Unpopular Opinions: Does Sparing the Rod Spoil the Child? GMG Staffers Weigh In

Dolores del Rio (right) as Madame Du Barry watches Reginald Owen spank a black domestic servant in William Dieterle’s 1934 film Madame Du Barry. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Dolores del Rio (right) as Madame Du Barry watches Reginald Owen spank a black domestic servant in William Dieterle’s 1934 film Madame Du Barry. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It all started (in Slack) when one of the Fusion/Gizmodo Media Group staffers started talking about what we call our parents—daddy, mommy, mom, dad, momma, etc.—and then our weekend social media editor and resident comedian, Corey Townsend, admitted: “I called my mother the wicked witch one day and she thought I said bitch ... she waited until I got in the shower to meet me with a belt ... I have never looked at the Wizard of Oz the same.”

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And then he admitted: “It was very RARE that my mother beat us, oh but when she did ... ”

That’s what took the conversation to the age-old pondering of spare the rod, spoil the child?

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This topic is a dicey one that often leads to full-on debates about whether physical punishment is a necessary evil to raise a good child, or whether there’s another way that doesn’t require violence.

Sidenote: Everyone involved in this sensitive conversation wishes to remain anonymous. Well, everyone except me and Corey Townsend. So names will be changed to protect these full-grown adults from the wrath of their parents.

After Corey’s pedestrian admission of being met with a belt after leaving the shower, a fellow employee—we’ll call her Karen—shockingly said: “She beat you when you got out the shower?? That’s cold-blooded!”

Corey: Out? I was still in the shower ... soap and all!

Karen: Haha ommmgggg! That’s like a scary movie. People stay dying in the shower. How did she even get leverage with you all soaped up?? lollll

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[But then Karen quickly shifted, realizing that she also got caught up in the shower by one of her mom’s punishments: My mom crept up on me like that once, too.

A fellow gentleman employee, we’ll call him Brian, spoke up about his own experiences growing up.]

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Brian: I dodged a swift head slap from my dad once by accident as a preteen, and i still think about the wooshing sound lol

Karen: Being slapped by parents is the ultimate punishment. I really do not want to spank my kids, though. Lol black folks stay debating the validity of beating or not beating your kids.

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Yes, we do. And why is that? Corporal punishment is deeply embedded in Christianity and Western culture, and in African-American culture it is related to slavery and Jim Crow segregation. Throughout history, black bodies were seen as something to control and abuse via slavery, segregation, mass incarceration, urban policing and pop culture. It’s become a way of life that we’ve reluctantly accepted.

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Those inherited behaviors have been passed down to black parent after black parent, leading them to use violent punishment on their kids because those parents want to instill superiority and good behavior. Children who aren’t well-behaved ... well, those children haven’t had parents “whup” them, and those kids—according to our parents—are “white.”

Danielle: If I have children, I don’t want to go around beating them all willy-nilly, but I want to make sure they’re disciplined and well-behaved.

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Brian: I think disciplinary action is necessary, though [it] should be administered on rare occasions.

Corey: Oh, my kids are getting whuppings. Never with my hand, though ... it has to be with an object.

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[This statement of outright child abuse by Corey was met with concern from Karen.]

Karen: I think severe spanking, the kind we laugh about, is detrimental to healthy development overall. All these studies about how it stunts cognitive growth, fear, etc., even subconsciously I can see why my parents did it.

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Corey: My African friends use to kneel on rice as a punishment. I heard that and instantly wanted to try it out on my future children. I realize this is wrong.

Karen: Corey, please don’t have kids. Lol!

Danielle: My mom was given whuppings as a child, and I know that’s why she raised me and my siblings under her iron fist lol! My brothers and sisters were, too, when they got crazy lol, but not as children. I was pinched once—and I was bruised. Lol!

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Not all beatings were considered bad, though. Many of us who were whupped as children grew up as well-adjusted adults who realized the beatings had meaning.

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Corey: My childhood was filled with a lot of spankings; a lot I caused on myself because I was too damn sarcastic lol!

Danielle: Adulting is knowing when you need a quick one-two!

Karen: I feel like it’s an extension of trying to toughen up black kids to the realities of living black, but it’s a weird catch-22 cycle. This weird “stop violence with violence.” Instill fear. No time or privilege to use reasoning or talk through things, etc. I was told why I was getting a spanking, so I got that step.

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[And then another co-worker, whom I’ll name Sam, joined in.]

Sam: My parents also were very strict when I was young, now [they] act as though I was raised in a hippie commune. My mom somehow forgot how I lived in fear and how explosive things were when chores weren’t done. Now everyone acts like I was raised on sunshine and cupcakes.

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Danielle: Same. I remember one time, when my mom was going through the change and I was about to get my first period soon, so we were both hormonal and crazy, and she thought I said something under my breath and she threw an open container of pink gel at me. That hurt my feelings more than my face because I was never hit by her and I didn’t do anything. Broke me a little bit. I did live under a fear of her and I think, well, know, I carry that in adulthood.

Brian: I wonder how many people are legit afraid of their parents.

Danielle: There’re things I haven’t and won’t tell my mom.

Brian: My mom was shocked when she saw me drinking wine.

Danielle: I would never drink around my mom. It’s also something that was never in my home growing up.

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Corey: We don’t talk abut the sex ... well, my sister and mom do, I think, but I think the whole gay thing ain’t what they would want to discuss over afternoon tea and breadfruit. I learned to accept what my parents did because they were doing what was done to them and they were young.

Karen: Totalitarian parenting sucks but is the default for most black households, methinks. It just breeds lying, children aren’t honest and their parents don’t really know who their kids are. Mental-health issues, etc., yeah, the status quo and rules are met, but at what cost?

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Seemingly observing the conversation rather than participating, another co-worker, whom I’ll call Rick, dropped a bomb of a question: Will you do things differently when or if you become a parent?

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Would you? Let’s talk about it in the comments. If your parents spared no rod, are you also using the rod on your kids? If your parents spared the rod, are you doing the same with your kids?

Pretty. Witty. Girly. Worldly. One who likes to party, but comes home early. I got stories to tell. Prince (yes, that Prince) called me excellence. Achievement unlocked.

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DISCUSSION

marthajones30
TheRealMarthaJones3.0

I was spanked, not often but when I was I KNEW what I did to warrant it. And it was only for really serious things. But by the time I was 4 they stopped and that was when it moved to conversations of this is what you did wrong and these are privileges that will now be taken away.

I remember one time my aunt was watching me and she made these egg sandwiches that were disgusting, and I simply told her that they were nasty and I wasn’t going to eat them. And she beat me for not eating them. I still don’t like her to this day. And my old my older male cousin and he just laughed cause they were like of course.

They were raised different (me by my mother in the states, them by my grandmother and aunt in Jamaica) and they were beat for everything. Don’t want to go to church? beat. Came home late cause the bus into town broke down? beat. Didn’t eat all your food? beat. Forgot to come home with an item from the store? beat. And I can see how it emotionally and intellectually stunted them.

Now my other cousin, raised in Jamaica moved and living in London. Has been writing and reflecting about it. We talk alot. And his thought is, part of it is Jamaicans unwillingness to deal with the legacy of slavery, and what that has meant for us and the trauma of it. And that’s part of what he loves about African American authors, He said, you guys have had so much time to develop a language and a framework and thought of what this all means, and trying to move forward. And right now he’s submerged himself and is looking at the similarities and differences and writing and teaching in a way that it can be specific to others in the diaspora.