I’m now in my late 60s and the proud mum of two wonderful men with families of their own – and I put at least some of that down to my use of the cane when they were growing up.
In the 1970s, when my children were growing up, corporal punishment was a very common method of disciplining youngsters. A smacked bottom from mum, or maybe the slipper from father, was experienced by nearly every child at the time. And in school, the slipper and cane still kept naughty pupils in line.
In our own home, my own children were frequently turned over my knee for a ‘smack bottom’. I was always a big believer in corporal punishment, having received it myself, and my kids were certainly no strangers to having their underpants taken down for it, as I considered anything other than a bare bottom smacking next to useless. I was quite strict with the children, especially as their dad worked away a lot and so most of the burden of family discipline fell on me.
By the time my eldest turned nine, however, I was having issues. Both lads were keen on sports and my nine-year-old’s very muscular bottom was taking its toll on my hand when I smacked him – a real case of ‘this will hurt me more than you’. And although he cried as he always had done, I began to suspect that much of it was because it was expected, rather than due to how much it hurt his sturdy little bottom.
I had talked this over with my husband, who suggested I might think about using the back of a hairbrush, but then a week or so later, he showed me a small ad in the back of a daily newspaper – I think it was either the Mail or Express – advertising punishment canes. The ad was headlined: “Parents who care, cane.”
I must admit, I was in two minds about the whole thing. I hadn’t considered anything as severe as the cane for the boys. However, my husband was quite persuasive – he argued that either boy could receive it at their school if they were naughty, and that it might produce a bit more respect.
In the end, I rang the number in the ad and spoke to a very nice lady who asked me how old the children were – my youngest was seven at the time – and she said that both were suitable ages for the cane. She advised me to order two, so as to have one spare. After procrastinating for a couple of days, I sent off a cheque to the address specified.
When they arrived, I put one away in a hidey-hole and the other on the kitchen table. The boys’ faces when they got home from school were an absolute picture! At this point, my main aim really was to scare them, for the cane to be a deterrent that wouldn’t need to be used. I explained that this was what would happen to naughty boys in this house from now on, and trusted that they wouldn’t need me to use it.
For a while, the deterrent worked very well. But we all know boys will be boys and one day they were both so naughty I could no longer ignore it. I had to put up or shut up. I sent the boys to their rooms with the instruction to wait for me there. I had a cigarette to calm my nerves (I know, I know – it was the 70s!), then went upstairs and retrieved the cane from my wardrobe. I decided to do the youngest first, as getting it over with would be more merciful for him and it would do his elder brother good to listen to the beating next door and think about what was coming his way.
I entered the room and my youngest boy sprang off his bed. “Mummy, no!” I ignored his pleas and instructed him to take down his trousers and pants, and bend over.
He was already crying, so I decided to get it over with as quickly as possible. I applied four firm strokes to his buttocks, each one leaving a vivid red line across his skin. He cried like a baby, holding his bottom as I lectured him afterwards. I ordered him to bed for the rest of the day, as was my custom when I smacked. I then went next door and did his brother in exactly the same way, but this time administering six of the best.
From that moment on, my children’s behaviour started to show a marked improvement. I very rarely had to beat them, but when I did, a good dose of the cane worked wonders.