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Raised by the rod

/ 05:20 AM November 09, 2018

The thwack of the ruler against my little fingers had a strange sound. I can remember it still—that brief but sharp contact of wood against skin. It almost sounded painful, but it became comical the more I repeated it in my mind.

All that, simply because I couldn’t spell all 100 words correctly for a quiz. My mother laboriously tape-recorded herself spelling them aloud, and I could not sit another second listening to it. But all went well. I wailed myself to sleep, but was awakened not long after with ice-cold orange juice and whatever snack my childish appetite was lusting after.

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That was just one of the many episodes I had with my parents and their dubious forms of capital punishment. When my childhood friends would come over, I would eavesdrop on the conversations at the adult table and snigger at Tita’s retelling of how she gave my friend a good spanking. “My friend who claimed to be the Blue Power Ranger,” I thought. “Crying his eyes out at Tita’s reprimand.”

And so the stories would thread the same plot, as we shared these anecdotes with our now-adult friends. How different parenting was in the ’90s. Our parents would contradict themselves—ruthless arbiters one moment and loving disciplinarians soon after, firm and autocratic but also doting and soft at heart.

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At the turn of the millennium, we were slowly spared the rod. I do not exactly remember when the spanking shifted to grounding. And the grounding became real, adult quarrels. Those two modes of punishment seemed like lifetimes apart.

Curiously, we grew up to become functional adults. On occasions that we have to stand in loco parentis to a restless toddler, however, it would take every ounce of strength not to sneak a pull at the tyke’s ear. Discipline is, indeed, a tough art.

But times have changed. For someone like me who belonged to a generation raised by the rod, raising children these days is tough terrain. In the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called for a ban on spanking, saying that research has proven that corporal punishment can affect normal brain development. Striking a child can cause elevated stress hormones that may change the brain’s structure.

Verbal punishment such as shaming may also cause the same effect. Dr. Robert Sege, formerly a member of the AAP Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, said these punishments affect children’s performance in school and their interaction with other kids, and may lead to mental health issues and cause children to become more aggressive as they become adults.  Sege also noted that parents who rely on corporal punishment have serious mental health issues of their own such as depression, substance abuse or even partner violence.

Last month, the Senate approved Senate Bill No. 1477, or the Positive Discipline of Children Act of 2017. It goes so far as suspending the parental authority of parents should they repeat the offense of corporal punishment of their kids.

I think people around my age are those that have grown up just around the time corporal punishment was slowly being phased out in schools. As I entered elementary school, it was already nonexistent. Today, as some of us start to become parents ourselves, we are seeing perhaps the ultimate demise of it in modern households.

Is there a need for this change? Others might perhaps share the same sentiment as I do when I say that I am curious about how this new generation will turn out. What will be their nuances, temperaments and sensibilities? As for us, we have become those “back in my day” type of folks that we swore we would never become.

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I never bore grudges for my parents’ spankings. When I was a child, I thought I’d hate them my entire lifetime for the practice. Later on as I became an adult like them, we became more aware and accepting of each other’s flaws—their parenting included.

This I know for sure, though: Had they allowed me to grow up with no sense of self-reliance or self-control; had they raised me differently or pompously; had they crippled my ability to process pain and accept reality, I would be very much resentful about it, and toward them.

michael.baylosis@gmail.com

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TAGS: child discipline, opinion, Philippines
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