Tell Us About a Time You Got Punished as a Child

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We kick off today's two-hour "family meeting" on punishment with calls from anyone to talk about a time you got punished as a child -- and whether it worked. From a parent, a teacher, the law… Did you learn your lesson? Is it something you would do?

Comments [41]

Kimberly from Bronx, NY

Hi, I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old. The 2 1/2 year old will act out by hitting or throwing things at his younger brother. I try putting him on a time-out seat, but he keeps getting up everytime I turn around. Is there a more effective way of putting a child in time-out?

Aug. 13 2014 11:58 AM

The man who hit his sons with a wooden spoon resorted to the most base, low level, unintelligent method of discipline available. We are all better than interpersonal violence. I assume his sons won't be breaking the cycle of ignorance and violence with their own children. Just what we need in the world: more violent men. Sick.

Aug. 13 2014 11:54 AM
Manny Guerrero from Westfield, NJ

Hi Brian,
I would recommend to you and your listeners Alice Miller's books:
1. The Drama of the Gifted Child (aka "Prisoners of Childhood")
2.For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence
3. Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child

Alice Miller is a famous German psychologist whose main thesis is that "disciplined child-rearing", as we have called it for centuries, is really child abuse, and the root of all violence in the world. Spanking, shouting, punishing, tormenting and withholding love/attention from a helpless child who is powerless to defend himself and who cannot, for his own survival, afford to lose the love of his well-meaning, but cruel parent is child abuse, and only teaches the child how to be violent and manipulative of those less powerful than himself later in life, specifically his own children.
I have found her books have really helped me re-evaluate my own strict upbringing, and more importantly, my own parenting.

Thanks for tackling this important topic, Brian!

Aug. 13 2014 11:37 AM
nleaguefan from NJ

When I was a child, in the late 50's,early 60's, my mother used to hit me w/ a switch, a thin piece of a branch from a bush in our yard. I didn't get hit very often, but I remember that a few times, I had to suffer the humiliation of picking a switch and giving it to my mother for my punishment. In the summers, I visited my relatives in Cincinnati, where teachers were allowed to hit kids on their bottoms w/ paddles. My cousin and I used to discuss the merits of being hit w/ the long, thin paddle or the short, fat paddle. We weren't hit very often, but I think the threat of being hit made us turn out to be well-behaved children.

Aug. 13 2014 11:16 AM
brooklynmom78 from nyc

I think that punishment often gets a bad rap. I'm glad that we're examining the humanitarian concerns regarding punishment, but punishments of various types of very effective deterrents against many forms of anti-social behavior. Rules are only as good as the efficiency with which they are enforced, without some rules, structure, and consequences, society would devolve into absolute chaos. I can tell you that at my son's preschool they had a positive re-enforcement only policy, and my son took advantage of this to the extreme because he was getting positive attention for bad behavior. At home, he gets time outs, stern talkings to, loss of opportunity to do fun activities, and the occasional spanking for really bad offenses (he's 5). He knows that I mean business, and he's been really good at home. I suggested that the preschool change their policy, since for especially headstrong children, sometime punishment is necessary. When I think of my son and how bright and talented he is, I think what a shame it would be that he not learn some self discipline because of some unfounded crunchy hippie theories advocating abolishment of all punishment.

Aug. 13 2014 11:03 AM
Pascale from Atlanta

I received a spanking from my uncle when I was 15 for complaining about my mom smoking and eating things that were harmful to her health. She died at 66 from lung cancer. I wish I could say I'm sorry for the way she died but I'm not. She had it coming... My cousin spent a lot of time at this uncle's place (he was not his son, he was his nephew)and would steal from a huge jar filled with coins, and he never got a single slap for his wrongdoing. Ha...

Aug. 13 2014 10:49 AM
J Mats from Hudson Valley

The punishment that I remember over 40 years after was the simplest: No wooden spoon, no belt, I was just ignored by my parents for the day. Complete silent treatment. I could play, read, etc. didn't have to go to my room, they just wouldn't respond to anything I did or said. That was tough.

