument against injustice (and cruelty) just as your silence protested against it years ago.

I know your past has made you who you are now, but I truly wish you had fewer scars to bear.


Miss Fairy Sparkle said...

This is your story - and your story will tell the stories other children cannot say. I work with children - I have wrestled with is any physical discipline necessary. I have been involved in over 400 children's care. I have seen methods of discipline work that do not require hitting - and they do work. I don't think children should be hit - ever. If a parent decides to tap them on the bottom or palm - well, that is their choice. But when you are one of the ones who will make the call to social work - if you suspect there may be abuse - well, you have to have a clear idea in your head what you think is ok or not, to make that call.

Love barbed with pain is a difficult love to digest - and I understand that the lessons learnt from this time are just as much part of life as the physical limitations.
Hopefully, a demon shared is a demon halfed.
It is ok for you to receive love, hugs, encouragement, peace and affection - we all need love, we all can ask for it, and it is ok to accept it given. Here is a soft blanket for the bruises you can't see on the outside xxx

Heather said...

I don't know why some of us ended up in families where this kind of torture passed as parenting.

Don't listen to the demons in the night: they lie.

Maggie said...

Good Morning...I know the strugle to listen to those around when they say you are good, but you are good. You want proof? You put others before yourself. While you were exploring Japan you could have easily have shut down the blog and said "see everyone in a few weeks this is my time." But no you actually asked everyone for addresses so you could send post cards and tokens of your trip and explorations.
You battle for the good of others. You know you will not be here for ever, yet you work to make life better for those who will remain after you are gone.
The first day I met you, you shared your books with me and even tried to give me gifts as I left your house. You wanted to know what I like, what my interests are so you could bring a gift back from your trip. I'm still convinced you have much better friends than me, those more deserving of your gifts. You are trying to find ways to get on a boat to come over for an appointment Cheryl had, just because she is there for you.
Don't you get're sick. You have every right to be selfish, to say this is my time and screw you. Screw you people at the Y, Screw you Victoria Times marathon people, Screw you, everyone. But you don't. Instead, you ask how can I make things better for everyone. That makes you a giving person. A good person. A person that is worthy of so much. A goodness that can't be taken away and trueness that can be faked. You are Elizabeth Wonderful McClung.

Susan said...

OH that makes my stomach turn. What a disgusting way to treat any human being. I am so sorry.

I'm certainly not a parent either, but boy do I have opinions. I don't believe in punishment at all. Children are not untrained beasts that need to be molded in to people. They are people already, at a different stage of life. I think expecting a toddler to sit through a church service silently is an unrealistic and unfair. I also think that punishing a child - especially with corporal punishment - is far less effective than looking for the underlying need that caused the child's action, not to MENTION the damage it does. Among adults, we are not allowed to beat each other in order to correct behavior, and I really think ALL people deserve the same respect.

I was virtually never punished as a child. I was spanked once, as a 4-year-old, and my mother has been apologizing ever since. I've forgiven her, but I don't think she's forgiven herself.

Gaina said...

I think it's pretty obvious that your parents have left many, many scars on you - just not the visible type. Did you ever hit back, or did your father have such control over your pschye too that it never occurred to you at 17 had the right to give him a damn good wallop back?

I agree absolutely with your point about the lady with the autistic child. As a teaching assistance I was often left in charge of 15 children with severe behavioural problems and learning difficulties (all able to run around and create merry hell!), and yet I - a wheelchair user - could control them with my tone of voice. I wasn't allowed to smack even if I had wanted to, and yet these children were easily controlled by myself and their teacher in constructive, non-violent ways, so other people have no excuse.

Your vow as a four-year-old just shows how the cycle of violence perpetuates itself, and I can imagine your father being four and making the same vow for the same reasons - see how it goes?

Me? I was spanked once by my Dad and I have never forgotten it (Mum went nuts with him). I was usually removed for a 'time out' when I got naughty but no threats or fear were ever employed....Oh yeah, and I was grounded for a week when I was seven for bursting the tires on my electric go-cart after I came off a curb recklessly LOL. To be honest the need for discipline rarely arose because I was taught how to behave correctly in a positive way in the first place.

