I grew up in the Bible Belt, and almost every child got spanked. There was great variety in how these spankings were given, from swats with the hand to a switching or paddling.
However in the 1980s, when I was about nine, there was a story in the local newspaper about a father being taken to court for spanking his son too hard. It caused a lot of uproar and my elementary school responded to this by offering a class in ‘legal spanking’ after school one evening.
My parents spanked my brother Sam and I, although we got it differently. Mom used a wooden spoon on my bottom, while Sam got the belt from Dad. We both usually had bruises after and our butts would be the colour of a ripe tomato.
Anyway, my parents got quite scared by the newspaper report and decided to attend the evening at school. They couldn’t get a babysitter for that night, so they brought Sam and I with them.
Principal Harris was standing in the study hall, holding a paddle, when we began filtering in. A table had been pulled in for him, and on top of it was a plump pillow. Benches were set up and since we were early my family sat near the front. By the time the event was due to begin, the hall was full and parents were standing around the back.
I don’t remember all the specifics of what the principal said that day, but I do remember the basic points of advice to our parents. These were:
- Bare butt up to kindergarten. The principal made the point that little kids are naked a lot compared to big kids, and so little kids could be spanked bare bottom with no problems. However, once they started kindergarten, spanking bare could cause problems with authorities.
- Hand up until age 10. Hand on bare (for little kids) or underwear (age six to ten) was enough to make the point.
- Paddle after age 10. The principal told us that the shop teacher from the nearby middle school had made up a bunch of suitable paddles that would be available to take home for free. He recommended the paddle be applied over all normal clothing.
- Stop spanking girls at 13. He basically implied that us girls were delicate and could have ‘menstrual issues’ if we were spanked beyond that. I was pretty damn thrilled at this announcement!
- Boys can be spanked up to adulthood. The implication was that boys needed it more, and were less able to be reasoned with.
Then the principal demonstrated spanking with suitable force on the pillow. He recommended that spanking be avoided if we were going swimming or if we had nosy neighbours. He added: “A few little bruises on the butt never killed a kid, just make sure no busybodies see them.”
My parents followed this advice and took home one of the paddles from the shop teacher. I only got three spankings with it, and they were less painful than the bare butt spoon spankings I’d been getting previously. Sam said the paddle was way worse than the belt, though, and he got his last paddling at the ripe old age of 17.