My father belonged to the Greatest Generation, and one of the things that made him great was his firm grasp of child psychology. He knew how easy it was for young’uns to start down wrong paths and end up in strange, fearful woods without the tools or resourcefulness to get out. His solution, as brilliant in its simplicity as the invention of the handsaw, was a variation on Proverbs 13:24, translated in the King James Version of the Holy Bible as “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes”.
There was nothing wrong with most children that a good spanking couldn’t remedy.
In my dad’s Presbyterian understanding, a bad spanking would involve a belt or a paddle or some such instrument, applied to an unclothed bottom. A good one consisted of just enough solid swats with an open palm to a clothed rear-end to establish the point (the scientifically established range was one through six), not delivered so vigorously as to physically harm the child.
Ideal parents would commence this regimen between the ages of one and two. At that age, correction could occur and tone could be set, without the child remembering later in life what the offense was.
Let’s say that boys, theoretically aged seven through ten—young’uns who’d had a couple of good disciplinings before the age of two—were fighting in the car and wouldn’t stop simply through parental suggestion. A male parent could turn around quickly while driving on a country road and growl, “Would you boys like a good spank?” Even though the question implied only a single swat, I don’t recall a single young rascal piping up and saying, “Yes.” Even whipper-snappers have an innate sense of when not to try humour.
An answer like “Yes” would have put the child in the category of being a “smart Alec.” We were never told who Alec was, but we were smart enough to know these Alecs were not intelligent.1 Lacking the benefits of a good spanking, they were headed for juvenile detention where their inclination toward a life of crime would accelerate under the influence of “city slickers”. Don’t get me started on those disturbers of the Garden of Eden, who never had the benefit of a good spanking to clear the mind the way cheese can clear the palate between wines.
Times and laws change. Over time, a good spanking was replaced with a “time out”, which is now evolving to a “time in”. Don’t ask.
- In an apparent contradiction, many smart Alecs were deemed “too smart for their own good”. Those spankless wonders ended far, far from a life of solid toil on the farm, employed as (shudder) advertising salesmen, census takers or income tax auditors.