I would like to see people go to jail for hitting children (well actually I would like to do other things far too graphic to be repeated here, so we'll stick with jail for now).

When I see someone hitting their child I have been known to politely enquire if they would like to pick on someone their own size because I've got half an hour spare.

Perpetual Beginner said...

I see at least two kinds of abuse in your story. The first, obvious one, is the physical beatings. I was fortunate. My family used spanking (open-hand on rear) only for repeated offenses that had been previously punished in less dire ways. I was spanked four times as a child.

The second kind of abuse is the notion that children's opinions and children's lives are worthless. That the only function for children is to obey - that their experiences are only useful as ways (and reasons) to leverage them into complete submission. That notion is what leads to punishment for bad facial expressions, for being slow after a beating (I'm sorry, Victor), for opinions. It's the notion that a parent should (as if they could) control all behavior and all thoughts of their children.

That, I'm sorry to say, my parents believed to some extent (not nearly as badly as your parents and church). I do my best not to perpetuate it with my own kids, the job made easier by not having the legacy of physical beating to back up the other.

Your opinions and passions are worthy and valid. You have an instinct for justice that the worst your school and parents could do, could not eradicate. You, yourself, are worthy of love, validation, and support, just for being who you are. You were when you were a child, when you didn't receive it - and you are now, when you won't let yourself believe it.

All you have to be is yourself. We love you.

Devi said...

For all I may only know you via your blog, You're very dear to me (I honestly mean it), and you're not a bad person AT ALL AT ALL AT ALL. You didn't deserve hitting then, and you don't deserve it now, and right now, all I want is give you a hug (should you want one).

I hope it makes you feel any better if I say that I'm resolved (and was so even before reading this post) to raise my children without spanking.

FridaWrites said...

My parents and your parents would get along very well, and I also have this same trouble of thinking I'm a bad person and that I shouldn't exist. At least school was a respite for me. I too was punished for eating and was very severely underweight when I went to college. I ate whenever I could away from home, in quantity. (Gee, I wonder why I have weight issues now; it might be the last food I have in a while.) Like you, my sister and I would sneak food when we could, even from a moldy can of bean dip once. My sister was kept out of school for a few days for eating a candy bar once.

It is awful, awful seeing your sibling beaten or slapped or harassed, and I still feel sick thinking about that. My mom was harder on my sister than on me. My dad injured my sister's eye once, and she defended him for it. Because my mom was meaner to her, she still defends his actions. She still tries to please him.

People still teach your father's method--it's now formalized by Gary Ezzo and similar "experts" in churches across the nation. When our church (in a liberal denomination) taught a course based on such methods, I sent a letter to our minister objecting, and then we stopped attending.

I never wanted to be like the churchgoing people if that meant ignoring my children when they cried or spanking a 12-month old for trying to reach something interesting and colorful but breakable rather (as my sister's done) rather than moving it out of reach (as I do). My sister thinks she is far more liberal than my parents because she allows them to eat when they need, but doesn't see the ways in which she is overly controlling, largely based on fears of what other people would think of her parenting or because of peer (church) pressure.

My goodness, I came to my children's help when they cried, except I feel terrible that once I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion before being able to calm my daughter, while she was right next to me.

I have swatted my children though it's not something I believe in and don't like, because I was absolutely unable to get them to stop a (sometimes dangerous) behavior in them when they were young with tone of voice, consequences, etc. (My son's response: "that didn't hurt!", so I guess I fortunately failed in that regard.) I've made parenting mistakes, but I tell my children that they are mistakes and apologize rather than trying to uphold some sort of absolute authority (as with our parents).

I try to reinforce that they're good and good people--my son often gets the opposite message because he gets marks at school for very minor offenses, though he's not a troublemaker or hyperactive. He wasn't allowed to participate in the "character counts" party because of it and had to write a paper pretending what it would be like to be able to go, which to me, reinforces the idea they're "bad" and can for some kids actually encourage lashing out since they're already hurt by that.

