Tuesday, 17 January 2012

To beat or not to beat

I had compiled a few news stories that I found either relevant to my profession, worth talking about or just plain daft but I never got around to posting them, so now I'm making up for it, starting with this:


I grew up in the 60's and 70's, and corporal punishment was legal and quite routine. Teachers in my day used a leather strap; a thick brown or black thing that, when brought down hard on the palm of your hand, delivered a long-lasting stinging-numbing sensation that made you feel like your hand would drop off. I can actually remember the pain to this day. You had to stand outside the school office, or the head's office... or even in the middle of the classroom, with your friends watching, as you waited for the 'belt' to be brought out of the teacher's desk. The anticipation alone was punishment enough.

Then you'd be asked to stand straight, with one hand one top of the other, outstretched, as if begging for money. Every kid I saw getting hit with this thing bent their little elbows in to try and avoid getting hurt too badly as it flew down onto them. However, if you were seen doing this, you'd be told to behave and you'd get another, extra lash for your trouble. Trying to pull your hands away was futile because it often ended in farce, as the belt missed and instead, hit the teacher on the knees.. or worse, the groin. You'd get hit much harder for that. And if this didn't happen, you'd end up getting hit so hard on the tips of your fingers that you'd wish your hands had remained still. But, it's hard to stand there and watch as it comes down, without wanting to run away from it.

Sometimes the evil thing crossed the border of hand and wrist and you'd get a lot more pain than you deserved, as it burned into the softer, more vascular area of your lower arm. No matter where you got hit, you'd be left with a red mark that told of your evil character. One hand, then the other would be battered. Usually one or two blows were enough but some kids got hit four to six times. By the time that ordeal ended, they'd be crying or screaming in pain and would have to go and see the school nurse!

Every teacher could give out this punishment, and there were no rules or guidelines as far as I'm aware, for the meting out of it. I was once given a few lashes just for playing the school piano without permission. I had done no real harm and I was showing off. There was no damage done, except to the ears of those with a love for good piano playing. It was harsh and extreme. I got punished like this for going into the staff ladies' loo, just to see what it looked like. Mrs Cuthbertson, a very large teacher, caught me as I made my escape and I got a few lashes for trespassing... or curiosity as we call it nowadays.

But in those days something else was pretty endemic; physical abuse at home. It was almost normal for parents to beat their children with belts, fists and God knows what else, as a means of 'disciplining' them. Well, I can tell you, it didn't work. It made us fear adults but not respect them. It taught us that the only way to get someone to do what you want them to do is to hit them. Bullying was rife in my day.

I am all for discipline and I am passionately against this 'new wave' stupidity that came along in the 1980's, where children were told they had rights (yes they do but please, just stop telling them!) and that everything could be sorted out by letting them grow 'naturally'; in other words, they could do and say whatever they liked. It was their right to behave like that. Small children calling their parents by their first names is a dead giveaway for this relaxed attitude. Imagine soldiers calling their superiors by their first names.

"Corporal, take your men over that hill and kill the enemy immediately!"
"Yeah, righto Simon. I don't bloody think so!"

Rubbish! They are children; they need to be told what to do and to be guided in the right direction, otherwise they become feral little gits, with no sense of value or truth. Children are all inherently selfish, for good survival reasons, but they should eventually learn that others have rights too and that others have frank opinions. They should also learn that for every bad deed there is a punishment; a consequence for their actions. That punishment does not have to be physical. At least, not to the point of brutality, which is what I described from my school days and home life.

I have never hit my children and never will. I would spank Harry on the backside if he ever went beyond ridiculous but I've never had to. Physically, they need no more than that. I have the right to bring my child into line and to teach him that he just can't misbehave without consequence. More effective, however, is the naughty step. Harry puts me on it if he thinks I've done something wrong! That's how well it works. He believes in the concept and therefore understands that he is sitting on it because he's been naughty. He will learn the difference between good and bad.

Does beating a child make them better behaved? No, it doesn't. It provides shock and awe for school staff, so that they can get a moment of power back for themselves. It teaches the child nothing about leniency, respect, appropriate repercussions or love.

I have an idea. Why don't we just tell the parents of every child in school in the UK to stop bullying the school staff? Why don't parents, who think they know better than the teachers at their child's school, shut up and let these people get on with their jobs? After all, if it wasn't for them, none of us would be able to work because we'd be too busy taking care of and educating our little ones. They are doing us a favour and they are inspiring our children.

Stop going down to school and 'having a go' at some defenceless member of staff just because you don't agree with their policies. The old 'it's my child, so don't you be telling him/her/it what to do' BS has got to end.

When Harry goes to school, I want the staff to treat him with love and respect. I want them to hold his hand if he allows it and needs it. I want them to hug him if he's down or has fallen over and is sobbing. I want them to punish him, using the clever tools of psychology, if he has been bad. If he, for example, pushes another child in the playground, I expect a member of staff to stop him in his tracks, using a firm no-nonsense voice and to instill in him a sense of fear that what he did was so wrong there will be consequences if he ever does it again.

I will NOT march my prissy self down to the school, get in the face of one of the teachers or the admin staff, and bellow 'how dare you shout at my child? Who the f**k do you think you are?!' That, my friends, is bullying. That is someone with no sense of the scale of things and the possibility that their little cherub deserved it and is a little shit at times.

So, no to hitting our kids but a big fat YES to giving school staff the power back they need in order to stop the rot that is festering in our children.



Anonymous said...

As usual you have said all the right things - as an abused child of the 50s going to a school where whatever you did was never good enough it took till my 30s before I realised I was a person in my own right and actually quite good at being a mum and friend.

Anonymous said...

Well said! [Yes, I am a teacher, and also a parent, and agree with every word you said].

Anonymous said...

I whole-heartedly agree with you on this. I grew up in the 80’s and my dad decided punishing me when I was “bad” was best by belt or smacking me. I grew up hating him and certainly had no respect for him. I did not grow up a criminal thought, but his discipline made sure that I feel there is no value in our relationship now and personally, it is his own fault.

Peter said...

Very well said, there is a middle ground between the give teachers carte blanche to do what they please and the its my child brigade.