Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


Corporal Punishment

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

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4 thoughts on “Corporal Punishment”

  1. Hi Abbie, Ernest and All.
    Thanks for a great article.

  2. Susan says:

    So well thought out! A great read and a sound lesson.
    I was happy to learn as I read that the school hadn’t used corporal punishment. No one, who doesn’t love a child, should ever strike them.
    The establishment, early on, of parental authority is critical to the leverage they’ll have later on. Appealing to young children is a fool’s errand. As they say, “Nip it in the bud.”.
    Psychologist recommendations these days, make me wonder about the whole value of their profession. Perhaps, some of them will actually look around at the current ‘fruits’ of their ideas?

  3. Barbara Spencer-Jones says:

    Scotland has now banned corporal punishment and I think that is right. If corporal punishment continues to be meted out to children, it creates in them the idea that violence gets results.

    We use the naughty step and loss of privileges.

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