That's more than I meant to write. I think your reactions to your experiences are normal.

Elizabeth McClung said...

See, when I was growing up I was always told I was living in a perfect family (who looked perfect out in public), and I could never figure out why I was so bad a person to be messed up and anorexic and stuff when I lived in a perfect family. I also sort of assumed that everyone lived like this (becuase everyone I KNEW was in this culty church and DID).

Cheryl: Yeah, Linda helps, and I go on the same, I guess I wanted to bring what I thought was a "controversial topic" up (see, if this was like a Christian board people would be saying how I know right from wrong becuase the rod was not spared on me).

Yanub: Yes, well, the whole thing of him as a teacher I am struggling with, more than him I think because if I did that, it would tear me up inside, leaving that human trail of kids leaving home or whatever behind me. And I don't know how to react when he is like, "Yeah, I guess I was just doing what I was told and believed at the time." - Is that it? We can destroy lives but hey, that in the past. I dunno

I like your statement that abuse is the gift that keeps on giving. I find the idea that you could shield yourself odd becuase that would have just doubled the amount, to resist in any way our "rightful" reward of punishment.

I like to think that I learned not to close my heart, regardless of what was done. That I resisted but I did not hate, did not reject humans or try to make everyone into a black and white world, to still see thier point of view. I try, and am still trying, I think to care about people, knowing they can hurt me, that is the risk, but if I close myself off, then "they" win. Right?

Victor: Compared to many, I had it pretty good. But I think not many parents tried to control facial expressions or thoughts or every words you spoke.

I am still trying to figure how throwing you on a wall is part of "school discipline" Yeah, luckily no "strap" at our school, though the injustice of your punishment is one I can feel, so I understand why you remember so clearly. We had a lot of teachers who did smacking, or throwing things, and one who would get mad and throw things and one day picked up a student and put him into the wall, he was so angry, put him right through the drywall. That was Trig math class. Oh those high school days!

I actually did talk to my father last night, who came over and he remembered the punishments for food, and the two chocolates and said he probably wouldn't do it that way again. I would like to hear his story but when I try to get him to talk about it the shields go up very quickly. But I did explain how when he tries, because I am sick, to treat me like his property, and make decisions and impliment them without even consulting me, it takes me back to being in that world, in that house, in that place.

Thanks for listening, I wanted to hear others stories and find out if I lived in the "perfect home" or not.

Neil: Well, I think my father regrets doing things that way but Linda and I have talked and even though the church basically reinvented itself to get away from the "old style" it never said, "Oh yeah, sorry!" - it is more like, "We were following God then and now we are following God even MORE, so we don't need to talk about the 'little' issues of the past. I suppose that is better than the catholic church going, "Yeah, we sexually abuse tens of thousands of kids, hmmm, I guess that's what we did, yupper, but I am sure that isn't happening now becuase we have really changed absolutely nothing in our structure except get rid of the homos"

Maybe the residential schools subconsciously triggered the post, I didn't know it was the same day until Linda pointed it out to me.

Guilt free - I think there are some people who can have peace and ohers who cannot.

SharonMV: I guess I am really surprised that this isn't anyone elses experience. But yes, am I angry? Well, when you are punished till crying for eating two chocolates out of a box, what exactly were they to do if I smoked, or did drugs, or had sex outside of marriage? I used to sleep on the floor so that I would grow attached to nothing, so that even if the punishment was to take away my bed, I would go on.

Miss Fairy Sparkle: I guess this was another reason I got out of teaching; I was spending 1/3rd of my time on behavoir management and had kids who would quite happily hit me. And for me, I just didn't know what to do; I mean a student has been kicked out by his parents, is angry and what, I give him a "time out" - I knew he needed more, I guess more love or more stability, I just didn't know if I could handle it. Plus the threats to blow up my car for giving people a C just got tiresome. Yeah, I guess part of writing is to give a window and part is to close something for me, I hope.

