- Family and Parenting»
Was That Child Abuse?
Sissy was the name of his favorite switch.
If my mom was alive today, she would probably be jailed. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" was the standard of good parenting when I was young. Any parent during the 1950s who didn't use corporeal punishment was considered absent.
When writing Rarity from the Hollow, in the back of my mind was my little sister. Out the screen door of the housing project apartment my mother would yell, "Bobby, Pam, Shelly, Troy, hell you know your name, get your ass in here." Shelly would always run to the closest tree, but mom was patient -- she waited by the trunk with switch in hand until my sister had to pee. Then Shelly would get it, and in front of approving neighbors.
More recently child discipline transitioned into a butt only model for a while. That didn't last long. A year ago, our county prosecutor was forced to resign in shame for leaving bruises on his son's butt. A parent can still spank, just not too hard.
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out" is a veiled threat with no actual impact on children so well educated about abuse and neglect reporting. In Rarity from the Hollow, Lacy Dawn, empowered, stood up to her father and burned all of his switches. Since she was the predestined savior of the universe, Dwayne knew that he couldn't take her "out." The same may be said for modern family life -- our children represent parental salvation. And, they know it. But, that didn't stop the mother that we all recently watch hit her son on national television.
In interview, this boy expressed admiration for his mother. He knew that she was right. Is there a racial or class difference in parenting compared to the white middle class? After 40 years as a children's psychotherapist, I'm confident that putting the boy in time out would not have deterred him from looting. Since the boy's face was covered, I'm just glad that the mother recognized her son when she saw scenes of the riot and took action.
Love appears to be one dividing line between abuse and discipline, but not always. Dwayne loved Lacy Dawn, as do many if not most abusive parents. But, Dwayne was sick with PTSD from his Gulf War experiences. Mental illness of the parent is a common barrier to effective child discipline, especially addiction, depression, and bipolar disorder. On television, that mother did appear to have an anger management issue, maybe. Maybe not.
Child maltreatment is very real, and growing. Few abused children become empowered like Lacy Dawn, even if resilient. Nevertheless, victimization is not an easy finding to make. It takes more than bruises on the butt.