Maman special report
Parenting books, needless to say, have a certain fascination for us here at Maman. Largely they are a disappointment, as they usually have little to say about discipline, let alone corporal punishment, and mostly what they have to say is dismissive or downright hostile towards it.
Of course, there are those which support the warming of little behinds, mostly based around the teachings of the modern Christian fundamentalism movement. Notable examples include James Dobson’s Dare To Discipline and Roy Lessin’s Spanking: Why, When, How?
Both authors have their fair share of critics but it’s true to say that the spanking of children has always been a divisive subject – there are many books even from what we might consider the heyday of corporal punishment which are decisively opposed to the practice.
To find pro-spanking parenting perspectives outside of the evangelical Christian tradition, we really need to go back to the early 20th century, and two books which have long fascinated those of us interested in such things – Mariam Fredrick’s Correction That Corrects and Beatrice Reinhart’s Back To Common Sense.
Both authors are American. Correction That Corrects was originally published in 1925 by the Child Interest Publishing Company, while Reinhart’s volume was published 12 years later by D Ryerson.
What makes both books unusual is not that they mention or even approve of spanking, but that they both concentrate solely on this aspect of bringing up children. Indeed, Reinhart’s book is subtitled A treatise on discipline, practically alone, because the author advises the use of corporal punishment in the training of young chidren.
From remarks contained therein, it would appear that both authors have some experience in child care either as nannies or governesses. They have definite ideas on discipline, with Fredrick opining at one point that: ‘Homes where there are young children should always have a paddle available.’
The title page of the Fredrick book describes it as ‘a book for young mothers and governesses, treating a method of discipline, void of harshness yet most effective in the correction of faults common to babies and small children’.
The following excerpt is taken from a section of Correction That Corrects where the author is discussing the specifics of spanking practice:
“The greatest care should be taken by the parent when spanking the child. She has her temper under control and is fully conscious of her duty. She should lead the child to the chair and calmly explain to him or her the cause and necessity of the spanking.
“She takes down the clothes to expose entirely the bottom. She then turns the child across the lap. She raises her hand and then slaps it down with a swinging movement of the full arm, hitting one buttock at a time with measured force. The hand should be flexible and its full breadth applied to a single buttock.
“Before the child goes across the knee, she should determine the severity of the spanking and she should not allow squirming, crying or screaming to influence her towards leniency.
“What constitutes a good spanking? It stands to reason that the slaps should be not so hard and many in the case of a young pre-school child as in that of a sturdy boy of school age. However, you have exposed the bottom and have turned the child across the knee to cause sufficient pain.
“Both physical and mental effects are important, but the best results of a proper spanking come when the child has been soundly spanked, his bottom well reddened: very red, warm cheeks in a most unpleasant burning sensation for a few moments.
“A well warmed little bottom means a very uncomfortable child feeling very sorry while lying across the lap. Spank hard till there is childish reformation. This is one of the great advantages spanking has over other forms of corporal punishment. Any woman can punish severely, and knows how severely she is punishing while not going overboard.
“There is a minimum of the number of slaps that at a real spanking should be given. I do not call it a spanking if there be given less than 20 sharp slaps on the bare bottom. In the case of a sturdy, very naughty boy of six, I have spanked for all of two minutes.
“This is why I get results most satisfactory after a few spankings, where other parents have failed after months, yes years, of ‘disciplining’. The bottom is, indeed, very red and warm. But not the slightest injury has been done, and after a few such spankings, good behaviour will replace misbehaviour. I call this a correction that corrects.
“It is a crime to let children go on day after day being a disgrace to their parents and a source of annoyance to all who come in contact with the children when correct punishment can and will make them lovable little creatures.
“Nearly every failure in systematic spanking is traceable to the fact that the spanking has not been sufficiently severe. I cannot conceive of the normal child receiving proper spankings and not striving to mend his ways to avoid such punishment. Make your spankings good, and the child will think twice before it disobeys.
“Spanking as a tried and true remedy has been thrown out, branded as worthless, because of the insufficient application. I feel sad when I think about all the good that proper spankings could do for millions of children, and no good is done because mothers ignore common sense advice and give full credence to sentimentalism.
“Any child can be given a sound spanking on its bare bottom, experiencing that annoying sting; but no harshness, no cruelty is there. The child knows when there is a real punishment available. In few spankings, you will have obedience. And although you spank soundly, your children will love you and want to be with you. Children are aware of their need for rules: living in a world without rules and guidance is scary.
