I grew up in a typical Asian household. My dad was boss and his words were law, I always cleaned my plate (disliking broccoli or being too full risked me listening to a long lecture on the dying children of Africa), school was my only priority and cake for dessert was earned, in every sense of the word.
I knew that scoring anything below 90% meant that I would be compared to Auntie Sue's daughter, requesting for sleepovers was the most ridiculous thing in the world and above all, defying my parents' orders was a cardinal sin that never went unpunished. And punishment was often the sort that left you reeling from the pain in your cheeks, both top and bottom.
This was the style of parenting I was brought up in. Until the UK, I never thought of it as oppressive but I was quick to learn that relaying stories of me being spanked with a leather belt for disrespecting my elders is not dinner conversation in England and will almost always leave the entire room aghast. This to me feels very unusual because with my Asian friends, the topic of parental corporal punishment is far from taboo. Belt-spanking and knuckle-striking were common methods of disciplining us growing up and no one thought any better or worse of them.
My Western friends jokingly (or not, I'm not sure) tell me how my parents could have been arrested under child protective services if it was America. But the truth is, I have always thought of my treatment as fair and it never did make me love my parents any less. In fact, I owe it to their 'tough love' for shaping me into this responsible member of society, who knows to respect his elders and to put in honest hard work into everything that I want.
I have always been glad I was spanked as a child.
I suppose it is because there was always a mutual and unspoken understanding that in spite of the rattan cane, they loved me more than life. My father would always say, "I scold you or beat you because I love you. You know this isn't easy for me." That has always made sense to me because I do not think that caning your child to teach him a lesson is the easiest thing to do. The fact that my father was willing to compromise the state of his short term relationship with me in order to teach me an important lesson spoke volumes and I will forever be grateful for that.
I guess corporal punishment is often viewed so negatively in the West because of the fine line between it and child abuse. This distinction can be very difficult to make that the easiest thing might be to rule them both out as unacceptable. I do not wish to get into the technicalities of this but I was certainly not abused growing up. My dad did not hit me because he was drunk, nor did he hit me over every petty matter. In fact, I was probably caned/spanked/slapped less than five times in my life and it was always made clear why I was being punished. That was probably what made this form of punishment so powerful in driving a message home. The occasion was rare but it made known of the dire consequences of unacceptable behavior like being rude to my parents. It never was the pain of the physical act itself (which honestly was nothing compared to the shame of it all) that kept me in line but the threat of it that did.
The truth is that children are simple creatures. They have not had the time to develop the intellect necessary to understand the problems and severity of certain aspects of their behavior. They respond to simpler, more direct stimuli and spanking to teach a child not to swear, although perhaps primitive is akin to learning not to touch a kettle when boiling water.
It is in my opinion that parents have the right to discipline their children and corporal punishment, up to a certain age, happens to be a very effective way of doing this. Some people might disagree in favour of timeouts and groundings or withdrawal of privileges - often Western methods that appeal to the reasoning rather than the immediate reaction of a child. But the fact of the matter is that kids will less likely throw a tantrum if it meant the rattan cane than an hour with their thoughts.
Ultimately, you decide what is best for your young'un. There are no perfect parenting styles and I certainly do not claim for this to be the answer to raising all children. I am merely saying this: I do not feel like the parental corporal punishment I experienced growing up inflicted any real harm on my development and I do not think Amy Chua's (Tiger Mother) daughters turned out so badly either. The whole spanking issue to my mind is not a big deal at all and is overblown. Most people who were disciplined by the rod growing up would agree. Ironically, it is the people who weren't brought up this way that tend to feel strongly against it. But the truth is that both sides do not and will not know any other way.
I do not intend to trivialize domestic violence or child abuse in this piece in any way but on the subject of corporal punishment, I am glad I was spanked as a child.
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