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Observations On Spankings

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When I was a boy in Wilson, North Carolina Black parents had no hesitancy in disciplining their children at home or in public (which had the addition factor of embarrassment to the child) by belts, switches, a paddle, by hand, and especially with “the look.” Although Mama Clara, Aunt Julia, nor Aunt Cherry ever physically struck me, they were very clear in their instructions as to what I could and could not do—and to which I rigidly conformed because I did not want to disappoint them.

Aunt Cherry would give instructions with humor. However, my teachers in the first through fourth grades used a ruler to paddle the backs of my legs. Some sent me to get a tree switch-- and I never did figure out which was the least traumatic type.

Mother would send me to my room to await my spankings and that waiting— perhaps for an hour or two-- was worse than the spankings themselves for I would "die a thousand deaths." The very few times I was with my Dad, he would tell me his rules, give me a warning, and then use a razor strap on my buttocks with full force. Though that physically hurt the most I never got upset with him for being spanked because I had violated the rules. Back then in my all-Black communities youth were quite disciplined. There was no crime of which I was aware. Whether at home or not we did not even bother to lock the house doors (the key was under the mat). Black children showed great respect to all elders and would never have dreamed of calling them by their first names—for to do so would be highly insulting to Black adults. Meanwhile, up to this time White parents used methods of discipline that, compared to Black parents, were much more bland.

In the early 1950s a defining moment occurred in the attitude of all USA children which converted the seemingly bland punishment of White children by their parents to almost none and was devastating to Black youth discipline. The nation’s pediatrician, Dr. Spock, advised parents to be more flexible and understanding in dealing with their children and allow them to "be free" and make decisions on such things as feeding times, even those on the bottle.

Despite their immaturity unreadiness to do so, this permissiveness opened the door for White children to make more decisions, earlier and earlier in life, and about increasingly wider ranges of things. This shattered any remnants of discipline most White parents exerted. Simultaneously there was increasing intervention of governmental agencies to ensure children were not abused and the effect of that led to more un-disciplined White youth.

Gradually, these misguided practices were imposed on Black parents and thereby forcing them into a widescale back-off from stern discipline of their youth. Many Black and White youth demonstrated a freeing from restraints in the 1960s—Blacks in the form of “Black Power” and Whites rebelling against the material values of their parents.

In the 1970s, from watching televisions and movies of White gangsters, “Street Blacks” became copycats of such things as carrying weapons and drive-by shootings. I suspect this was partly because of a lack of spankings (or similar discipline); partly because of on-going difficulties in making a living; partly because of a dissolution of 100 years of “Black Togetherness” into an unfortunate ever increasing adoption of European values and ways by Black people; partly from a dilution of ex-Slaves' intense desire for an education; partly because of a declining interest in the church, especially among Black males; and partly to also have the sense of power and importance White males experience by possessing a gun. By the 1990s loss of discipline among made it difficult for Black parents to control children's self-defeating habits-- things like over-eating, lack of exercise, excessive television watching, and failing to work around the home and for pay--thus able teenagers demanded and received allowances.

website: www.jablifeskills.com

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