Thursday, March 03, 2005

Spare the Rod, Raise a Thug?

Jamie Foxx gave a great acceptance speech at the Oscars last Sunday night. I didn't actually see it live, but I did read it online and in the paper the next morning. One of the most uplifting parts was the tribute to his late grandmother, Estelle Marie Talley, who raised him through most of his childhood, right down the road here in Terrell, Texas:
...[M]y grandmother...was my first acting teacher. She told me, "Stand up straight, shoulders back. Act like you've got some sense." We would go places and I was wild-eyed. She said, "Act like you've been someplace." And when I would act the fool she would whip me. And she could get an Oscar for the way she whipped me because she was great at it. And after she would whip me she would talk to me and tell me why she whipped me, that "I want you to be a Southern gentleman."
Yet in this morning's Dallas Morning News, a reader wrote in with a letter that totally rained on Sunday night's parade...
Where do you draw the line? If Jamie Foxx were a little boy today living in poverty, abandoned by his parents, raised by a grandmother who beat him, as he said, "worthy of an Oscar, herself," would you still be lauding her?

More likely, he would be removed from the home and placed in foster care, and grandma would be arrested on child abuse charges. Apparently, it is true that he who has the gold (Oscar) rules – or at least allows you to rewrite them.
--Jennifer Culbertson

Read the whole thing (scroll down to the headline that says "Don't praise child abuse").

OK, have we gone off the deep end here? It seems as though Foxx turned out more than OK, despite the "whippings," and he didn't feel as though he was being abused. Reading this letter really made me think hard about the whole issue of corporal punishment. Is it always child abuse, no matter what, or only when the parents employ it out of anger? I alluded to this in a post last week (except I accidentally referred to capital punishment at first; thanks to Gary for catching that), and now I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible for the pendulum to swing back...or if we, as a society, want that.

The big difference between many kids now and kids when i was in school is the lack of respect for any sort of authority at all. I think what seems to be missing is that little sense of fear, which may have come about because actions don't seem to have any real consequences anymore. I know that I saw the business end of Mom's Kappa Delta paddle way too many times as a kid (and it was the happiest day of my young life when she somehow lost said paddle...and I had nothing to do with that, honestly!). My parents never hit me in anger, it was never more than a few times, and it only happened when i did something really, really bad. (And of course there was always the spectre of getting "swats" at school too, which sounded even less fun; I was a really good kid at school, if for no other reason than that.) I also think the prospect of having that happen again colored the decisions I made later the extent that, even now, I judge whether or not I decide to do something by whether or not I might "get in trouble" for doing so. Granted, the adult ramifications of being in "trouble" are different, but that little element of fear helped in the formation of my moral compass. I wonder what can replace that healthy fear now that corporal punishment seems to have been put on the taboo list.

There's a balance to be found here; I know there is. What can be done to keep kids in line if spanking has all but been outlawed? I'm glad I'm sitting here thinking this through now, before I even think of having kids. So please, join me in the discussion. Here are my questions at the moment:

--Were you spanked as a kid? If so, did it ever get out of hand?

--Would/do you spank your own kids?

--Is there a difference between corporal punishment and child abuse? Is it possible to do the former without it leading to the latter?

--If corporal punishment is an idea that's past its time, what else can be done to instill that healthy sense of fear that seems to be missing from many young people today?

--And finally, am I all wet on this topic? Is this even a major factor in the bad behavior and lack of respect exhibited by many kids today, or is something else a much bigger contributor to the problem?

Your turn. Fire away...

1 comment:

Eric Grubbs said...

Yes, I was spanked but so rarely that neither I nor my parents remember specific times. They were not severe from what I remember (Maybe because of the fact that we remember things of how they matter over how they really happened is a factor).

As I've thought about it since the last time we discussed this, I think would spank my child, but to a point. Somewhere I would like to place some tact in the activity, hoping to avoid the remote possibility it would be seen as 100% anger. Since I'm a sap and one who suffers from anxiety problems, I couldn't spank my child unless he/she really deserves a lesson.

Corporal punishment is spanking to teach a lesson. Child abuse is unfairly intending to hurt a child (mentally, physically) out of anger on a regular basis.

I don't think you're "all wet" here. This is a topic that's brought up when the extremeties are brought up (whether in press, TV or radio). I think about these things even though I may never get married in the mental state I am in now (start playing the sad music now), but we think we can control things that appear we can control.