Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spare the Rod?

When properly applied, corporal punishment is effective. If my mother said: “Wait ‘til your father gets home,” I knew what was coming. She could dish it out herself but it didn’t hurt much. My grandmother could too. If she said “I’ll biff you one,” she would. If I did something serious though, they’d leave it to my father. Corporal punishment works very well to control behavior problems at home and at school. Last week, however, Delaware outlawed spanking by parents while Marion County, Florida considered bringing it back to schools there.
 Once corporal punishment has been applied, just the threat is effective because it’s credible. Kids size up parents and teachers, and they know when an adult means what he/she says. If you bluff, you lose credibility and power. The table turns, and you’re responding to the child who controls the dynamic. Once lost, it’s very difficult to get that control back.
I can’t remember the first time my parents physically disciplined me, but I observed my older siblings getting it first. Third grade was the first time a teacher put her hands on me. Mrs. Gallagher, a confused older woman, wasn’t a very good teacher and I was usually bored. I don’t remember what I did, but she took ahold of my shoulders and shook me. I’d seen her do that to others and observed that she was inconsistent. The shaking didn’t hurt either. It became comical when students pretended to be dazed - crossing their eyes and sticking out their tongues when Mrs. Gallagher grabbed their shoulders and shook.
 
As I progressed up through the grades in Catholic schools, discipline got painful and my public school friends told me it was used there too. In seventh grade I remember snow just before recess - the kind perfect for making snowballs. Over the loudspeaker Mother Superior warned us that there would be no snowball-throwing but we couldn’t resist. We had a roaring good fight for the entire fifteen minutes while she observed with binoculars from an upper window and wrote down names. Back in our classrooms, she came over the loudspeaker again, saying: “The following students must report to the cafeteria immediately: Thomas McLaughlin, Albert Brackett, Daniel Sheehan  . . .” and about ten others. Still dripping with melted snow, we filed down the stairwells to the basement cafeteria. There she was with her black outfit and stern look as we lined up against the wall. “I warned you,” she said, and walked up to Al Brackett who was first in line. She lifted his chin with two fingers of one hand and then slapped him with the other. The next boy got the same thing, and so on down the line. Finished, she said: “Return to your classrooms,” which we did, looking at each other with suppressed laughter as we climbed up the stairs.
 
In high school we were taught by Xaverian Brothers, some of them very tough guys. They hit hard, and there was very little laughing after getting smacked by one of them. The best teachers didn’t need to use corporal punishment though, because they were interesting. We respected them and wanted to stay in their good graces.

Marion County, Florida school board member Carol Ely is a former principal who supports paddling. She administered it for fourteen years and claims it’s very effective for chronic misbehavior. “The return rate of children for corporal punishment has been almost zero,” she said, and much more effective than suspension.

My first teaching job was with juvenile delinquents ages 14-18 in Lowell, Massachusetts where there were plenty. They’d been re-classified “emotionally disturbed” or “ED” as special education laws were implemented in 1975. Reform schools had just been closed down and former inmates came to our small, private school. The reclassification didn’t change their behavior however. When they became disruptive and would refuse to go to the headmaster’s office, I’d have to physically drag them down there with whatever force necessary. If I hadn’t been able to do that, I don’t see how I could ever have taught them effectively. Those kids were tough.


Trending in the other direction, Delaware state senator Patricia M. Blevins sponsored the legislation that outlawed spanking by parents. It “redefines the term ‘physical injury’ in the child abuse and neglect laws,” she explained, “to broadly include any act that causes ‘pain.’” If I were raising my family in today’s Delaware, I’d be an outlaw. When my daughters were fighting in the back seat during a long car ride and ignored me when I told them to stop, I’d cause them pain by reaching back and squeezing just above their knees. It worked very well, but I’d be a criminal in Delaware.

There’s more to write about where this liberalizing trend is going, so I’ll return to the subject in another column after the election.

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13 Comments:

Blogger Showboat said...

Mr. McLaughlin, thank you for a reflection upon the benefits of spanking and similar punishment used to maintain discipline. Common sense should prevail, but, alas, common sense is not so common anymore.

