Orlando Sentinel, September 8, 1999

A spanking can be the right thing to do
By David Porter, The Orlando Sentinel on September 8, 1999.

I got the spanking of my life when I was 11 years old.

My sister, Kathi, and I found where my parents had hidden our wrapped Christmas presents. And then we did a very bad thing. We opened the presents to get a sneak peek. Then we tried to reseal the holiday packages. Of course, our sneaky efforts failed.

When my mother found what we had done, she demanded to know who opened the wrapped packages. My sister and I (the only kids in the household) denied any knowledge. I guess we hoped that Mom and Dad would think that maybe Santa Claus doubled back to check the packages to make sure he had dropped off the right gifts at our house.

My mother knew the truth when she asked the question. She just wanted to see if we would 'fess up. She was enraged that we told her a bald-faced lie. She grabbed the brown leather strap from the kitchen door-kknob, and she wore us out.

She hit me on the behind, the legs, the arms, the hands and across my back. She hit me so hard that I fell. The belt stung. I cried for mercy. The belt left welts on my arms and legs.

If that incident happened today in Florida, I guess, the state Department of Children & Families would put my mother into jail and charge her with child abuse. That's the impression I got last week when I spoke with department officials while preparing a column about the Volusia County man jailed after a physical confrontation with his 17-year-old, 6-foot-5-inch son. Reports said the confrontation occurred when the boy cursed his parents.

I deserved the spanking I got. I knew it then. I still believe that today.

My parents never abused us. They love us, but they always have insisted on good behavior, responsibility and honesty.

Not only did I tell a lie, but I misled my sister -- my junior by four years -- by involving her in my silly scheme. My sister also received a spanking, though it was not as severe as the one I endured, because my mother was tired when she finished with me.

That's one of several spankings I received from my parents. And guess what: I love my parents. I think they did an excellent job rearing me and my sister.

Some say spankings inspire violence, but I don't mistreat people. I haven't been in a fight since I was in high school.

In my household, spanking remains an option to ensure that my daughter behaves appropriately. Let me clarify that before the abuse investigator rings my doorbell. In the Porter house a spanking involves one or two open-hand swats on the behind.

My wife and I consider spanking with the same regard as capital punishment -- a penalty reserved for the most extreme offenses. Severe rudeness and defiant behavior by my daughter merit a spanking.

Department of Children & Families representatives -- including Lee Johnson, the acting administrator for the district that includes Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Brevard counties -- frown on spanking. They admit, though, that it's not against the law as long it leaves no marks on the child.

Johnson said spankings can be avoided if the parents attend child-rearing classes and seek professional counseling for help with difficult children. He said it's better to discuss problems with children.

I certainly don't advocate spanking. I think Johnson's suggestions are worthwhile. But many parents who responded to my recent columns on this subject complain that the department has taken too much authority from parents while telling children they can put their parents into jail.

What if my mother hadn't spanked us? What if she had followed Johnson's advice? It probably would have gone something like this: "David and Kathi, I'm very disappointed with you. You should not have opened those packages and then lied about it. Now, go to your rooms."

And we would have thought: "Yeah, Mom, whatever . . . " Such a lecture wouldn't have affected us one bit.

When we were growing up, we knew that bad behavior could result in a spanking. It kept us on the right track.

Well-intentioned people may argue over the merits of that approach.

All I know is that it worked for me, my sister and dozens of our friends and relatives.

[Posted 09/07/1999 9:08 PM EST]

See Robert Fathman's response to the above article.

E-mail addresses:
The Orlando Sentinel: osoinsight@aol.com.
David Porter: osoporter@aol.com

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