Schools Shouldn’t Paddle Kids

Posted: February 12, 2015 in Bullies
Tags: , , , , , , ,

gillespieBend over and grab your knees! No, this is not a sex post… you’ll have to go to my wife’s blog for that. This is about why I think it’s wrong for school administrators to paddle children.

Before you say it, yes, I know that paddling is no longer allowed in schools here in America… at least that’s my understanding. But the subject was brought up recently on a Facebook forum for my old neighborhood school. Apparently, one former student and local BMX icon was waxing nostalgic, praising a former teacher’s rather generous use of the paddle. In short, this person believed that the teacher’s paddling taught children “respect,” and the elementary school’s use of corporal punishment made us all better people.

With all due respect to Mayfair’s king of bunnyhops and ramp riding, I call bullshit on his so-called theories.

Like him, I, too, went to that school and I don’t feel I benefited from its paddling policy at all. In its wisdom, the administration used the worst reasons and most flimsy of pretexts to justify doling out this form of punishment. And if you didn’t show the proper amount of remorse – i.e., not breaking down into a crumbling crybaby – they felt you didn’t “learn your lesson” and would paddle you again… harder. And if the first one didn’t make you break out into tears, the second was guaranteed to elicit the desired reaction. It was the stuff of bullies, really.

As discussion of Gillespie Elementary’s “paddling policy” continued, former students recalled the various reasons they took a few from that dreaded piece of wooden enforcement. Walking on the grass instead of the sidewalk, sliding on the ice ponds the formed just outside the bus stop, and in my case, “bouncing down the hall like a jackrabbit,” according to one grumpy, undersexed, overweight, and perpetually unfulfilled teacher.

Looking back on it, all being paddled ever taught me was that adults could be as capricious and cruel as the kids. Being adults with the power to paddle just made them more dangerous. Thing is, I didn’t need to endure that plank crashing into my backside to learn that lesson; both my parents were teachers, and I learned early on that the limits of their patience for childish nonsense wore rather thin indeed.

It wasn’t until I became a parent, myself, that I realized the truly insidious nature of swatting children.

It was many years ago when I became a parent in my 20s. When it came to raising my child, the only “manual” I had to go by was that of parents and the other adults who’d shaped my life to that point. My daughter’s mother and I were having a devil of a time keeping our child from climbing the pantry, which put her at risk for both falling and pulling the large wooden structure filled with cans and jars down on her.

After a week of saying “no” and taking her down from the pantry, we were both at the ends of our respective ropes. Long story short, I gave our daughter two clapping swats on her bottom the next time I caught her climbing the pantry and she promptly burst into tears. It was then that I realized who paddling was truly for: the parent.

The reason parents spank their children is to make themselves feel better. The temporary release of anger in a tangible way upon the one who’s annoying you gives the parent a momentary sense of power and control, which feels good… for a moment. This delusion is shattered in the split-second your child looks at you just prior to the cascade of tears that are sure to follow.

I recognized the look in my daughter’s eyes in that moment; it was a look of shock, anger, and above all, the feelings of betrayal that occur when someone who tells you they love you more than life itself turns around and hurts you. I remember being so distraught over what I had done that I cried into my then-wife’s shoulder for quite some time, vowing never to swat our daughter again. It never did take away the desire to do so in the heat of the moment, however, and I believe that’s the vicious cycle that every child who was paddled strives to break when they grow up and become parents, themselves.

As to the effects of paddling at Gillespie Elementary, I highly doubt the practice made us better citizens of the world. Likely, it only reinforced what many kids who grew up in that little redneck, shoprat neighborhood of mine were already learning at home: that might makes right. Is it any wonder, then, that there was so much bullying at the school back then?

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

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Comments
  1. halloweenmachine says:

    BRAVO!! Absolutely agree and had similar experiences as both student and parent. The vice principal at Longfellow actually said, “Assume the position.” This was in response to a fight in which I finally chose that day to stand up to the school bully. It was a completely reactionary moment…This dude bullied EVERYONE and he just pushed me in the back on the wrong day. Two things occurred to me as I was sitting in the office waiting for my mother. One: I was treated identically by the powers that be with my first offense…Two: They told us not to hit each other, and then hit us.

    I have never laid a hand on my daughters and only a couple times with my sons, because of what you said…When I was angry, I wanted to hit them. Great blog.

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