I wonder how many of your correspondents have experienced real, thorough discipline that has lead to real change? I was 11 when I went into foster care and met Auntie Bethie and Uncle Sebastian. The first time Uncle Sebastian disciplined me was for stealing a keyring. We were on my first ever family holiday and I saw one in a little crap shop by the seaside. I had no pocket money left, so I nicked one.
That evening in our holiday flat, Uncle Sebastian found it. He looked at me but he didn’t look cross – just a bit sad. He took me into my room and sat me on the bed next to him.
“Why did you steal the keyring?” I shrugged and said I’d wanted to have it. Uncle Sebastian put a hand on my knee and asked if I remembered where I’d taken it from. I confirmed I did. He asked if I’d stolen things before, and I admitted that I had. I think he must have already known that, because it was in my records when he fostered me, but he wanted me to say it out loud.
Then he said: “Tomorrow, we’re going to take it back to the shop and you’re going to say sorry. The people around here, they’re not well off. You don’t need a keyring, but they need money to buy food and pay their bills. When you took that keyring, it was selfish.”
I felt guilty, my stomach churning. He was right. His gentle words cut far more deeply than the screaming at my old home. I began to cry.
Uncle Sebastian squeezed my knee. “What do you think happens now? How do we fix this?” I shrugged. I didn’t know. I had no models of behaviour to work from.
“Well, son, when we give the keyring back, it fixes the problem of the shop owner needing money. I don’t think you’ll be stealing again – I can tell from your face that much. Do you know what happens when someone breaks the law?” “They get punished?” “Do you know why they get punished?” “To teach them not to do it again?”
“Yes, but there’s more to it than that. It makes other people feel better too. It shows them that someone has been taught their lesson, and that the person is truly penitent, that they’ve suffered like they made someone else suffer. So even though you’ve learnt your lesson, you need to be punished.”
I swallowed and shrugged almost compulsively. Uncle Sebastian pulled me in for a hug. “Do you think you deserve a punishment?” “Yes.”
Uncle Sebastian helped me to my feet. I had never been spanked before, but as he tugged down my jeans and bent me over his lap I knew what was going to happen. I lay quietly and waited.
His palm hit the seat of my boxers and my bottom stung. Again and again, a spank fell on my bottom. I lay still and absorbed the smacks and felt guilt in my stomach for stealing the keyring.
Everything felt as it should be. I understood why I was being punished, I knew how to make things right and I felt loved and safe. After ten smacks, I began to cry properly. After 20, I was wriggling and squirming. I don’t know how many smacks I got in total but my bottom was burning by the end.
Uncle Sebastian spanked me several more times throughout my childhood and teen years. He spanked my oldest son several times over the years too. He is a loving and gentle man, and I am grateful for his discipline.