Tuesday, December 8, 2009

When It Comes To Disciplining Our Children, Where Should We Draw the Line?


Last week I filed my first child abuse report.

After becoming utterly annoyed by a student’s immature and disruptive behavior, I called his mother. I explained the situation and asked if she wanted to speak to him. Instead she told me she was on her way with her belt "to whoop him in front of the class.”

My mind went blank.

I tried to convince her not to come. After all, it was a shortened day and we were going to be out of school in less than 20 minutes, but she would not be moved. About 10 minutes later, both parents showed up and my students and I had a front row seat to abuse.

A hush fell over the classroom, all of the students waited to see what would go on. I thought that this kid’s parents would pull him aside, talk to him, and at worse make him cry, but I was not ready for the sound of the slap that echoed off of his face. I’ve never seen anyone—in person—slapped so hard in my life. I hurt for him. The other students sat in awe and I was thrown, completely thrown at how to handle it. Do I call the police? Do I call school security and tell them what just went on? I was at a loss.

After he got slapped, my student tried to play it off like nothing happened. You could see the tears welling in his eyes, but he wanted to show strong for his friends. One student voiced what we all thought, “Ms. I know he acts bad, but he didn’t have to slap him like that.”

At first, I wasn’t sure it was my place to file an abuse report and perhaps throw this family into the system and under the watchful eye of child services, but I couldn’t ignore what I saw.

After work I discussed the incident with a few co-workers and asked them if they thought the slap constituted abuse. Most agreed that I was right to file a report, but one said, “Well, that was daddy being daddy. I wouldn’t file a thing.” This threw me. When did slapping a child in the face become an acceptable form of discipline?

Growing up, my parents subscribed to the belief, “spare the rod, spoil the child.” My mother wasn’t afraid to break out “Mr. Leather” if she felt we were doing wrong. However, she didn’t abuse us, never left a mark, and never spanked out of anger. But we quickly learned to abide by the rules or get ready to feel the sting of leather on legs. But slapping? My mother never hit us in our faces, cursed us out, or did any of the other things that many of my students seem to encounter at home.

Many may shrug at my student being slapped by his father, but does this type of discipline work? No, it doesn't. After being slapped, my student not only continued to be the same immature, fidgety 7th grader that he was before, but now he has the added shame of being pimp slapped by his daddy in front of his peers.

I look at my students, at their behavior, and I often wonder: What systems of discipline are in place in their homes? Why is it that they only seem to respond to being yelled or cursed at? How can they be disciplined without abuse?

Most parents abuse their children because they don’t know any better. They are merely repeating what was done to them. It doesn’t make it right, but it gives us a jumping off point to teach parents that disciplining children does not begin and end with a slap—that slapping a child doesn’t teach them a lesson, but often causes them to act out even more.

About our MyBrownBaby contributor:

Britni Danielle blogs about her experiences raising a son while his father is incarcerated. She is a teacher, writer, and avid music junkie, and mothers over 100 brown babies a day in her classroom before coming home to her own. Check out more of her incredible writing and poetry at ThisSideoftheWall.

post signature


  1. I know that from previously working at an elementary school, the principal or office staff and security should've been notified once they said they were on their way. By the time they arrived, they would've been stopped from entering the classroom. The other students should not have been put through watching that and as a teacher, that is YOUR classroom so they should've been told, "You are NOT allowed to discipline your son on this premises or I will have to report you to the authorities." Now that it's been done, I'd do a follow-up report with the authorities and notify the school police as well so that they can go out and investigate further.

    The problem that I have with this is not that he got spanked but that he got slapped in the face, in front of other students and the humiliation weighed more than the pain.

    It IS abuse.

  2. First, I too am surprised a parent was allowed to waltz right into the classroom. Our schools from pre-k to 12th grade are locked down from any visitors that aren't escorted via the office.

    In our home, physical discipline is a last resort and never involves slapping, that is most definitely abuse in my eyes.

