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I Got Busted Spanking in Suburbia

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Attention white people, we spank our kids. And I'm not going to be ashamed of it anymore.

woman with crying child

Kimberly Seals Allers: My parents spanked me. In fact, spanking is really your term, not ours--We got beatings. Straight up. And before you call the local child welfare bureau, let me explain.

My Mom and Dad beat with love. They'd sit you down and explain why you were going to get it, how much it hurt them more than it hurt you and then one of them would give it to you. Afterward, my mom would hug you, tell you that she loved you and leave you there to whimper and sniff yourself to sleep.

It was discipline with love, not child abuse. A few years ago when Jamie Foxx, while accepting a groundbreaking Oscar, thanked him grandmother for beating him and keeping him straight, white folks went crazy. But black people completely understood. We know how our mamas, grandmamas, and aunties beat us with love -- and then sent us outside to walk it off!

Until recently, I've never had to spank my children. But I've never ruled it out of my parenting playbook. The Bible says, 'spare the rod and spoil the child,' and I never claim to be wiser than Him.

Up until recently, I've only used the belt as a "memory enhancer." For example, sometimes at night they forget they were told to be quiet, go to sleep and stop talking, playing, or asking for a drink of water. At this point, I simply take out the belt, drape it over their doorknob and magically they remember what they were told to do. Amazing!

However, a few months ago, I spanked my daughter for the first time. Not a beating like I got, but about three "licks" because she had (very, very surprisingly) done something that really crossed the line. And I really needed her to get the point that this was beyond unacceptable.

I did exactly as my mother had done, lovingly explaining to her while holding her in my arms why she about to get it.

I took a deep breath.

I didn't think I could, but now I had to keep my word, at least for one lick.

My daughter, being a tween dramatic expert, started screaming as if she was getting a real beating, like I used to get. The noise began well before contact was ever even made. Even then, I only gave her one spank.

It never dawned on me that the bedroom window was half open.

Apparently, a neighbor heard her Oscar-worthy performance. Oy vay! And not even a real neighbor, but the not too respectable live-in boyfriend of my actual neighbor (you know the kind that is never seen without a beer in hand) Apparently, he told another neighbor that I beat my kids and he was watching me.

Thankfully everyone on my block sees me bike riding with my kids, skateboarding with my kids, pulling them in a wagon for nightly summertime strolls, and otherwise actively engaged with my children and knew not to pay the beer guy any mind. But it really bothered me!

The funny part is that when I told my black girlfriends, who also live in white suburbia, what happened, their first response was, "Girl, you should know to close the windows and turn the TV or radio on! What were you thinking?"

Apparently, I had broke the "how to spank your kids around white people rules" and didn't even know it. Why didn't I get the memo?

Which made me think, why do we hide that we spank with love from the world? I'm not talking about spanking with anger or any abuse. But I am talking about old-fashioned values and respect and a good tap of the "memory box" when all else fails. Somehow the good of a well-deserved beating got tossed in with the bad, and then all beatings became a dirty word. A sinful parenting act. And I just don't agree.

Our parents weren't perfect, but I will tell you this: I was respectful and obedient, I knew I would have to work hard to get over on my parents, and whenever I thought of acting a fool (from misbehaving at school, underage drinking or sneaking out as a teen) -- the fear of my Mom or Dad getting me good was a powerful motivator to keep me straight! Plus, I had a healthy respect of all authority figures, which has served me well in life.

There's something to be said for that.

In fact, when black people hear white kids rudely talk back to their parents, cursing at their parents or otherwise being disrespectful, we just can't believe it. We think something is wrong with y'all for tolerating that from your kids. (Yes, I said it)

As a new generation of black parents, I see my fellow modern mamas trying to blend a little of the old school with new school ideas of more communication, greater expression, and even a little negotiation (I said a little).

