by Abbie Johnson Taylor
In the fall of 1968, after my brother Andy was born, I started second grade at the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson. One afternoon, for no particular reason, I knocked over chairs and threw things, much to the amusement of other classmates and myself. I even sent a figure of the Christ Child sailing across the room. Miss Willis, my teacher, sent me to the principal’s office, but since it was empty, I sat there for a while until Mother found me.
“Abbie, Miss Willis said you were bad today.”
I shrugged. My parents had recently given me a transistor radio for my birthday. When we got home, I hurried to my room with the intent of listening to it. But Mother followed me and took it away. “You’re not to listen to this for the rest of the day. If you’re good tomorrow, you can have it back.”
Although this saddened me, there were plenty of other things I could do to occupy myself. The next day, I was at it again. “She’s jealous of the new baby,” Miss Willis told Mother. “She’s not getting enough attention.”
This time in addition to the loss of radio privileges, I received a spanking. When it was over, I lay on my bed and sobbed. Why was this happening to me? I was only having fun.
I misbehaved at school several more times. When Mother learned of my shenanigans, she took me home and spanked me. The last time it happened, it was Dad who found me in the principal’s office, took me home, and spanked me. For some reason, this left an impression on me, and I decided my fun in the classroom wasn’t worth the pain and humiliation of the punishment I received at home.
When Andy was in the third grade, he developed similar behavioral problems. Our parents and his teachers came up with a different plan. For every day at school when he was good, he received a point, and when he had a certain number of points, he got to do something he wanted, like going out to dinner or a movie.
This approach worked for a while, but in the sixth grade, he got into more trouble. In high school, he was suspended for mooning out of a school bus and arrested for being in possession of alcohol. He also had one or two minor brushes with the law when he was in college.
As an adult, when I hear psychologists on television and radio say that corporal punishment isn’t a good form of discipline, I can’t help wondering how well these experts know their subject matter. Do they have children of their own? How successful have they been at raising them without spanking them?
It pains me to look back on the punishment I received during my second-grade year, but I don’t know what else my parents could have done. Dad was working most of the time, and Mother was taking classes at the university and had all she could do to care for Andy and me. She couldn’t always be available like she was before Andy was born.
Miss Willis said I wasn’t getting enough attention. Maybe negative attention is better than no attention at all. In that case, I’m a testimonial to the effectiveness of a few hard swats on the bottom.
About the Author
Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. She is currently working on another novel. Her work has appeared in The Weekly Avocet, The Writer’s Grapevine, and other publications. She lives in Sheridan, Wyoming. Visit her website http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com.