The house we were in on Staten Island at the time (up to 1970) puts me at 5 years old or less. My friend and I were playing outside and decided a walk to a local store. When we came to a busy four lane road, we couldn't find anyone to cross so we headed home, soon to be picked up by the NYPD. I distinctly remember getting out of the green and white police car (with the single dome light) in front of my house, as my mother apologized to the Sargeant striped officer.

Aug. 13 2014 10:36 AM

My single mom hardly ever hit me, but one time, when I was a teenager I was really pushing her buttons and being very disrespectful. She was furious with me and, challenging her, I said "what are you going to do, hit me?" So she slapped me, and I said "that doesn't hurt." So she clocked me and I cried because it hurt.

At that moment and to this day I think she did the right thing. Ideally she would have raised me so that I never would have been that disrespectful (I doubt my kids ever will be, but we'll see), but as it was, I needed to be put in my place, and it may have been better for all of us if she would have put me in my place a little more.

I very rarely have hit my kids, and when I did it was not hard and it has not occurred for many years, but I never say never.

Aug. 13 2014 10:35 AM

While teaching at a Catholic school in a very rough part of Newark, NJ, parents from various cultures would "request" that and other teacher and myself "beat" the child for appropriate punishment. We, as well as the principal, explained at great length that physical punishment was wrong, not longer permitted, immoral, etc. I recall that one father was so crushed and disappointed he considered removing the two sons from the school. When I questioned him gently, he replied " How can you say that you are teaching correction? Better that he learns right from wrong in the home and the school, than he breaks the law, goes to jail and shames the family." It is still logic worth pondering. ( His sons were model students and gentlemen, btw.)

Aug. 13 2014 10:31 AM
Gloria McLean from NYC

I was the youngest of three siblings. The time about 1956, I would be about 7. My father was a master sergeant in the Marines. The "crime" was a scheme cooked up by my older sister (3 yrs older) and brother (1 1/2 yrs older) to take money from my father's wallet in his dresser drawer. I was assigned the position of lookout. We did it, and took $7, as I recall. Of course we were all caught. The punishment was that all three of us were lined up side by side, told to take down our pants, and my father whacked us each one single time with a wood paddle. We were told "Don't you ever try such a thing again. Stealing is wrong!"
For me, the punishment totally worked. I was both scared, humiliated, grateful for my father's restraint as I saw it (on ehit? that was it?), and then I determined not to be swept into my oder siblings ideas quite so readily and to take responsibility for myself.

Aug. 13 2014 10:30 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I *wish* my mom had "archived" the stuff from my room & put it away somewhere. Instead, she'd go into my room & put *some* things away (in the room, but I wouldn't know where) & throw the rest away. It's not that she hadn't threatened to "clean it up for me" if I didn't clean it up myself, but she never gave me a deadline, so I'd come home from school one day & a large part of my things were gone & another large part was where I'd have to look for it or ask her where it was (& I didn't know for sure it wasn't gone too).

1) It didn't work, & 2) I always resented it. If she'd ever gone through my stuff *with* me & helped me learn how to organize it, I think it would've worked a lot better.

Aug. 13 2014 10:29 AM
Faisal Yamin from NJ

Been trying to call in but here is my story.

My parents never punished me except one time when I broke something to show my anger and my mom let me have it I was couple years old.

But the most senseless and useless punishment I got was from my English teacher in 5-6th Grades. And this was for things like the line not being exactly 3/4" from the edge she would just make up any excuse and she called us Donkeys and what not.

She would put a pencil between my fingers, press and hold. She would slap my face, she should pinch my ear lobe between her finger nails until it was bruised and numb. And all this in front of the entire class. It did nothing for me as I had not done anything to deserve that and just made me hate her and the class.

Once my ear got so bad that my mom noticed it and I told her everything and she had words with the principal. Can't remember if that had any affect. But my feelings about her and her actions have not changed to this day.

This was in Kuwait and we both were not local to the country.

