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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

30 Things Series #26: What Popular Notion Do I Think the World Has Most Wrong?

Now, here's a post from the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series that I could write on all day, but I'll try to keep it as brief as I can.

I was going to pick circumcision, but since the question was what the world had wrong and 91% of the world's men are intact, I had to go global, thus had to go with another incorrect notion. For the record, I think this "popular" (it's not even that popular, since 65% of the boys now born in the U.S. are being left intact) notion in the U.S. is what we have most wrong.

Worldwide, I think the notions that fear equals respect, that you have to hurt in order to get that mistaken respect, and that spanking (one of the things that garners said mistaken respect) is not the same as hitting are those the world has most backwards.

Want to know what being slapped, spanked, screamed at, intimidated, threatened, roughly grabbed and pushed, and otherwise treated unkindly did to me? It gave me a fear of being caught, of getting in trouble, of those in positions of authority. It didn't teach me a damn thing other than that I couldn't trust the person doing those things. I didn't learn to make good decisions. I learned to get sneakier and more manipulative. I recall once when I was an older teen, this person came at me with the clear intent to hit me. I fell back onto my bed and began wildly kicking. There was no way in hell I was going to be hit again. No way. This was the first time I had ever defended myself, though, and it resulted in two things: a major grounding (what was new?) and never being hit again. The rest still occurred, but I was never again struck. There is so much left to be said here, but I'll let you work it out on your own.

I once wrote a blog post called "Hitting is Hitting is Hitting." (Click HERE to see it.) I wrote it because a great many in our world seem to be of the mistaken belief that there is a difference between different kinds of hitting, that some hitting is OK, while others cross some imaginary line they've made up in their heads and that differs for every person, thus nullifying the notion of the line in the first place. I wrote it because a great many in our world seem to be of the mistaken belief that because they were mistreated and they didn't, I don't know, die or end up in foster care as a result, they're fine and should then give their own kids the "fine" upbringing they were given. I wrote it because it needed to be written. People need to be shaken out of their own comfort zones every once in a while. People need to have a mirror held up to them sometimes. People need to be given food for thought. More than anything, though, I wrote it because I believe in standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I guess it was my adult version of kicking wildly at those who needed to know that the pain they inflict on others would no longer be tolerated.

I hear a few things about this all the time:
- "I got spanked and I'm glad. I'm now in college and I credit the discipline my parents gave me for that. I'll spank my kids for sure."
- "My nephew isn't spanked and he's a menace. He could use a good pop."
- "You're what's wrong with the world. If more parents spanked their kids, we wouldn't have the disrespectful, criminal delinquents running around that we have nowadays."
- "My kids don't listen when I yell, so I have to spank them."
- "Well, what if your kid is going to run out into traffic? Wouldn't you spank them then? It's for their own good."
- and so much more...

What crap. I know, I know, I could be more tactful, but sometimes I just don't want to. It's crap. It just is. All of it. Study after study after study tells us that it's crap. Cognitive dissonance allows people to shut out the information presented, though, same as it will here, but their disbelief of the cold, hard facts doesn't make their beliefs on this topic less crappy. And sure, they can find others who will back them up. In fact, sadly, they can find a majority to back them up. Doesn't mean it's not crap. Following along in the path of the majority doesn't mean you're a critical thinker - generally, it means quite the opposite.

Let me tell you about a former student of mine, Kevin. Kevin was a pain in my butt. Seriously. Pain. Yes. Mmm hmmm. He was. Dude. I cannot even tell you. Anyway, I treated him with respect regardless of his behavior, because that's what's right. Every once in a while, I'd see a flicker of something amazing in him. Just a flicker, but it was enough to keep me going with him. I saw something. We once had a parent-teacher conference with all his teachers, his counselor, his mother, and himself. He was failing nearly everything and almost all of us had the same thing to say about his behavior. Kevin had been quiet through the whole conference, which was unusual for him. At one point, his mom turned to him to ask him to explain himself. He continued in his silence. All of a sudden, she hit him. She spanked him a few times, yelling for him to talk. My heart raced. I looked to the more senior members of the faculty to say something. No one did. (My guilt for not standing up to her then is for another blog.) The conference ended and I went back to my room to consider what I had just experienced and what I would do from there. While I always treated Kevin with a distant respect, from that point forward, I treated him with more warmth in addition to respect. That was all it took. From then on, Kevin and I got on great. I mean great. I would've left him in charge of the classroom if I had to step out. That's how much things changed. I understood him, I felt. And I feel like he knew that. I couldn't change what was happening to him at home, but I was able to change my behavior and it was a lesson to me that just a little love and understanding had the power to garner a greater respect than could any violence or ugliness.

I could cite studies and list facts here. If I were writing this for the masses, I would. I'm writing this for you, though, sweetheart, and I if I've done my job properly, I don't need to tell you even as much as I have here. If I've done my job well, you'll continue to find yourself questioning why the kid in the grocery store is getting hit for touching the candy at the check-out stand and maybe you'll even stand up and say, "No more." I have full faith in your ability to think critically. I have full faith in your ability to not only recognize right from wrong, but then do the right and stand up for it, too. If I'm not mistaken, by just being the amazing person you are and continue to become, you are changing the world. Keep it up. I love you.


  1. yep. given the recent multiple high-profile child abuse cases, i'd say you are both correct and topical. who is the only person one can hit legally in the US? that's right, children...you can't hit another random adult. supposedly, you can't hit your significant other or spouse. but your children? "discipline" as you see fit...just don't leave marks. wow...

    1. I hadn't meant to offer commentary to such foul hot topics, but this particular post in the series certainly came at the right time, I'd say.

  2. Discipline is such a tricky subject. I, for one, was only punished with grounding. I turned out to be a pretty good person. My brother, on the other hand, was spanked and such. He is, for the lack of a better term, a hoodlum. Of course, I study psychology so I understand now that there isn't a "one fits all" form of discipline. So many factors contribute to an individual's temperament and ultimately how they react to situations including punishment. And now, I am beginning to sound like one of my papers....