Wednesday, June 11, 2008

To spank or not to spank

One of the things I still get to enjoy while waiting for employment to get back to me is listening online to Al Sharpton's radio show. It's always good to hear other's opinions in response to the topics of the day. Today's "hot button topic" was corporal punishment.
The Rev. wondered whether current gang activity was related to the fact that there wasn't enough whippins, beatings or out-and-out non-sparing of the rod. Some callers agreed with him. I did not.
The sporatic forms of spankings my children received in their early years were handshakes compared to the skin-splitting reprimands my mother gave to me. While my now-ex believed in
it like a Sunday drive, I couldn't get the flashbacks out of my head when I tried to follow his rule.
"I got beat and I turned out fine," he'd say. Fine is such a relative term...
Anyway, I think I only touched my kids violently maybe twice each, mainly 'cause I lost the stomach for it and challenged my now-ex to not hit/spank/pop them again.
I instead concentrated on letting them know I respected them and anything they did wrong was their decision, that I would be disappointed if they did wrong and certain coveted things from their well-appointed rooms would disappear as punishment.
After a while, they would come to me in tears to tell me of my latest reason to be disappointed in them. And I showed them great disappointment with about 30 minutes of lecture. It was agony for them because I laid it on thick.
And I think that's what's missing from the psyche of today's kids: nobody respects them. Even the best-paid parents will try to buy their children's love with nothing but material things in return. You can't get a hug from an iPod, can't get a smile from a $200 pair of sneakers.
A wise woman (Toni Morrison, I think) once said kids want to see their parents eyes light up when they come into a room. Instead, some get ignored, some get cursory acknowledgement, some get 50 questions on what they did wrong and some get the snot slapped out of them because they still look like the absent parent. They don't get called on at school (unless they don't know the answer), don't get the choice benefit from a teacher, get snarls and sneers at the store, police drive by slower (and sometimes just park and stare). And these are the middle class kids. I'm sure the ones who live in the socially cordoned areas get worse.
In the July issue of Ebony, Judge Greg Mathis talks about the history of white t-shirts and butt-hugging, too big pants on many of today's youth across the racial color wheel. He compares it to the way men in prison dress out of necessity, not style. Actually, the mental pen today's young males are trapped in resembles the real pen: penitentiary. Why not dress the part when onlookers treat them like criminals in waiting?
That defensive posture tells me they've already accepted the fate of getting swept up in the netting of penal inevitability. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
When I see a male walking around in oversized clothes, especially shirts with broad stripes, I wonder what their relationship with their father is. Does dad dress like that? Chances are, if they can readily point to their father, dad is as straight-laced as his dad was. And dad has either decided or is deathly fearful for his son's maturity in freedom. So he leans on him extra hard and for a teenager, that's not a good tactic for a rebel to comply. They stay at constant odds and love, tactile love, goes right out the window.
To me, they look like big boys with little hearts, looking for acceptance and affection from people who don't want anything but the best from them. And I pray for us all...

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