As news breaks today about students being paddled in North Carolina schools and a Staten Island mom who watched a live feed from a hidden camera, powerless to stop as a nanny smacked her infant in the face, the question isn’t just about the idea of using corporal punishment, but who (if anyone) has the right to hit our children?
I could not watch the video clip of Staten Island nanny Mamura Nasirova caught on camera slapping an infant across the face so hard the child rocked sideways, without thinking some dark thoughts about what I would do in that mother’s place. The infant was not taking the bottle and the nanny repeatedly smacks the baby in the face. According to the Staten Island Advance, the mother rushed home and the nanny is now jailed on child endangerment charges.
My mother just called me after seeing the story on the news in New Jersey to remind of how, when I was the age of the baby in the video, my nanny kidnapped me and took me to her apartment in Queens. When my father and police arrived there she dangled me from a balcony as my father tried to convince her I was not possessed by demons telling me not to take my bottle. So apparently nanny screening hasn’t progressed very far in the past 45 years.
Sadly, my father was an alcoholic who believed that he and his drunken friends all had the right to give me a fat lip or fracture if I displeased them in any way.
Parenting four sons is a challenge, especially through the terrible twos when there were times I used what Oprah once termed “the diaper pop” or a swat to the butt when the child was so far off the rails he was either endangering himself or another child. That was the limit for me. If someone else were to hit my child that would be a very bad day for everyone concerned.
To ice this mud pie, The Associated Press reports that North Carolina's state school board is pondering “taking a stand against using physical pain to enforce discipline even as the number of children paddled in public schools falls fast."
Corporal punishment is still allowed in a dozen or so of the state's 115 districts. The AP adds the board isn’t asking to outlaw the practice which took place on 404 occasions in schools statewide, down from 891 cases in the 2010-2011 academic year.
For me, that’s just 404 times too many that a public school teacher decided it was time to strike a child in the classroom. Worse, N.C. is not the only state to allow corporal punishment of students. The only hand raised in a classroom should be to ask a question.
My Grandpa Frank who lived in Passaic, N.J. went to Catholic school and never made it past the seventh grade because the nun would beat his hands with a ruler when he was late to school. He was late because his father had died and he took a paper route to support his mother and sisters. In seventh grade he snatched the ruler, snapped it, and left school forever, becoming the neighborhood fix-it man.
So why does all this hitting happen anyway? Perhaps the best answer came from a character in the film "Time After Time", when H.G. Wells tells his assistant, “The first man to raise a fist is the man who’s run out of ideas.”
My idea is a time out -- for the caregiver or teacher. They need to make sure anger and frustration aren’t driving their actions. Then we need to turn to a site I found called YummyMummy.com where they list eight good alternatives to striking a child for disciplinary purposes including: empathy, making a contract with a child, prevention, and reward systems.
In these modern parenting and teaching times with an entire internet at our disposal to search for ways in which to arm ourselves against disciplinary problems, there’s really no excuse for running out of ideas and hitting a child.