A Mother’s Harsh Hand


At age 23, I cannot account for how my future self will react to my child misbehaving.

by Fabulous F. Flores

Growing up, I was spanked by my mother. Most of my spankings were endured alongside my brother, seeing as how we were partners in crime. As one gets older, however, spankings tend to lose their effect; so, by our teen years, they had all but stopped. Still, like for every child I would imagine, there were a few whippings that went down in the history books of our memories.

When we were toddlers, my mother was very lenient; she understood we were still learning right from wrong and testing boundaries. But, by about three or four years of age, there was an expectation in my household that my brother and I should know right from wrong on a basic level. Consequently, we would be given three warnings. If we chose not to heed the first two, and continued misbehaving, then it was guaranteed that the third strike ended with… well, a strike – a strong arm from my mother. It was always my mother who did the disciplining; she believed the strength of a man (my father) would be too much for a child.

Some of my mother’s friends spanked their children with belts, spoons, or other miscellaneous objects. Thankfully, my mother didn’t like the concept of beating a child with something such as a belt; it echoed too closely to being whipped like a slave, and that was not something she was willing to do. So, more often then not, my brother and I got a hand or a foam flip-flop, which sounds innocent, but you’d be surprised by how much it can hurt.

It is extremely easy for me now, as a 23-year-old single millennial, to say, “I would not spank my children.” While that is how I currently feel, I cannot account for how my future self will react to my child misbehaving or for my husband’s reaction, for that matter.

To be honest, spanking makes complete sense to me. So long as you are not abusing the child and do not go overboard, I genuinely don’t see a problem with physical discipline. I even credit the spankings I endured for my good behavior in school and for keeping me out of trouble. So why, then, do I lean towards not spanking my own theoretical children?

Perhaps it’s societal: there is the fear of the trouble it can cause in court systems or the judgment of peers. Or, maybe it’s because I remember how spankings made me feel as a child. I felt so angry and, in addition to the pain of getting spanked, it hurt my feelings intensely that my mother spanked me. Sometimes she’d quote the Bible: “Proverbs 23:13 Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them.” You cannot pick and choose what texts from the Bible you want to follow. From a religious standpoint, I see nothing wrong with spanking, and I believe biblical texts back that up.

There is extensive research in circulation that outlines the negative fall-out from spanking children, and I think that’s another reason people steer away from it. However, it would be interesting to see a more in-depth study on the reverse opinion. After all, most of us know plenty of people who were spanked as kids (whether we include ourselves in that group or not), who claim it has not had adverse effects on them. I think there is an overwhelming consensus, biblically and secularly, that it’s perfectly fine to spank your child as long as you don’t go overboard. The problem lies in the varying definitions of what “overboard” is, a gray area not clearly defined in the Bible.

Now that I’m older, I have intellectualized why I was spanked, and I understand it in a fuller context than I did as a child. It wasn’t as simple as I did wrong, so I got punished. I realize I wasn’t solely mad at my mother, but I was mad at myself, as well. I was upset knowing I had disappointed her. I knew my mother loved me, and for her to get to the point of laying hands on me meant I had really messed up. I can say with all honesty that I am thankful for my mother’s discipline. A mother’s harsh hand can be a great act of love.

About the Author

fabulous_bio (1)Fabulous Flores, a Summer 2014 Gilda Slifka intern at the HBI, studied broadcast journalism and Jewish studies while at Penn State University.  After working for a political news program at ABC7 in Washington, D.C., Flores decided to be her own boss and is currently living in California trying to make it as a freelance writer.

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