  3. our school states in the parent by-laws that they are to report to the office first before entering a classroom--if i felt the child was in anyway going to be chastised like that by the parent, even after being told that they were going to come up there to whoop him, i would have told the secretary to have them keep the parent in the office and alert the principle about it, then walk the student in the room--that way you have a witness then call children services--its not a pretty picture when they come to pick your child up and place them in another home because of the abuse the parent is afflicting on the child--i've seen it happen many of times in my school--so yes, you were right to rpeort child abuse--never secondhand guess a decision like that when it comes to a child--PERIOD!!!

  4. I am a parent who doesn't spank her children spank.I'm not against parents spanking,but it does make me sick to hear parents cussing out children and name calling. Verbal abuse can scar a child too and many parents don't realize that.In my family,I have 5 kids (ages 13,10,9,7 and 5)three girls and two boys and I've never told my children to Shut up/Shut the F up,instead I use be quiet. I have never called any of my children stupid and have never allowed them to call each other Stupid. You're teaching your kids that you're the bigger person and teaching them that there are other words in the English vocabulary.

    Our community has been conditioned to believe that the only form of discipline is physical,but I have come to believe that using hitting as your only form of punishment is a form of laziness. It takes more time and patience to really teach someone something than beating them to conformity.

    Now, granted I don't know this family at all and I'm not calling these parents lazy,but I am calling a lot of this,I'll beat your @ss mentallity,Lazy.


  5. All I can hope is that I parent out of love and not anger. My father was a laxed disciplinarian but when he did spank me it never physically hurt but it made me cry because he was disappointed in me or scared for me for something I had just done. My mother never understood that concept and was down right physically abusive with me. I chose to leave my family at 13 because I was sick of hiding black eyes and other body wounds. The thing is I was a good kid, never got in trouble anywhere, but was scared for my life when I was around her. I would also see her attack my father and he would just take it and never fight back unless she came at him with a knife or something that could really hurt him. I do not want to repeat whatever her problems were/are with my own family.

    I hear stories like the one you posted and feel for the child for being physically hurt as well as humiliated. I understand. However I have no idea what kind of parent I will be. With my nieces I will tap their bottoms or hands with two fingers if I see them do something that will hurt them or their sisters. They still respect me enough to quiver their lips and break out into a cry when I do that. However I am not a parent yet and dealing with the stress of a child 24/7. I don't know if I will know where to draw the line. I just hope my actions will be out of love, not anger.

  6. Oh gosh that makes me want to cry, poor guy.

  7. A sad and too-common story. I remember well the liberation it was for all of us when my first wife and I decided to forego *all* corporal punishment.
    "Spare the rod and spoil the child" is not in the Bible but is a synthesis of several OT verses. (http://www.helium.com/items/274817-spare-the-rod-and-spoil-the-child-explained).
    Personally, I now like to think of that adage as two separate instructions:
    1) Spare the rod.
    2) Spoil the child.
    IMO, we're all God's children, including our "own" children, so all should treat all with respect, even deference; e.g. substitute “parenthood” for “priesthood” here: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/121/41-44#41 (“betimes” means “quickness” and “sharpness” means “clearness,” not “harshness”).

  8. This story is very disturbing and I wonder why the teacher did not stop the parents from doing this in her class in the first place. But let's look at the additional impacts this public punishment can have on the child. For a child to be publicly embarrassed and humiliated like this only plants seeds for their behavior in the future. God only knows how may other times he has experienced this type of punishment or worse. Regardless of him appearing to be tough enough to take the slap, what is going on inside of this child's mind? What is he feeling? What does this do to his self-image and self-esteem? What does it do to his reputation as a student and/or young man? I respect that every person's idea of discipline id different and that they will employ the practices of what they feel works. However, they should think about the consequences of their disciplinary actions from their child's perspective. I am a firm believer that you can discipline a child in many ways they teach them right from wrong without engaging in such extreme behaviors.

  9. That poor boy! That could be the only attention that he gets; so he will act out to get it:{

  10. Thank for your all the comments.

    RE parents visiting the classroom: At my school, they have an open door policy for parents/guardians. They simply have to stop by the office & let them know where they are going. In the past (at my other school), the office would call and say So & So's parents are here. Not at this school. I probably should have called the office, but honestly, I didn't think the mom would spank him in front of everybody (and I didn't think she'd show, since we were so close to the end of school). I've heard it before, and the kid usualyl straightens up & the parent is satisfied.