But I don't want to hide that discipline and respect are important to me. And if other means aren't working, I'm definitely willing to lovingly go there. I will however, always close the window.

next: Observations from My Own Front Line
132 comments so far | Post a comment now
Ms. Lynn December 13, 2009, 9:02 PM

WOW! Some of the Bloggers on here are really racist.

I understand the author regarding the concept of this article. Having been exposed to different races, cultures and nationalities. It is obvious that most of the comments here are being made from women who have not experienced different cultures.

I agree that for years parents no matter what nationality, has experimented with a variety of tools when disipline children. However, what this Mom is stating is that in white suburbia, this is frowned upon. Having been raised in white suburbia and later moving to black suburbia,(Yes, there are suburbs in which races want to be segregated) I see that this is deterred in both Black and White suburbia. It is more of a class issue than a race issue. The further up the class system the more spanking, beating, or any physial disicpline is looked upon as abuse. This mom used spanking as a last attempt to control this tween. Which was becoming disrespectful and not following the rules. This is preparing her for life. In life if you do not follow the rules, there are punishments for your behaviour. Thus, we see in media as well as in our penial systems the results of spanking and not spanking. One overtly racist blogger” states as to why are so many black men in prison if spanking helps”. Well blogger I would hope that you would educate yourself regarding the judicial system as it relates to people of color. Also, regarding “Welfare” Research the statistic. Don’t go to searh engines like yahoo or take the time to research. Stats regarding the last census are as follows: Some 61 percent of welfare recipients are White, while 33 percent are Black, according to 1990 Census Bureau statistics, the latest figures available.
The federal government defines welfare as all entitlement programs funded through taxes. These programs, listed as “direct benefit payments for individuals” by the Office of Management and Budget, make up $730 billion or 43 percent of the $1.47 trillion.

A spanked child December 14, 2009, 2:31 AM

In reading this article and the comments, i have to laugh.
I lived in England and America with my parent growing up, and I was beaten, and before you mention it yes I’m black, and I am neither disadvantaged or on my way to a jailhouse!

Momlogic is speaking of a very true fact that i saw growing up and i see now. yes white people, make snap judgments when they see children being beaten/ smacked. I know the number of times somebody had something to say to my parents for this.
It is like most things ultimately a case of race because, like many things in the ‘western’ world,it is broken down to white or black!

Anonymous December 14, 2009, 8:55 AM

Let me just say this, as a black woman, my parents did not ‘spare the rod’ and I’m a better woman for it. Not because they whipped me, but because they understood that discipline was necessary and often times warranted. What white people need to understand is that you have very few black children that openly disrespect their parents. In this culture, that is just unheard of. Whereas I can go into any grocery store, retail mall, post office and see a white child cuss his mother with no problem while she sat idly by and oftentimes did nothing. Tell me, is that the way to discipline? No it isn’t. Don’t criticize blacks for doing what we have always done when it comes to taking care of our children. You do you, and we’ll continue to do things our way. Don’t judge me, and I’ll be sure not to judge you when your children raise their hands to hit you.

Frustrated with this mess…

April December 14, 2009, 9:10 AM

If I said, “Attention Black People, I like fried chicken too”…I would be reamed a new one. Thanks for continuing to spread racisim.

michelle December 14, 2009, 9:56 AM

All the haters on here are so off base. I see where Kimberly is coming from, but I think she has misidentified spanking as purely a racial difference when it really has as much to do with class as with race. In well-off areas in major cities, NO ONE spanks their kids. When someone witnesses a spanking in public it ends up on and there is a whole debate on whether to call DCFS. This is class at work. We do not spank because spanking is bad for kids — and you have to look at outcomes to know this. Maybe a kid who is spanked learns not to “mouth off” (i.e. they learn to fear their parents) but he/she also absorbs values that say violence is OK, and that you can go do what you want as long as your parents don’t see it. This is white working class as well as African-American culture. So you may think spanking is done with “love,” but to a child it makes no difference. Your actions speak louder, and those actions are saying, very clearly, that violence is the right way to solve problems.

