When I was a kid whenever we misbehaved we were treated to the belt or the spoon, depending on if the punisher was our dad or our mom. (My mom’s Italian so a wooden spoon was a natural extension of her arm and therefore a logical – and handy – correctional tool). Back then, corporal punishment was considered acceptable. And though parents didn’t make it a habit, the occasional smack in public was also deemed OK.
In fact, if you saw a kid get hit in public, your parents would give you the “see, that’s what happens when you misbehave” look and you were suddenly on your best behavior knowing you could easily be next. Fear of pain that is coupled with public humiliation is a strong motivator to be good.
In fact, I knew parents who took corporal punishment so much to heart that they made their kid wear a paddle on a string around his neck. And the paddle said, “If I misbehave, spank me.” I kid you not. Yeah, okay. That was weird even for back then. Even my parents thought so and forbade us ever to use the paddle on the boy…else they’d spank us. But did anyone call Child Protective Services? Nope, because everyone believed that discipline was the domain of the parents, however they saw fit to do it.
Nowadays, that kid would be a target of a child welfare visit so fast it would make your head spin.
While I’m sure there are still parents out there who believe the occasional swat on the behind doesn’t hurt (the child’s psyche anyway) most of them would never in a million years do it in public for all to see and judge and get them into enough trouble that they’d have to cash out their 401k’s to retain a criminal defense attorney. Nope, I would go so far as to say that most parents who still believe in corporal punishment, engage in it secretly, behind closed doors.
Generally, parents who believe in spanking have been driven into the dark recesses of the family room, plantation shutters firmly shut. The spanking backlash brought on by countless studies and articles on child rearing has created a nation of closet swatters. (Well, except for that frazzled mom by the BBQ place at Disneyland two weekends ago. But then, given the frustration-inducing crowds sometimes encountered at “the happiest place on Earth”, I’m surprised I didn’t see more parents laying hands upon their kids.)
Anyway, recently one of these closet swatters stepped boldly out into the open. Or as open as an enclosed plane full of passengers and crew can be. And she even made the news!
A Georgia woman on a Southwest Airlines flight from Texas apparently slapped her 13 month-old daughter when she wouldn’t stop crying. This resulted in police being called when the plane landed in Albuquerque. The parents were detained and questioned before finally being released with their child and boarding another flight.
Okay. I know how I feel about smacking a baby in the face. NEVER. And I won’t even start ranting about the logic, or lack thereof, that went into determining this was the best course of action to get a baby to stop crying.
Also, I’m a proponent of “when in doubt, err on the side of caution” especially where a child’s welfare is concerned and I, too, probably would have called authorities on this mother.
Still, I have to wonder…
Have we gone overboard in our radical responses to the occasional public swat? Is it our right as parents, albeit absolute strangers, to call out these swatting parents for what they are doing to their kid, as I have actually seen done MANY TIMES! Is it reasonable to call the authorities about it? Or detain an entire flight? And at what point does that seem a necessary move? Where is the line? Is it one of age of the child? Of degree of spanking? Or the kind of spanking? Or is it never, absolutely under no circumstances, ever okay to spank your kid in public or elsewhere?
What do you think? OKAY OR NO WAY?
Meanwhile, if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for a scheduled tête-à-tête over juice and crackers with my eight year-old to rationally discuss (all the while avoiding any “you” messages which can be damaging and ineffectual) appropriate and acceptable ways of expressing disdain for mommy’s rules.