    To the Anonymous commenter, I really didn't have time to react or stop the parent from slapping the child. I spoke to both parents at the door, dad went inside, called for the son to come over (and i thought he was going to talk to him outside) and his father slapped him as soon as he got close enough (the boy sits in the front of the room). It happened so quickly, I was stunned. Like, Did this really just happen?

    After school I filed a report, called DCFS, and they took it from there. FYI, as a mandated reporter we have to report SUSPECTED abuse (also, we cannot report it to school police because they are not able to investigate child abuse, we have to call child services). My student is still in the home. They don't take kids away over a slap (or apparently a few slaps). Nothing has seemed to come of it. Child services doesn't follow-up with me, but in talking to my student he has simply accepted this as normal.

    This experience has taught me a few things. Definitely, I will view a parent's threat differently and try to get the school office involved to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. Also, I will not 2nd guess myself when I suspect child abuse. I can't have pity on the family, I have to look out for my student. It has to end somewhere, right?

    Again, thanks for reading & commenting!

  11. and Kia,

    what openness & honesty you've shared! your ability to be so aware of your mother's abuse and its effect on your will help you parent out of love.

    yes, parenting is tough. as a mother to a 4-y/o i am often UPSET with his antics, but as my mother always told me: never discipline out of anger. it's tough. it's natural to react (especially when he pours soap all over the floor or takes off most of the keys on my work laptop #TrueStory), but i remind myself he's only 4 and i'm an adult.

    you will be fine!

  12. I'm glad to hear everything turned out okay,and thanks for sharing this eye opening story with us.

  13. My dad used to slap me really hard across the ear when to him it was extreme bad behavior. Often, I was certain it was totally uncalled for, even later when I knew I was in the wrong.

    I would never do what he did to my own kids, and my dad did eventually mellow out.

  14. I whip my kids when the get too far out of line its normally after I have pleaded, bribed and tried the stern talking too and they pretty much ignore me. I am a single parent and sometimes I just dont know what else to do. Last week my 4yo was running at a friends house and playing on the stairs after I told her no less the 15 times to sit down and we would be leaving soon to paint ceramics for their grandparents christmas gifts. it didnt work. So I told her that we were leaving and I was not taking them anywhere but home if they could not listen to me. She threw the biggest fit I have ever seen from any child. She screamed a ear piercing scream over and over saying no she didnt want to go home she wanted to paint. She would not put on her jacket she fought me. she actually pushed me and kept screaming. Please dont misunderstand and think that i never take them places that is why she acted out...thats not true I have try to do as much as I can but my 4yo is killing me. If you have suggestions you can e-mail me at cheetara51@yahoo.com

  15. Chicky*Baby,

    I feel your pain. Lately my son, also 4, has started talking back & becoming more defiant. I also spank (but I'm trying to do so less & less), but not right away. All I can say is this, it's NORMAL for kids to react like that because they are trying to 1)test the limits and 2)are unable to really "deal" with things like we'd like them to.

    Advice? I'd say continue being patient with her. Know that it's not personal when she throws her fits, and even if you want to smack her right then and there, don't. You may be just reacting out of embarrasment & anger. Try to ignore the tantrum. Lately if my son tries that tactic, I'll leave him right where he is & walk away. He'll usually keep crying for about 20 seconds, then he'll come to me. I think the less we respond to their tactics, they less they will see that they don't work.

    Here is an article about dealing w/ a defiant preschooler: http://bit.ly/7jPNsW

    Good luck sis, and let me/us know how it goes (also, feel free to email me as well. theprisonerswife@gmail.com)


  16. tricky subject. I was one of those students. and receiving those kinds of whoopings kept me in line. it may not work for everyone, BUT it does work for some.

  17. I am sorry, I am not a silly blogger but... who is BRITNI DANIELLE? She must be an important person, isn't? I couldn't find anything related to her.


Speak Your Mind Here

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin

wibiya widget