Aug. 13 2014 10:29 AM
Bob Pandolfo from Manhattan, live in Bklyn

School punishment: In private Catholic boys school in 7th grade, I was once smacked in the hand (3 per hand) with a thick barber strap (used to see them hanging on barber chairs, I believe) for getting a 93 average, because the previous term I had a 97 average, and 4 or more point drop got punished. Not long term effect except having a good story to tell!


Aug. 13 2014 10:28 AM
Thomas from New Jersey

I did almost zero school work after third grade and my parents had tried everything from positive reinforcement, physiologists, grounding, yelling, and skipping meals. My dad was highly frustrated with friends and family telling him that he does not hit me enough, which was almost never. I have a very clear recollection of my father hitting me with a belt and being so grateful that it had no effect and that he would never have to do that again.

Aug. 13 2014 10:27 AM
Andrea from NY, NY

If i want quiet (like in the evening right before bedtime), I tell them to both be quiet. If I hear noise, regardless of who it is, they both get punished. This gets them to work as a team, help each other out and I don't have to get into who started it and who did what.

Aug. 13 2014 10:24 AM
Elaine from Queens

For some good reason my dad gave me a gentle spank when I was about 5. As soon as he let me go, I piped up, "ha ha, it didn't hurt!" And took off up the stairs. In half a second and 2 steps, my dad was halfway up the stairs, grabbed the back of my shirt, and had me over his knee. And this time it DID hurt.
That was the one & only time in my life that I ever smarted off to my dad.
Today he is 97 and all 7 of us are doing exactly what he always taught us: caring for him with energy, dedication and unconditional love.

Aug. 13 2014 10:22 AM
lisa from nyc

my father was a drill seargent during the korean war - a big believer in punishment! my little brother and i collected those beautiful christmas seals that came from the american lung association every year during the holidays. we're jewish, by the way. one year we decided that the seals would look pretty as a permanent display in our room. We spent hours licking and sticking the seals, pasting them to the wallpaper covered walls in our bedroom. my father had a fit. As punishment, he made us line up with our noses pressed to the wall and stay there, for what felt like hours, to think about what we had done.
im sure i felt bad in the moment, but as for lasting effect, the only thing it taught me was to think twice about what would make my father angry and, as a teen, to be more secretive so that i wouldn't get punished. a winning strategy for me and probably the reason i prefer natural consequences (vs punishment) when it comes to my own children.

Aug. 13 2014 10:18 AM
kc from Long Island

I don't know if I thought the following punishments were cruel in my family of 5 children:
hand held over the gas flame if we took something that didn't belong to us;
hit with a belt if we did anything considered wrong;
my brothers had their heads shaved (during the late 60s and 70s)if they talked back;
our mouths were washed out with soap if we cursed.
When my children were growing up, my neighbor complained that her son told her that my children were never hit.

Aug. 13 2014 10:18 AM
Ingrid from NYC

My parents travelled sometimes for business, and we had a babysitter stay with us, older woman, who would punish us, among other things, by feeding us a spoonful of pure eucalyptus oil - yuck.

Aug. 13 2014 10:17 AM

I grew up in the 1950's in Brooklyn in an Italian American family. My father's favorite punishment was silence. He was an old fashioned man and if he felt in any way disrespected by me he'd stop talking to me. I remember this could and would last for days and days. In my memory even weeks.

When my daughter was about 8 I left her with my parents for a week. One day she called in hysterics wanting to come home. Seems my father felt she'd insulted him and so he stopped talking to her. Some things never change.

Until this day the worst thing that can happen in any of my relationship is silence. But perhaps I am sometimes guilty of this as well. Learned behavior I guess.


Aug. 13 2014 10:17 AM
francyne pelchar from pelham bay park

I was punished with severe corporal punishment. My mother had a paddle, a stick to which she had attached knotted leather boot laces, and a riding crop. She beat me and my sister with all of them....her choice. I'm child free. Would not do the same because it would land me in jail. If not, sure. it worked. I have 2 Ivy degrees and have worked, never gotten in trouble with the law beyond speeding tickets.

