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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
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