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.
The rest is here.