When Whipping Goes Wrong

As I get older, read more, learn more, my views on parenting continue to evolve. In some ways, I’m worried that I’m going to be “that” mother. The overly-protective and indulgent one, who tries to instill discipline into their tantrum throwing child by speaking firmly while everyone else in line is looking at shock and amazement at my parenting failures. I don’t want to be that mom.

On the other hand, I’m starting to realize that I don’t want to be the parent that my children will tell war stories about: the one that popped you in the mouth, that had a special whipping belt, that beat you with an extension cord, or slapped you in the face for getting smart. In my circle, it’s mainly considered good parenting, instilling discipline, ensuring respect in your household. When does that type of discipline cross the line into abuse?

The story about Creflo Dollar and the allegations surrounding the abuse of his daughter and subsequent arrest has me really thinking about what discipline means to me. I definitely grew up old school, with spankings, whippings and one time an open-palmed slap to the face for being mouthy. It never occurred to me to call the police, but at what point would have been appropriate for me to do so?

I read many of the comments on the blog at CrunkFeministCollective on “When the Church Fails It’s Women.” Most of her article is about women supporting a theology that condones violence, and more specifically, silences the voice of one of our 15-year-old daughters in order to raise up her alleged abuser.

I have some definite thoughts about women silencing women, but for the purpose of this blog, I focused in on the issue of violence in parenting. Crunktastic asks:

Why have we bought into the primary premise of white supremacy, that the most effective way to establish authority is through violence? Surely, this situation teaches us that the only thing that kind of parenting does is breed the kind of resentment and contempt that will have your children calling the cops on you at 1 in the morning.

There it is.

While some commenters agreed with crunktastic, there was a very vocal group of dissenters that claimed that either we didn’t know the entire story or that a man has a right to discipline his child the way he sees fit. Many of the commenters felt that children these days are disrepectful and its important to keep them in line. Many commenters told stories about how whippings help them turn out to be fabulous people and if it was good enough for them, it should be good enough for our children.

But don’t we want better for our children? When I was younger, I thought that paying my college tuition through loans and jobs helped me to understand the value of education and therefore my child should have to do the same. It was only through exposure to alternatives that I realized other people were helping or paying outright for their children’s tuition in order to give them a leg up. One of the privileges of education what to help my children to give my children a head start instead of in the hole where I was. I could instill values in other ways.

That same mentality should apply in other areas of life. My children won’t have to struggle the same way I did, and they shouldn’t have to be beat (or silenced) the way I was. Why? Because when we know better, we do better. Cultural norms may allow us to have a shared experience when we are sitting around reminiscing, but that’s one punch in the “Black Card” that I don’t want my children to have.

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