Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 6.38.12 AM“That’s the problem with kids today. You don’t have the authority to discipline them,” said one person who did not wish to be identified because (s)he will never be allowed to join the PTO and bake cookies again.

“I’ve spanked my son,” said one mom, lowering her voice. She tried to take it back, even though she’s one of my best friends and I’d never turn her in. Can’t be too careful. Soviet gulags filled up with people whose friends would “never turn them in.” “I’ve just spanked him once or twice…and not really hard at all,” she apologized.

Kids know society doesn’t want us to spank them. That it’s no longer a personal decision. I threatened my son once when he was practicing his hobby of being highly inappropriate. I warned him. “If you do that again,” I’ll omit the “that” so he has some shot at a prom date, middle school friends, and marriage, even after he does get old enough to realize his mother earned a Pulitzer prize by publicizing his childhood, “I’m going to spank your hand.”

“No you won’t Mommy. You never spank me.” It’s true. I don’t. Sometimes he taunts me. “Mommy! I’m doing something baaaddddd…. see…..spank me!” He’s even dared to wiggle his little behind near my face, “spannnnkkk meeeee…” running away and laughing. He turned mocking my kindness into a game.

I reached over and pulled out the parenting manual, turning to page three, “job description.” There it was. It’s the kid’s job to outwit me, and my job to defeat him and crush his spirit at those times when he thinks he has a chance of winning.

Without a word, I got up, moving the smelly wiggling behind aside, and walk silently to the big computer. I changed the password, and sat down. Game. Set. Match. I don’t need to spank his body. I spanked his inner soul.

NPR recently produced a segment in favor of spanking. It’s a three-minute testimonial by a young man recalling his childhood–thanking his dad for the whoopings, going so far as to discuss this by ethnicity. He stated he can tell the consequences of misbehavior by race. When kids act like lunatics in the mall, he said, a black mother issues physical discipline while a white mother tries “to hold a conversation with her semi-lunatic child.” He must have seen me in the mall. Is there something to this?

I asked teens. I picked some challenging teens, the type that might have something to say on this issue of discipline. They all came out in favor of spanking. Frankly, I was pretty shocked.

“My mom never hit me. She should have. I was bad. If parents take care of this stuff when kids are little they grow up with respect. Now we don’t because we know. You can’t do anything.” Another teen seconded it.

It’s true. I watched a kid tell a parent once, “You can’t ground me, I’ll call DCYF.” That parent, without a blink, picked up her phone, and Googled the number, handing it to the kid. “Make sure they get you a good judge and group home.” Brilliant. Is the flip side of society’s kindness this sense of entitlement that is seeping into every aspect of the American fabric? Into colleges, the work force, into society?

“Are you saying,” I asked the teens for clarification, “that spanking is for little kids who don’t understand reason, or it should be for older kids, too?” They clarified. Older kids too.

It was a great conversation. I asked if they’d spank their kids, “I’m waiting to have kids,” said one teen. “But I’ll spank them.” I spoke to teens of a few different races to be sure. Most of them agreed with spanking, stating they didn’t like it but it works. That it’s not abuse. Abuse is raising bad children. This…is…deep. I love talking to teens. I learn a lot.

This turns everything the professionals have taught me upside-down. I’m not making a judgement on this controversial subject, but listening to the perception of teens teaches me a lot. I usually consider teens my experts on anything involving pop culture, technology, or deviousness, which I like to call “innovation.” Because what it is when used for good.

I’m going to have to think about this. As teachers, we’re always taught to talk respectfully, reward good behavior, and use the positive. That’s in my nature. It’s what I do. Positive, layered with a healthy dose of humor, which builds the best relationships of them all. But this brings up the larger question–not necessarily about spanking but about codling. Are we coddling kids too much? We’ve banned dodgeball, have produced an education nation where the number one stat we have is that we lead the world in self-esteem, have kids who say “you can’t/won’t hit me.”

Secretly kids are asking for discipline. Admitting to their transgressions and saying, in private, that they want me to catch them. Even my little boy wiggles his hiney in my face and saying “You won’t spank me.” No. Probably not. I’m a Gandhi-loving pacifist and I prefer to outwit kids instead.

That NPR article, the voice of a teen who’s “grown up to be a respectable young man,” refuses to be ignored. Maybe it’ll spark the conversation about how we solve the problems of education and society. Who knows. Maybe I’ll just look up from my Kindle and find another hiney in my face.


[image: . Great post on this issue]

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