10/10/12, 8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inflicting physical pain is used by bullies, regardless of the reason. Bullying comes in all shapes and sizes. I learned to hate bullies. Still do. All you want is revenge. Perhaps the psychological pain of sitting in the Chair in the 'office' on public display is also a form of bullying but I found it to me more effective for me. .

10/10/12, 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on, Tom. Whip their sniveling little behinds till they cry for mercy. And the bonus is...it feels good to do it, right! Especially to whip those bare behinds, eh, Tom? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

But why stop at schools? Business' should be able to take out the whip for lazy workers. Do you realize how much harder slaves used to work than do modern day workers? Or how about workers chairs wired to electric shockers?!?

I'm with you - bring back that device you can stick peoples heads and arms through the holes and use it at recess!

We'll show 'em who is boss!

10/10/12, 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Texas Transplant said...

I have a crooked little finger joint due to my bad behavoir in algebra class. Sister Mary St. Vincent was not about to put up with silly girls who were disrupting her class. Having been an educator in my later life I have learned to understand and appreciate her methods...One light whack administered while passing between the rows of desks with a triangular wooden ruler did the trick. Would that I had been permitted to do the same thing!

10/10/12, 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does corporal punishment seem most prevelant in countries with wicked dictators? Look what happens in South Korea and Iran. Good idea, Tom, let's get the USA to be more like them.

10/10/12, 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Fred said...

Does corporatl punishment work? Maybe short term. But be prepared for that same child to be more aggressive in the long run, and get ready for some other antisocial behaviors too. That is what a new analysis of two decades of research on the long-term effects of physical punishment in children has shown - that it doesn’t work and can actually wreak havoc on kids’ long-term development.

www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.101314

Later in life, physical punishment is linked to mental-health problems including depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use. There’s neuroimaging evidence that physical punishment may alter parts of the brain involved in performance on IQ tests and up the likelihood of substance abuse. And there’s also early data that spanking could affect areas of the brain involved in emotion and stress regulation.

But hey, who cares. Little Jimmy is not pulling pigtales for the time being, right? And that is all the lazy teacher, who lacks ability to discipline children in other manners, wants. If it makes Jimmy more likely to hit and abuse others in the future, well, that ain't your problem, is it?

10/10/12, 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Rhonda said...

There is a difference between abuse and spanking. If the spanking is started early enough, as it was with my 5 kids, they learn a healthy respect, not only for you, but for every adult in authority, and learn early to avoid the behavior that leads to spanking!!! My kids will even tell you today, that when they were little, they feared me and my wrath. My son, Andrew, says "Mom we thought you were cussing when you got angry and yelled 'COTTON PICKIN!!'. It scared us!" The same goes for spanking when kids are little. You don't have to leave marks and bruises, you have to simply let them know that THEY are not the ones in control, YOU ARE! My kids, even today, think I was the best mother ever, and try to emulate me as they become parents. Well, except for the oldest daughter, who refuses to spank, and uses the "time out", which doesn't work. It just sends this naughty kid to his room to play somewhere else, and lets him know that he can do whatever he WANTS! It is the liberals of this country who don't want you to spank your kids, and that is what is wrong with our schools. I guarantee you that the schools with the best behavior, the best grades, the best character, the least crime, have kids who were spanked!

10/11/12, 4:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter has never been spanked in her life. She is now in 9th grade and is an excellent student who displays no behavior issues either at home or at school. I think if it is possible to achieve this without spanking, then why on earth would I spank?

10/11/12, 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Rhonda said...

It is true, that there are children who never need to be spanked. My youngest was never spanked either. He watched what happened to the others, and never did anything to deserve being spanked. :)

10/11/12, 4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, dr. Freud has a field day with this stuff! Thanks!! Haha...wow

10/12/12, 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has the Catholic Church always ruled by fear, it seems that most of this feed back comes from that direction.

10/12/12, 9:21 AM  
Blogger Average American said...

"If you bluff, you lose credibility and power. "

Do you suppose that is the exact reason that Iran still to this day thumbs it's nose at us?

Bleeding heart liberals! Most probably got BEAT instead of spanked and don't even realize that there is a BIG difference.

10/17/12, 7:44 AM  
Blogger Steve Piotrow said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/19/12, 5:44 PM  

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