Anonymous December 14, 2009, 12:21 PM

hells yes 19 yr old and my parents spanked me, turned out just fine so whats with all the people saying oh you cant hit your kids, its child abuse even though YOU were probably spanked as a child too

Anonymous December 14, 2009, 10:31 PM

i agree with ava, i guarantee all of you that if the races were flipped in this situation momlogic would NOT have posted it. why is it okay for blacks to say stuff like this about white people but when white people say stuff like this about blacks all hell breaks loose? sure its okay to make white people look bad but oh no we dont wanna hurt the blacks feelings….oh boo hoo. this post is just irritating.

Anonymous December 15, 2009, 4:08 AM


I also don’t get how you took this rumor spread thru the neighborhood as a black/white thing? If you want to point fingers… Is that not a bit racist - on your part??? I mean really…

Who cares what color you are or what color the neighbors are?

The point you were trying to make was lost. I was interested in what you had to say until you brought up race.

There are a rainbow of ways people can interpret any given situation.

Live and let live.

C December 15, 2009, 5:15 AM

Wow, your ‘they did it to me so I do it too’ logic is pure ignorance. The human race (black, white, red, yellow or any combination) is evolving. There are plenty of other constructive ways to discipline besides violence. You send children a seriously mixed message about love when holding their arms and hitting. This is not normal or healthy. Did you take away a privilege first? I think not. Hitting or threatening to hit only teaches fear and hate not responsibility. Think again Kimberly.

Nichole December 15, 2009, 6:27 AM

Seriously, I had to stop reading the comments because they are infuriating and just plain idiotic. Completely ridiculous. You are all missing the point. It is not about RACE, it is not about BEATING. We are not to be our children’s “friends.” it is our God given responsibility to raise our children properly and a little fear of getting in trouble is necessary. There are way too many “don’t spank” parents. Some kids do respond well to other forms of discipline, but others, need a little more. If their behavior crosses a line, which is what the author said, then sometimes you must resort to a spank. It is not ignorant, it is not a race thing, it is fact. I go into schools and see the complete and utter disrespect these children have for authority figures, it makes me believe our “evolving” BS is making our kids out of control. They need to be taught respect, and let me tell you the first time my kids disrespect me to my face, privledges being taken away will not cut it. I am definitely old school, I was “spanked” and NEVER did I feel that I was beat. There is a difference between tough love, and beating for sure. Everyone is so closed minded anymore it is insane. KUDOS to the author for saying this. Amen I say!

Erin December 15, 2009, 7:30 AM

I would like to admonish everyone responding this post to remember to be polite (one of the objections raised in the original post). It will go much farther toward making your point understood and acknowledged if you use the manners YOUR mother taught you! Whether you agree with the subject of spanking your children as a form of discipline or not, and even if you feel the original comments were racist, that does not mean you should respond in a derrogative or mean manner. It is possible to disagree with respect. I was going to comment on the original post, but I have been extremely dismayed at the tone of the other responses! Personally, I believe that spanking is just one of a wide variety of disciplinary actions a parent can use. And there is a HUGE difference between spanking and beating (although some people use the terminology interchangably). Parents who choose to spank need to be mindful of how much and how hard they are hitting a child. The idea is to discipline and teach, not harm.

Anonymous December 15, 2009, 8:12 AM

I am so glad someone debunked the myth of “Spare the rod spoil the child quote”. I totally disagree with “spanking” or as it is referred to in the African American community “beating” children. How is beating helping to guide our children into a better life? Esp beating a teenager. That is ridiculous ! What about finding other “non- violent” ways to guide our children. For older children and teenagers you can make them do book reports to learn from whatever bad behavior they are doing, or take away privileges. For example a friend of mine shared a story that when her and her sister were 8 yrs or so they used to find bird nests and kill the baby birds. Her mom found out spanked them, but they still would do it. So her mom took a different approach and made them do a book report on birds and their significance to the environment. From that moment on her and her sister never killed another bird because they learned something about them. By the way, for those of you that love to quote the Holy Bible, as justification for beating children, where in the Bible does it ever say Christ hit or beat a child? Think about it!

