By Anita Tedaldi: CNJ Columnist
I grew up getting spanked. As strange as it sounds, I have fond memories of it.
For us young Tedaldi’s, the ten cousins I grew up with, getting spanked was a shared experience. Whenever we got together, which was a daily occurrence because we lived in the same building, we got into some kind of trouble.
I can still remember when my uncle’s belt made contact with our buns after we broke his kitchen window. My older cousin T. concocted a strategic plan to somehow drill a small hole in his kitchen window, pass a string through it, and connect it to my kitchen window on the third floor. Let’s just say that my uncle didn’t agree with our plan’s ultimate result, his broken window.
This is just one of the many times we got in trouble and subsequently spanked. But in my neck of the woods, Italy, spanking was and still is the norm. We are a very physical culture, we practically talk with our hands. And while I never looked forward to being spanked, I also never thought of it, and most importantly my butt never felt that it was an expression of violence – it was more of an expression of tough love. The spanking wasn’t done with excessive anger. It was simply a way to discipline or punish when we got out of control.
I know many parents in the United States find this practice appalling. While I disagree, I respect this point of view, and understand that some have seen spanking used as a form of violence rather than discipline. Spanking in anger isn’t discipline, but an expression of a parent’s anger or rage. Controlled spanking is a choice that some parents make — and this choice doesn’t make a parent bad or incapable. There are many other things parents can do that have long lasting effects on children and they don’t involve spanking, but harsh language, neglect and unresponsiveness to a child’s needs.
Perhaps it comes down to cultural difference, Italians are much more physical. But it’s interesting that in my personal experience I found many military families much closer to our Italian way of thinking when it comes to discipline than to the never spank a child approach.
In my home, on ‘rare’ occasions, my loving hands have gently reminded my children to stop or modify their behavior when they got out of hand.
I’ve asked my daughters what they think about this whole spanking business.
Me: “Girls what are your thoughts on spanking?”
My kids: “We don’t know, mommy, because we aren’t spanked.”
Me: “But, I have spanked you a few times, right?”
Kids laughing: “Not really. You don’t really spank us, you kind of pretend so we pretend to be scared”.