Heather: Yeah, well, at least mine had rules and controls, it wasn't just hitting because he was drunk or angry (except once or twice). And I am a contributing member of society, I do not drink, I do not, have not done drugs (This is where Cheryl says, "Yeah, you just do EVERYTHING else"), and don't have a criminal record (darn it!).

But yeah, that's where I was, and here is where I am now. And that is a different place, sort of, excpet that lots of people, lots of guys still try to get thier way with threats and intimidation.

Maggie: My 'goodness' is the least that anyone would do, and most of what I do, I take pleasure in, so it is almost a form of selfishness. I am curious why you think there are "more deserving people" than you. Sounds like we both have our um, viewpoints. I met you, you listened, you talked to me as an equal, why can I not care about you; want to make you happy, want to see you happy, want to give you joy. I am not in love, I just have so few chances to connect with people and show I am capable of caring. Thank you for letting me in enough to do that!

I cannot be good, but I can try and support those I know to be good, or who have the spark of caring.

Susan: it isn't unrealistic, it is just sort of focusing thier entire trainging and life to a single purpose, which sees unbalanced (to make a toddler sit in church perfectly still and silent).

I think most children want love and to be loved and to show they care for the person who they look up to, their parents. That they will accept being hit and still love shows thier flexibility but not neccessarily the adults maturity. I agree with you that there are better ways, and we don't accept 50 year olds hitting 22 year olds (though I think like 60 years ago we did!).

Gaina: I am a pacifist, so to hit back would mean that he had made me lose control to the point where I adopted his belief system, not my own. So no, I never hit back.

Well, I am sure if I had a child who was running amok that I would raise my voice too, but I hope I would not resort to what I had seen and known, that I could remain in enough control to avoid that.

Yeah, my parents never grounded me becuase I never went out, sometimes they would take things away but I trained myself not to love any object, and to sit playing chess in my head. How exactly do you punish a kid like that - of course my mother did lock me out of the house often, so I became quite adept at an early age of finding "safe spaces" to go to, since I think that started when I was 7 or so. So I usually had one or two "Back ups" for when I was locked out.

Perpetual Beginner: I find it interesting that though it was "okay" or not severe you can still remember the exact number of times.

Yeah, that second one was big on the church, the parents were judged by the obedience of the child (Eph 6:1), and thus, any acts of personal will or even worse defiance in public was doubly bad. In our church the Deacons and others could corporally punish any child, we were even taught that as children we had no real realationship with God, only through our parents would God even look at us.

I think one of my problems IS being myself, I can't seem to stop it. And believe me, having a child with an enormous IQ who had been beaten into submission taught me how to drive adults insane BY following the rules, by combining rules in ways that would get them upset but they couldn't punish me because I was doing what they told me - until they got mad enough and punished me anyway - which is when I learned it wasn't so much about absolutes and following God as CONTROL. Honestly, they may have had the paddle, but with me, meek and mild, I was hell on earth, and I didn't go home with a headache, but they did.

Devi: thanks, I am pretty much exactly like what I am in my blog, that's what people say, so I hope we can get to know each other.

Well, I am glad that society is moving away from this style of punishment. But I wrote the piece I guess just to show people, "This is what corporal punishment is" - and find out why so many people did it, which I guess I am still puzzled about.

Judith said...

I don't know how you are meant to come to terms with a childhood like this. I think it is cool to tell people out loud (or in blog) what happened. I think maybe there is something extremely necessary about telling other people - just the facts (not exaggerating), just the truth. In a weird way I think you will make me brave Beth, just by your example. Then, who knows? Anything could happen!

missnomered said...

Corporal punishment is awful. Honestly, I can't stomach someone hitting someone so much smaller and less powerful then they are. I mean, people who feel like they "have" to hit children - really, what does it say about them?