momof4 December 15, 2009, 8:13 AM

I can’t believe that everyone is making such a big deal about this whole thing. I don’t believe that the writer intended for her article to sound racist. She was simply informing her readers that in her culture it is common to spank their children. You all know very well that certain “races” tend to frown on spanking. Sadly, spanking has become a controversial issue in our country. When did disciplining your child become child abuse? That is exactly why our young ones are worse than ever before. In general, children have no respect or regard for anyone. Compare it to the times when spanking was not a crime.

Think first... December 15, 2009, 9:28 AM

Let’s look at the evidence against spanking:

* 110 studies have linked spanking to increased misbehavior in childhood as well as adult problems such as increased spousal abuse and depression.

* Spanking kids increases their risk of sexual problems as adults. Kids who were spanked are more likely to coerce dating partners into sex, engage in sadomasochistic sex, and have sex without protection.

* Spanking is linked with antisocial behavior, such as cheating, lying, disobedience at school, breaking things deliberately, not feeling sorry after misbehaving or not getting along with teachers.

* Spanking is no more effective than other discipline methods.

Ignoring this type of evidence in order to continue some “family tradition” is plain stupid, and suggests that this is not a race issue, it’s an education issue (or lack thereof). Please take time to look into it before you hit your child again, and decide if the long-term consequences are worth it.

Cassie December 15, 2009, 11:06 AM

I am white,and I was raised the exact same way.I also have white friends that were raised with beatings of love (spankings).I dont think its necesarily a racist thing because I gave black friends who never have recieved spankings!But I AM ashamed of the parents of todays society who’s kids treat them horrible and they think the kids need medicine-when they actually need “discipline”!!!Thats why crime rate is so bad now because the parents have side-stepped their responsiblities!

samantha December 15, 2009, 1:21 PM

ok i see black parents “beat” their children and white parents dont. but last time i checked it was the black kids commiting most of the crimes and the ones killing eachother.. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!!

-Black mom who does not beat, spank, or drink. December 17, 2009, 12:23 PM

Wow…maybe u should’ve had a 2nd or 3rd opinion before posting this. Sounds like you’re very unsure about yourself and you’re looking for someone to blame.

Emily December 17, 2009, 1:12 PM

Nichole— please. The post is not that bad I just hate the fact that she threw in the race. Why does race matter? Some people hit their kids and others don’t-it shouldn’t be a race thing. Oh wait I’m Mexican so… should I even read this? It’s only directed to

Tarolyn December 18, 2009, 9:23 AM

I am so tired of the race issue. I am a 47 year old white woman. I was spanked and I spanked. All white people I grew up around did so. I also hear black children being very disrespectful. I work with the criminal justice and with substance abuse. It hits every race does not pick a race. Get off this black thing. People are people. There are good and bad in every race. Spankers and non spankers. Respectful children and disrespectful. You don’t want to be lumped with “all black people are” and I do not want to be lumped with “all white people are”

Shannon December 18, 2009, 2:02 PM

Personally I do not think spanking does anything but teach fear, not respect. My choice to respond though honestly does not have to do with whether you choose to spank and I choose not to spank. I am offended that you made this a race issue. I am white and received beatings as a child similar to you. I grew up knowing to respect adults not bc my father beat me but rather bc my mother treated me with respect. I feared my father bc of his actions. My husband is black and I am appauled that in his family anyone thinks they may hit other children in the family similar to what you said in your article. They know my stance on it too. If they have an issue with one of my children they should verbally speak to them or to me -if they ever laid a finger on one of my kids they would never see them again. I will no longer read anything from you again - reverse racism at it’s finest. Had I written this from the other vantage I would be considered a racist. -My husband agreed -we discussed your article as well.

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