A facebook status recently went viral where a mom found out her daughter (no age mentioned but based on the context I’m going to guess about middle-school age) was physically and verbally abusing a classmate.
Upon learning the news, the mom “whooped her daughter’s butt” (again, I’m not exactly sure on what that entailed) and then mama bear marched her daughter to the other girl’s house where the bully was forced to apologize to both the victim and the parents.
Personally, I thought the punishment fit the crime and I probably would have done the same thing had my son been caught mistreating or bullying a peer or classmate.
But of course “mommy warriors” took to the comment section, reprimanding the mother for how she handled the situation and incredulously inquiring, “how do you expect to train your KID not to bully if YOU are a bully?”
Ok, hold the phone right there for one, damn second. Drawing a parallel between bullying and a parent’s right to enforce corporal punishment as a means to scare or eradicate an adverse behavior is unsubstantiated and feckless.
Bullying is a means of establishing dominance and power through humiliation, gaslighting, degradation, and any means possible. Bullying is designed to buttress the confidence and ego of the abuser while reducing the victim’s sense of autonomy and self-worth at whatever means necessary.
Corporal punishment – when used sparingly and correctly – does none of these things. Corporal punishment (again, when inflicted by a parent who communicates its purpose to the child and uses it only for the sake of bettering their child) is far from bullying.
How do I know this? Because I was bullied my whole life. Not by my peers, but by my dad. He actually WAS a bully. He used his position of power to degrade me in every way how – verbally, physically, and emotionally. Getting slammed against walls, spanked, smacked, chocked, verbally degraded – these were all daily occurrences, tactics he used to remind me I was his, tactics none of which were warranted or deserved.
My dad (seemingly) did everything in his power to make me feel worthless and that’s what bullies do. People might bully for different reasons – I can’t speak to why my father chose to bully me or why kids choose to bully other kids. What I DO know is that the entire purpose behind bullying is to give the perpetrator a feeling of control and dominance. Their sense of self-worth is almost entirely reliant on how much of that he or she can take away from their target.
My mom, on the other hand, only gave me an “ass whooping” a handful of times in my life. I remember every one of them and I can say with certainty I deserved them. They were done out of love, out of a general desire to make me understand the gravity of what I had done. None of those situations made me feel the need to go and bully other people; not even for a second.
Not one of those situations conveyed the message to me that violence was okay. All they did was make me understand how much I had disappointed and scared her and I’m glad she did what she did. Unlike my father, my mom used physical force because she wanted to ensure I never did those things again. And I didn’t. And I’m a better person for it.
See, the thing is, I have been on both sides. I have experienced physical abuse from a parent in a multitude of ways and I’m here today, as a parent myself, as someone who loves my son and wants him to be the best man that he can be, to explain that corporal punishment can be effective and necessary if done for the right reasons.
I understood the difference then and I understand it now. I’m not suggesting you break out the belt switch every time your child messes up. Corporal punishment should be the last resort, not the first. It should be instilled with a clear explanation, so the recipient understands its purpose.
And it’s totally ok if you think hitting a kid is wrong. I get that. I’ve been through that. I understand the other side of that argument. But don’t for a second think that a parent trying to teach their kid right from wrong is the same as bullying. It’s not. Not even close. And it’s irresponsible to put the two in the same category.