A nearly six-inch scar on the lower part of my back is a constant reminder of the punishment my mother dished out to me as an 8-year-old child with an affinity for lighting matches.
My mom, a single mother of two boys at the time, did her loving best to keep my older brother and me on the straight and narrow. But when we acted up, we met the other side of our matriarch’s beautiful personality.
In other words, Mom believed in corporal punishment. Her particular preferences were belts, extension cords, broom sticks or any other object she could find to inflict pain.
“A hard head makes a soft behind,” she would often say.
A national uproar followed recent news that a professional football player in Minnesota had been indicted on felony child-abuse charges for allegedly striking his 4-year-old son with a tree branch affectionately known to old-school parents as a switch.
Pundits wondered aloud how a pro ball player could inflict such bodily harm upon his child.
What could be more cruel than a parent or guardian instructing their child to go outside, pick out a tree branch and bring it to them so that the adult could administer a “whooping?”
How about an irate parent with an extension cord?
I hold no ill feelings toward my mother. In fact, she is the No. 1 lady in my life. She has pushed me, supported me and taught me things no woman should be forced to teach a young boy on how to become a man.
But — and there is a but — an extension cord?
Although I lit her mattress and caused it to smolder for hours before nearly burning down our apartment, I don’t believe it warranted a beating with an extension cord.
However, as an adult I do understand.
Parenting takes on different styles in dissimilar households and diverse cultures. What’s acceptable in places like where I grew up may not be suitable in other locales. The norms are different for various people and so are the customs.
Much like the football player in Minnesota and his belief that getting “whooped” with switches helped turn him into the man he is, the extension cord beating administered by my mother helped shape the values I treasure as a parent.
As bad as it may sound, I am damn proud to have never beaten one of my children with an extension cord or any other object outside of a belt, and even then, that was nearly 15 years ago.
My now 15-year-old son has only received one open-palm spanking from me his entire life.
I cannot say that about my older son.
I used the belt once with him. But more than once, his punishment for running afoul of my rules and regulations was a closed-fist punch to the chest.
I cringe every time I think of those moments. No child deserves to be on the receiving end of violent punches or beatings. I only repeated what I was taught as a child.
I used to be proud that I never used an extension cord on him, but what’s worse? A punch to the chest with the instructions not to cry and a dare to not even think about swinging back?
If I could turn back time I would, but news coming out of Minnesota is enough to make me realize what an awful job I did as a first-time parent.
Although I’m far from perfect, I am 10 times the parent I used to be. It didn’t take the indictment of a pro football player for me to figure out that corporal punishment is not the answer to effective parenting.
Toriano Porter is a reporter for the Lee’s Summit Journal, which is owned by The Kansas City Star.