I'm sorry you had to go through that. You are lovely, no matter what anyone says.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Frida: I went and looked at Gary Ezzo and was made physically sick by finding out that what my father taught to hundreds of parents a couple decades ago was 8 years ago turned into a book that has sold a quarter million. My father was a scientist who worked with training rats, that is where most of his "training" was adapted from. The whole obsession of complete obedience regardless of how small the incident is very much a core as well as the insistance that this is "God's will" - By the way, the whole feeding issue that Ezzo endorses was null in my case since I was never breast fed. My mother told me recently that after my brother, it just wasn't worth the effort and pain of swollen breasts and that there was no way she was going through that again. I thought it an odd thing to tell your child even as an adult but she had no particular shame or remorse: it was a pain so she didn't do it. Thus eliminating night feeding was easier to do.

Yeah, I used to defend too, and say that was the "Right way" but now I am thinking of the things that happened, like being picked up and spanked at 13 on the stret in Seattle because I had said something slightly negative about our parking space ("If there is a delay between the action and the outcome, she will learn nothing). There was nothing about dignity, or even honest intent or desire, only total obedience or total failure.

The school sounds like a nightmare, a nice double whammy of "you are a bad person" for the "character counts party" - who would throw such a party, and why would you exclude anyone? I mean, to go a bit Christian, aren't we supposed to see through God's eyes at what people CAN be - so why tell a child they ARE bad becuase they have a BAD character, ergo a BAD core and then make them write about the type of person they could have been....but they're not - here kid have a switchblade, because you're a bad kid. ICK! ARG!

Thank you for writing what you did. I appreciate it.

Judith: Yes, well, I try to be open about things, including where I screw up and where I am not balanced because I don't like masks, I lived too long under one. I am glad this helped, though I am not sure how exactly. It helped me think of some things and helped Linda and I talk.

Yes, anything could happen. I will try and support you if you want to make it happen, whatever that may be (assuming I don't end up in jail).

kathz said...

It seems obvious that big, strong people shouldn't hit smaller, weaker people. But my parents did smack me from time to time - not hard and not often - because that's what they had learned. It wasn't particularly painful and it wasn't of major importance. I think what people said used to hurt more. I have no doubt that the "punishment" and "training" you endured as child was abusive and wrong.

I think parent-child relationships are difficult and made much more so by many advice books. I can see why your mum might not have wanted to breast feed. I had mastitis which was very painful and made me ill - I remember the pain that caused more distinctly than I remember the pain of childbirth and it might well stop someone from wanting to breast-feed. (But it's different for different people.) I was never very successful at breast-feeding. I stopped, on doctors' advice, after about three months because my children weren't putting on weight fast enough. At the time, all good mothers were supposed to breast-feed and I always felt inadequate and guilt-ridden when I had to get a bottle out. But I believe my mother faced people who thought bottle-feeding was better for babies. I don't know what ideas were around when your mother decided not to breast-feed but they wouldn't be the same as ideas today.

In all of this, what happened to you was caused by other people's strange beliefs. What they called "bad" sounds to me like intelligent questioning, and the determined integrity that makes you stand up for others when they face abuse and discrimination.

Defying gravity said...

Hi Beth

I don't even know what to say to this, but I wanted to let you know that you've been heard.

Also, I really don't get how people get from jesus who told the disciples to let children get near him and not to try to control them, to this disgusting church sanctioned punishment system. I mean, how do they even think it makes sense? Is it supposed to make people feel good about god?

Veralidaine said...

OMG Elizabeth. No wonder you grew up to be a writer. Your life story is one that I would call outlandish if I read it in a book. Dahl would love you.

I got spanked once as a kid, for kicking my dad in the shins to see how he'd react. He reacted with a spanking.

In light of this, do you think your father sexually abused your brother? Your brother molested you-- and I know commenters here have speculated before that he was repeating a pattern of abuse. Your father sounds like one sick fuck, and even though you love him and he's your dad, he's still one sick fuck.

