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Spanking Manners Post by :White_Wolf Category :Essays Author :Heywood Broun Date :November 2011 Read :2893

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Spanking Manners

We have received The Literary Digest Parents' League Series, in which the training of children is discussed in seven volumes by William Byron Forbush. Much of it seems sound and shrewd, but it also seeks, by implication at any rate to encourage parents to maintain with their children the old nonsense of parental infallibility. Thus, in one volume, which suggests the manner in which a father may impart certain information to his son, he is quoted as saying, "I tell you this, Frank, because I know all about it." And in another volume mothers are urged to hold before their children the ideals of the Light Brigade, "Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die."

Now there is no denying that this is a comfortable doctrine for parents, if they can put it over, but they must make up their minds that sooner or later they will be found out.

Also, we are in entire disagreement with the author when he says that spankings should be administered in a cool and deliberate manner, that "punishment must partake of the nature of a ceremony." The only excuse for a parent who spanks his child is that he has lost his temper and his patience and his ability to think up any better remedy. If he is asked why he does it he would do well to explain all that very frankly to the child and to add that it is the rather harsh rule of the world that stronger people usually adopt force against weaker people to get what they want. The child may regard him as a bully, but he will not be in danger of being thought a hypocrite as well.

This system seems far preferable to the one suggested by the author in a quotation from Charles Werner: "My boy, listen: I love you and I do not like to hurt you. But every boy must be made to obey his father and mother, and this seems to be the only way to make you do it. So remember! Every time you disobey me you shall be punished. When I tell you to do a thing, you must do it instantly without a moment's delay. If you hesitate, if you wait to be told the second time, you will be punished. When I speak you must act. Just as sure as you are standing here before me this punishment will follow every time you do not do as you are told."

This would be, at least, a commendably frank statement of the tyranny under which most children are held if it were not for the unjustified intrusion of the love motive. This occurs, however, in a still more objectionable form in a reply to a mother, in which the author writes, "Should it ever be necessary to spank him I should not refuse to kiss him, even while you are doing so. He can learn that no punishment is inflicted in anger and that punishment does not turn aside your affection."

Such conduct is adding insult to indignity. It goes beyond the tyranny which few parents can resist in a state in which interests are necessarily so conflicting as one which is inhabited by growing persons and grown-ups. It is probably not to be expected, or even desirable, that parents should always allow the interests of the child to displace their own, but when they cannot resist the temptation to sweep over the borders of childhood with all their armed forces it is a little too much to ask that the conquered people should be not only docile but grateful. In other words, the father or mother who says as a prelude to punishment, "I am doing this for your own good," is a liar at least nine times out of ten. What he means is, "I am doing this for my own convenience," and he ought to be frank enough to say so.

The trouble is, as Mr. Floyd Dell has pointed out, that the parent wants complete submission and complete affection too. He can't have both without making a hypocrite of his child. It is perfectly healthy that the child should have fierce outbursts of resentment against his parents when they get in his way, and he should be allowed, and even encouraged, to express his protest. It is the most arrant nonsense to suppose that a relationship of continual love is a desirable thing to keep up. It is much too wearing.

The other day I tried to take a small fragment of newspaper out of H. 3rd's mouth, and he tried to swing his right to the jaw. I still have the reach, and I was able to protect myself by a frequent use of a lightning left jab. Finally I rescued the paper. It was only a small section of an editorial in an evening newspaper about the trial of the five Socialist Assemblymen. Probably I might just as well have permitted H. 3rd to swallow it. Without doubt, the paper would have taken it back the next day, anyway.

In speaking of his endeavor "to make the small duties of life pleasant to the child" one parent writes: "These items should never enter the arena of argument; they may, if taken up early, by a gentle, loving firmness, be treated always as though they were as certain as sunrise, for there is a curious conventionality, a liking for having things done in a dependable fashion, with little folks, and there is nothing to which human nature in young or old more cheerfully submits than the inevitable."

Yes, and there is a curious conventionality in the man who has been hopping about the office all day in obeying the orders of the junior partner or the city editor, which inspires him when he comes home to his children to pretend that he is Kaiser, Fate, or God Himself.

"No time of day is more heavenly in a home than the hour when little children, like white angels, go up the stairs to bed."

We wonder if our continued failure to get any such impression rests only on the fact that we have no stairs.

"One wise mother tells her children to divide all people into two classes--friends and strangers. Friends we love too well to gossip about; strangers we know too little.

"Another suggests to her children to meet a proposal toward gossip with the quiet remark, 'I like all my friends.' Nothing more can be said."

But it can; the child rebuked by the quiet remark has only to say, "Well, then, let's talk about Gaby Deslys or King Edward VII."


(The end)
Heywood Broun's essay: Spanking Manners

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