“Why insist on the bottom being bare? For two reasons: mental and physical effect. The child will readily see the seriousness of the correction if the parent takes down his clothes. Then, for the physical. Regardless how thin the garments are, slaps will not have the same keen, stinging effect as they will if the skin be bare.
“I know prudes who object to such conduct, but these same prudes see nothing wrong in exposing the child’s body for bath etc. If spankings are given only by loving parents, this argument cannot be upheld. Suppose a bare bottom spanking does cause some humiliation, such is needed at times. Just such punishment will take unjustified pride out of a child.
‘Why continue to spank when a few slaps on the bare flesh have already caused no small amount of pain? A child, who has been soundly spanked will, when inclined to misbehave, recall the experience of increasing pain and therefore refrain from misconduct.
“I do not enjoy, any mother will not enjoy, spanking until there is pain and increased pain, but my experience is that the average child, be he little tot or sturdy boy, will, after a few real spankings, make every effort to avoid such punishment and therefore, behave.
“Why endure naughtiness? The child stays across the knee, and receives stinging slaps on its bare seat till good conduct in future is assured. It is painful but not cruel. It will take months if not years before the child will need more than a simple warning that a proper spanking will come.
“Spanking the bare bottom, using your hand only, is not harsh. The spanking is executed by a mother loving her children, and loving her children as the men and women of tomorrow. The worst stinging will take at most minutes and without doubt, the child corrected with systematic spanking will soon learn obedience and respect.”
Which brings us on to Reinhart’s book. What is fascinating about Back To Common Sense is its strong similarities to the Fredrick child-raising manual. In many places it is pretty much a paraphrase, with the same advice on spanking ‘properly’.
According to the Spankingart Wiki, there is a good reason for this, in that Reinhart, who lived in Santa Barbara, California with her husband Robert, is supposed to have purchased the copyright for the Fredrick book and then presumably gone on to adapt it for herself.
Back To Common Sense even has its own version of the spanking position illustration, though in this case it is not a drawing but a photograph of a somewhat older girl bare bottomed over her mother’s lap. The caption says that the picture was posed by a friend and her daughter at the author’s request, and adds: “This child is accustomed to this method of discipline.”
The little girl receiving the spanking has her face in her hands, but given the pristine state of her bottom, I suspect such a pose was to hide her laughter at such a jape.
Interestingly, this picture more clearly illustrates an instruction common to both books; that the mother’s spanking hand should be held loosely and fingers kept apart, with the smack applied with a loose wrist. This, said Fredrick and Reinhart, ensured that there would be more sting than thud when the mother’s hand met the child’s bottom.
By the way, in case you were wondering, that’s not Ms Reinhart warming her daughter’s bottom. This picture of the author was included in the book…
Another intriguing aspect is the piece of furniture on which the mother in the original drawing is sitting. It’s a telephone seat table, with the surface on which the phone would have originally stood modified to be padded. The original might have looked something like this (although the telephone stand is lower)…
With this piece of equipment, children of most ages can be accommodated over mother’s knee with their bottom in the right place, while there is somewhere soft for them to place their hands and face and cry into.
This spanking bench is mentioned in both books. You can’t see it in this copy of the Reinhart picture but the girl’s mother was sitting on a pretty much identical object. One could draw the fascinating conclusion that the mother in this picture had already read Fredrick’s original book and perhaps had her husband modify it for the purpose of chastising their children.
Whether you agree with their views or not, both books make fascinating reading for the likes of us who are interested in such things. However, as you might expect, they are not easy to find. Some years ago the Fredrick book was made available in a series of page scans, of which we here at Maman once had a copy.
In recent years, Correction That Corrects was republished as an e-book, although the somewhat fetishistic cover art is not in tune with Fredrick’s straightforward, serious tone…
Unfortunately, the link to buy this book from online retailer Lulu doesn’t work, at least when you try to purchase a copy. Nothing is added to the basket.
The Rheinhart book is even more difficult to find, in the order of the proverbial rocking house poo. I have only ever seen one copy and that was again a selection of PDF scans. Sadly, I lost both texts in a hard disk crash some years ago.
So let me end with an invitation. If someone out there does have copies, even scans, of these books, email me using the contact page in the menu. Gold and frankincense await that person. All right, let’s call it a free two-month subscription to the Red Bottom Club.
If I do get further content from or information on these two books, I’ll place it here on Maman.