My opinions on physical punishment: If you can't teach a child to behave without hitting, you don't deserve children. An occasional swat on the bottom is permissible but not ideal in my opinion, but anything more than that, and you're not teaching. Punishment has been scientifically demonstrated to produce behavioral side effects like fear and aggression. Is that what anyone wants in their kids?

SharonMV said...

Dear Beth,
You have every right to be angry! I was just impressed how you told the story, & showed these terrible acts so clearly and used your anger to add even more power to your words.

We had our share of spankings & corporal punishment, but it was not carried on religiously or as such an organized campaign. We had spankings with objects - a ruler, a spatula, a hairbrush. Both out parents had tempers. My Mom had a short fuse and discipline (or rather punishment) was often physical & on the spot. But then she did have 6 kids, all under the age of 10 at one point. My father was a slow burn - but when his anger came out it could be terrifying. We got punished for "talking back" too, which became for me when I got older as I had very different views than my father and a tendency to express them. And the capacity to win arguments.
On some occasions I was struck in anger by my parents. Slapped or hit at by Mom. Once she slapped me in the face while I was drying dishes & had a plate in my hand. When she slapped me, she hit the plate which hit me in the face 7 split my lip. That was my fault of course. And one time my father backhanded me across the face.
I was the first one among my siblings realize how dysfunctional our family was. And that some of what are folks did would definitely
qualify as abuse. Denial has always been the main coping mechanism in our family. And it took some of my siblings a long time to to recognize that our parents had moved beyond the realm of social drinking to alcoholism.

But for me, the verbal abuse was the worst. Talk about having all self-esteem drained away and being made to feel unworthy. But I'm too tired to write more. I'll tell you about it another day - if you're interested.

Isn't it terrible that the people we love & who love us (or at least should love us, use the power of that love to hurt us? To hurt children. This is another thing that should not be.


Lene Andersen said...

Thank you for writing this. Best argument against corporal punishment I've ever seen.

And you're not bad. You're one of the best people I know.

Perpetual Beginner said...

Responding to Veralidaine's "If you can't teach a child to behave without hitting, you don't deserve children."

This echoes one of my favorite comments on child-rearing from the book "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor. Her comment is she thought that no one should be allowed to raise a child until they could teach a chicken to dance.

Chicken's don't learn to dance from being punished. All punishment teaches them is to run away. It takes patience, timing, planning, and rewards to make a chicken dance.

Similar rules apply with training killer whales (where Karen Pryor got her start). You don't punish a 10,000 lb. carnivore. Not if you ever want to get near it's tank again.

Elizabeth McClung said...

missnomered: yeah, when an adult loses the temper to a 2 year old enough to hit, what does that say? Thanks. I am sort of confused by people telling me I am nice (becuase I am not, I know I am BAD) and that was Linda's observation and it is not like I needed affirmation, it is just, I dunno, when the devils in your head play....I guess I was just open about all my dysfunction, so thanks for being cool about that.

Kathz: Yes, there are many times when I was spanked and I don't remember, it was nothing, but then there were the times I didn't say I love you enough or hug with enough sincerity and was punished again...and again. Those tend to stick in my mind. Yes true enough, I know my mother probably did what was in some book which is now recanted. I take it feeding babies brandy in their milk to keep them quiet isn't really advocated anymore either?

I suppose I learned that there was no one who was as terrifying to me than my father (besides my rapists), so it make it easier to stand up for those who were scared. But I still love and admire many qualities about my father.

Veralidaine: I don't think my father sexually abused anyone though the amount sex was talked about in our house, I don't know if they ever had sex more than twice (for each of us); I do know that this focus on control of all aspects is why I have nightmares of my parents coming in while my brother is having sex with me and saying to me, "Are your clothes ready for church" and all the things that were REALLY important and stopped me from telling them.

I do believe from things I can't say about my father (becuase that is his story and private) that I am absolutely convinced he was physically abused to some horrid level by the age of 12. And I think he TRIED in many ways to NOT become whatever he was running from - it was just with this "biblical backing saying 'this is what children MUST be like" and "they MUST obey" then he was on SAFE ground and KNEW what he could do and not do. So I think he honestly believed he was following God and God was telling him to do things that were best for us (lucky us!).

