When did discipline become abuse?

A controversial topic, I know, but I have wondered for a few years now. When did we as a society decide to stop spanking our children as a form of discipline? When did the schools put an end to corporal punishment out of fear for criminal prosecution? At what point did children catch on to his phenomenon? Kids today can do whatever they want, and they know it. You know what happens to the average child who back talks his/her parents now? A timeout. “You get your bottom over to that chair and sit down for a few minutes!” You know what that accomplished? The child has now had a chance to think of other ways to come at you. He or she has just taken 5 minutes away from the “discussion” to think about how they could have gotten more things changed in their favor while you were busy trying to come to an agreement so that this battle would end soon.

I hate to place blame on any one particular piece of society, but I will say that these talk shows have played a major role in the “turning of tides” in the child-rearing methods. Go ahead, turn your television to a talk show, if your child will give the remote control to you. I dare to say, if the show is not aimed at criticizing an adult for the way he or she disciplines a child, it is probably dealing with the issues of a child “out of control”. Children of today’s society have all the “right now” communication they need to pass their findings along to their friends and friends of friends. ” Hey, parental update! I don’t have to take out the trash anymore because I filed child labor suit against my dad!! LOL”. What the ???? It’s true, I know it has happened. Could you imagine the next time you tell your child to take the trash to the curb you get this response, “I’m suing you for child labor violation!”? Let me tell you what would have happened back in the day. If I would have told my daddy I was going to sue him if he tried to make me take out the trash, I would have been told “you can’t get blood from a turnip!” Of course, I would have been told that as I was getting a belt across my backside while carrying the trash to the cans.

Kids today have far less respect for their parents than generations past. I realize times change, and so do circumstances. However, I have to admit I find myself telling my children all the time “Y’all don’t know how easy you got it!” I have to tell you though, I think it’s a different level now than it was back when I heard that from my dad. Kids today have all the computers, the mp3 players, handheld video games, cell phones that do everything but wash dishes, and information available all the time, any time, just pull it out of the air. My 6th grader son searches constantly when online, from Radio Controlled cars to dragons and dinosaurs. He visits the Discovery Channel sites, loves How It’s Made, and Mythbusters. He comprehends most all of what he hears and sees to at least, maybe exceeding his age level. But you tell him to unload the dishwasher, you’d think he was 4. Well, except that a 4 year old would be happy to unload the dishes, they would just be placed on the floor throughout the kitchen. And, yes, I did say “unload the dishwasher”. I know, that is another improvement that makes the whole “y’all don’t know how good you got it” statement fitting.

I won’t say how many times I have had the principal from the school call me. Now before I get started, let me make clear. It is not an outrageous number. My children are actually pretty well behaved, comparable with others I see through the course of a day. Back to the principal calling me up. I get a phone call. “Mr. Ratliff this is so-and-so from the school. I have your son in my office today. He has been written up for not following instruction on the school bus. I have shown him the student handbook where it talks about the bus being an extension of the classroom and explained to him that it is not tolerated.” I acknowledge him. And then I hear this, “Now, Mr. Ratliff, Son is going to be removed from the school bus for a period of 7 days, so he will need to have other transportation to and from school.” HOLD THE PHONE!! I thought maybe he was going to punish my son! Heck, my boy loves getting driven to school and being picked up daily. This does not punish him, this punishes me for now I have to change my schedule to make sure he gets there and gets back home. When I was a kid, we got called into the principal’s office. He would let us know he received the complaint about our actions. We had a choice, “door opened” or “door closed”. At which time a paddle would be made visible and you pretty much knew you messed up. After a few licks from the tree, you would be given a warning, “Don’t make me call you back in here!”

Those were the days. Hated it then, miss it now. The problem with crime amongst young people has gotten ridiculous. The number of teen pregnancies, unacceptable! Why is the daycare at the high school available to the students’ children? When it was approved to be built, it was sold as a place to keep the teachers’ young ones close and make it easier on the staff who worked the campus. A teen-aged girl today has no reason to be extra careful. It’s accepted, and the boys don’t have to fear for their lives anymore because they know the girl’s father can’t come hunt them down.

I have had the unwanted opportunity to be on the victim end of juvenile crime twice in the past year and a half. Vandals struck a cemetery where I serve on the Board of Trustees and the second time was when my home recently got broke into and burglarized. The latter is still pending, so let me tell you what I saw happen at the vandalism situation. What should have been an easy Class A misdemeanor, if not felony, lead to two teenaged boys having to deal with a judge telling them “that was wrong” and then giving them a probation deal. Have your parents pay the thousand dollars of damages, stay out of trouble for 6 months, and this won’t go on your record. Now, I have to be honest, I don’t know that they each didn’t get a good beating by his dad every time he had to sign a check. I only know what I found out from court. But there is the problem, I believe. I understand “kids make mistakes, their actions as teenagers shouldn’t be punished for the rest of their lives with a record”, in most cases. But these kids acted maliciously and without hesitation in violating a remote cemetery and the old schoolhouse which stands adjacent. Both of which are State Historical Landmarks. I thought the punishment missed the mark for fitting the crime myself, but maybe that’s why I’m not a court official.

Maybe if kids like those were spanked and disciplined a bit more “old-fashioned” when they were growing up, they would hold a bit more respect for themselves, others, and others’ properties and that would have never been a thought or option to “carry out” in the first place. I don’t know, I just call them how I see them! Next time you see a child getting disciplined in the grocery store, offer your belt, if the parent doing the disciplining left theirs at home! It’s time we got back to the basics when it comes to child-raising. Let me know your thoughts!

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