“I didn’t like it or understand it at the time, but now in hindsight I’m glad my mama and daddy beat me. They were just doing what was best for me and they did it because they loved me. I’d hate to see who I’d be today if they hadn’t.”
This is a sentiment I’ve heard many times before but this day it was particularly painful. You see, I was sitting in a room exclusively full of current homeless men and/or former addicts. In a church. Some how, in that rabbit trail kind of way, we had wandered onto the subject of disciplining children and “the good old days”, then one at a time I heard from each of these men how grateful they were that they had been beaten as children.
“I was beat as a child for doing wrong, and I turned out just fine!”
I sat there, dumbfounded, trying not to give away how disturbed I was in my facial expressions. What I wanted to say, what I was thinking, went something like … “REALLY?! You turned out just fine?! You’re in a HOMELESS SHELTER and most of your life has been wasted on drugs and alcohol! Really, you turned out just fine?!!!!”
Instead, I made some weak arguments for why I think children often respond better to a gentler approach to “discipline”. My message wasn’t received, and I didn’t push the issue. I’ve become fairly adept at discerning when someone isn’t ready to accept certain truths and I’ve also learned that pushing truths on someone before they’re ready never ends well. So I held back most of what I really believed on the subject. And I certainly didn’t mention that I had written an ebook about respectful parenting. (I consider several of those men friends, by the way, and my intention is not to belittle them)
Unfortunately, the recent viral video of the father openly mocking is daughter and then shooting up her laptop has brought me face to face with this illogical perspective once again. Facebook has been riddled with people “Amening” the actions of this father. Now, to be fair, I didn’t watch the video because I try not to subject myself to senseless negativity that I know will likely upset me. Also, this specific video wasn’t about physical abuse, but it is still in line with disrespectful parenting.
I did, however, watch the video of the judge “disciplining” his teenage daughter with a belt that was popular not long ago (pictured above) and was very sorry that I did. It brought back painful memories of being similarly “spanked” after entering high school.
And I’m going to say, for the record, I’m not thankful that I was hit as a child. I don’t think that it made me a better person. I also don’t think that I would have “turned out” worse if I hadn’t been hit and bruised with belts, fly swatters, switches, wooden planks, and shoes from time to time. Or slapped in the face. Or called names. Or screamed at. Or been shoved through closed doors.
That is what they call a false dichotomy.
One has no way of knowing that they would have been “worse” if they had been treated with kindness and respect. If they’d been listened to, and not arbitrarily punished. You can’t prove that. You can’t know that.
And, I suppose, I can’t prove the opposite, either. But I’m going to use a little thing called common sense and claim that it’s likely that when kind, patient, respectful parenting is modeled, it can produce relatively kind, patient, respectful children, and adults.
To be clear, I’m not intending this to personally attack either viral video father, or anyone else. But I am begging them, you, me, everyone, to consider that what our culture fed us as truth in parenting … might not even make sense.
I believe that most people act out of a sense of assuming they’re right. I believe that many parents “discipline” their children in very harsh, derogatory ways because our culture has taught them that is how you produce a productive member of society. That’s how you “keep them on the right track” or “keep them in line” or whatever.
But believing something doesn’t necessarily make it true.
Love conquers all.
And I don’t mean the kind of love that abuses for a child’s “own good”. The kind of love that acts …
… um, loving.