Defying Gravity: Yes, I noticed that as I grew up, that there seem to be a sort of total selective scripture hunting, throw out tons of scriptures and take the one about the rod and the child and the one about the Father being the MASTER of the home and the one in Eph 6:1 about how children MUST obey thier parents (skip the next line about parents not bringing thier children to anger)

Thanks for listening to my story.

SharonMV: Thank you for reading it, it must have been difficult, even Linda said it brought back a lot of memories for her and her parents were truely 'liberal' compared to mine. It is odd how we seem to have many shared life experienced.

Yeah, it is hard to develop self worth when speaking your opinion in sincereity gets you a whipping. The randomness of the physical violence sounds even more terrifying than the sort of steady clinical application I underwent. and the face, my father only hit my face once but I never forgot it; it is part of why I hit my own face, the "this is who I am" feelings.

Then throw alcohol into that. Whew!

I am very interested. I did not talk about the verbal stuff, which was more my mother's side, but it is crippling and even today, when we meet even for a few minutes my mother will usually make 3 or 4 comments about how my disability is just rebellion or willfulness or how I am hurting other people deliberately becuase of who I am, or how I am (sick). It makes it hard to develop a relationship, even as an adult because I don't know how to be around people like that. I'm not in regularly, but what do you do when it is your family (the question plaguing me now that I have to finish things up with them sort of quickly if I want to at all).

Thank you for writing so openly. I would very much like to listen more.

Lene: Thanks, I am glad so few people had what I thought was a sort of universal experience. And while part of me knows that I am a person who will sacrifice for another I feel I will always be tarred inside as "Bad, wrong, twisted, dark" or as my mother says, "incapable of producing anything nice or beautiful"

Perpetual Beginner: I think the Chicken to Dance would be a very interesting requirement, I would like to see those classes: "No, Mr. Perkins, if you snap the neck of the chicken, that is a failure!"

But I take your point, sometimes people seem to think only of the stick and forget the carrot. And forget that champions, like horses respond to love and trust more than the endless use of the whip.

Abi said...

"incapable of producing anything nice or beautiful"

Well, your writing is beautiful, and you produced it, so I would say that half of that statement has been disproved rather conclusively.

You are such an excellent example of a human - you're not perfect, and you do some things wrong, but you keep picking yourself up and striving to be good and kind, and to make a difference. You then encourage us lot to do the same. Thanks!

Denise said...

I was spanked as routine punishment for infractions until I was about 8. Fortunately it was usually clear to me what I had done (cut whiskers off cat, broke a picture on the wall, and the like) was in fact a big deal. I cried when my mom told me what I had done to the cat and why she was hiding after I clipped off her whiskers.

That said, I remember my final spanking as a terrifying scene where I was in an inverted fetal position with my ass in the air and one or both of my parents wailing on me, head down against a tile wall and near a space heater. To this day I don't know what I did, but they never spanked me again. They scolded or ignored me. I lived in fear of my parents' disapproval, perhaps because of the minimal contact with and praise from them. I've finally been able to put that aside since coming out to them with essentially, "Take it and treat me like a grown up or leave it and go to hell."

We're doing better these days, but I still wonder sometimes if their behavior (all of it) was rooted in ignorance, apathy, or malice. I think sometimes young children don't understand and might need to be swatted to understand that the thing they did hurt another living thing. I am hesitant, though, to recommend it; I have mostly seen it misused as a shortcut when tempers flare. I see it as a last resort when no other way is getting the point across.

When the only contact you get is under threat of the rod, and the need for human touch is so fierce in us, how can those of us who grew up with beatings as a primary way of touching not still be drawn to it in some ways? I have a hard time relating to the Domestic Discipline crowd, where spanking is not specifically for erotic purposes, but how different is my enjoyment of flogging? Questions, questions.

I like that you make me think.