Patricia is a preacher’s wife living in the southern United States. At the time of interview, she and her husband had five children – two boys, aged 22 and eight, and three girls, aged 18, 14 and 11.
Let’s begin by talking about your own childhood. Did you receive corporal punishment as a girl, and did that have a big influence on your own decision to spank your own children?
Yes, I was indeed spanked as a child, and often. That certainly did have an influence, as has religion. Both my grandfathers were preachers, my father is a preacher, my husband is a preacher and my eldest son is a seminary student.
What sort of age did you begin using the sanction of a spanking?
Well, they started getting a quick, single swat basically as soon as they were mobile. Actual across-the-knee correction began at around three and a half.
How would you describe your overall approach to discipline?
We practice what is sometimes called ‘cheerful first time obedience’. If you break a rule you know, or disobey, then there’s no reason for a warning. You get spanked, period.
Do you spank on the spot or do you take the child somewhere private?
Within reason, spankings here are generally given on the spot, and I generally expect any other child who is home at the time to watch them being given out – that way, they can all learn. So they either go across my lap, are bent over something or I hold their hands above their head for a switching.
I was going to ask about implements…
Most commonly, I use a hairbrush, which I keep on my nightstand. We also have a strap and a paddle. These hang on the wall between the kitchen and the living room. We also use the switch in their teen years for the most serious of offences.
I take it you spank bare bottom?
Yes – all spankings are given on the bare skin.
How hard is it done?
I spank with intent. I want to significantly affect them, both physically and mentally. I leave marks, and I inevitably get a flood of tears. Bruises are to be expected – blisters are rarer, but not unheard of. Let’s just say that they struggle to sit comfortably for a couple of days at least.
Do they take these punishments obediently?
Well, they will very often cry before I start, but the children have learned from a very young age to comply with a spanking without arguing, begging or resisting. They know that it will immediately make things worse for them. So they are compliant. They know the Bible verses on which we base our discipline and they will all tell you that when they themselves have children, they will raise them in a similar way.
What happens after the spanking is over?
Most often they are put in a corner of the living room, their bottom still bared so everyone can see the wages of misbehaviour. After their corner time, we pray together and then the child will usually be confined to their room for 24 hours, with the exception of going to church or using the bathroom. We home school, so there is no difficulty there.
Does witnessing corporal punishment have a positive effect on the other children’s behaviour?
I find that a single spanking usually gets at least one full day of all the kids being on their best behaviour, especially if it’s one of the older girls. My eldest son is no longer spanked, I should add.
Have you ever had to spank the entire family for something?
I can think of only one occasion when all five were spanked together, for failing to clean up the house. Two at once is pretty common, though.
How do you feel after you’ve given out a spanked bottom?
I don’t think I have a particular reaction these days. The first few times, I probably did but now, it’s just part of being a mom.
How old is too old for a spanking?
With boys, I think around 15 or 16 is the upper limit. However, I think girls should be subject to whippings until marriage or they are self-sufficient.
And what about beyond for the girls? Do you think they should be subject to whipping from their husband if needed?
I think it’s a personal decision of the husband, but in general yes. I don’t think it should be common, but I do believe in the authority of the husband. To jump ahead of the obvious next question, yes, my own marriage is that way – though it has very rarely been any kind of issue in the nearly 25 years we’ve been together, and not at all in the last 15.