Aug. 13 2014 10:16 AM
MMMbklyn from nyc

I used to get the belt and have to count out the strokes - and this was i nthe early 80s when all my friend's parents were using time outs and privilege removal. I also got slapped and hit with kitchen utensils and high heeled shoes. Admittedly some of this "punishment" crosses over into abuse, however, I do believe that some forms of physical punishment, mainly spanking and aversion therapies, like snapping a rubber band on your wrist, are effective.

Aug. 13 2014 10:16 AM
The Truth from Rebekkah

Never got punished.

Aug. 13 2014 10:15 AM
Aaron from Carroll Gardens / Wall Street

I was often disciplined -- at home and at school, and always with cause -- in the more typical ways. Beating on the butt with a belt (by Dad, at home), or with a wooden paddle (by the Principal, at school)... My mom actually broke a hairbrush on my backside once...but the more interesting type of punishment, devised by my dad, was to make me stand in the corner, on my tiptoes -- a form of time-out, but one that led to me having large calf muscles. Win win.

Aug. 13 2014 10:15 AM
MMMbklyn from nyc

I used to get the belt and have to count out the strokes - and this was i nthe early 80s when all my friend's parents were using time outs and privilege removal. I also got slapped and hit with kitchen utensils and high heeled shoes. Admittedly some of this "punishment" crosses over into abuse, however, I do believe that some forms of physical punishment, mainly spanking and aversion therapies, like snapping a rubber band on your wrist, are effective.

Aug. 13 2014 10:14 AM
Brenda from Queens

After being told by a very inept 6th grade teacher that i was "the worse behaved girl he had ever taught" my mother punished me by not trusting me for many years after. If i ever complained about a teacher after that, she assumed it was my fault. It felt like a type of shunning and it really effected how I developed throughout junior high school. Many, many years later, my mother admitted that she was wrong to take everything the teacher said at face value and to not defend me.

Aug. 13 2014 10:14 AM
John from office

Kneeling on rice in a corner for hours. My dad could have been in the CIA.

Aug. 13 2014 10:13 AM
Ann from Port Washington

When I was 20 (yes... TWENTY), I was living at home and going to college. I had two younger brothers in their teens. My parents both worked and had a rule that I couldn't have a boy in my room with the door closed. At the time, I had a long-term boyfriend in college. One day when my parents were at work, we spent some time in my room with the door closed and one of my brothers ratted me out (I still don't know which -- 30 years later). My parents TOOK MY BEDROOM DOOR OFF THE HINGES and removed it! I was terribly distraught and hauled it back to its approximate spot, but I couldn't reattach it. It certainly taught me a lesson (go to the boyfriend's house instead). :)

Aug. 13 2014 10:13 AM
Kirsten from Brooklyn, NY

In late October I took a piece of candy from the bulk bin at the grocery store, and my mom saw me. (I was maybe 11 years old.) As punishment, she made me give away all of my Halloween candy to my class at church. At first she wasn't going to let me go trick-or-treating at all, but then I argued that I'd already made my costume that year. I definitely remember this punishment, and made me think twice again about eating the bulk items without paying for them!

Aug. 13 2014 10:12 AM
melanie from NJ

In elementary school, the 4th, 5th and 6th grade teachers were all men, unusually, and at the beginning of the school year, each of them would unveil their competitive entries in an unofficial game of The Scariest and Most Painful Paddle. Named, painted, drilled with holes, special grips, you name it. I would suggest this was part of the deterrent method of punishment, in which a community is scared into good behavior. The only time I was paddled, it was because I ran down the nature trail. I think it hurt the teacher more than me.

Aug. 13 2014 10:11 AM
Trudy McDaniel from South Orange, NJ

My mother used a belt and face slapping. As a mother, myself, I did not use physical punishment and struggled through the years with using consequences, an improvement, but I knew too little. Now my daughters are the mothers I wished I could have been for them. No physical punishment, time outs, points. They are highly influenced by the Kazdin Method and buy and give the book to other parents. I am a very damaged person but am grateful to see the whole and healthy women my daughters who are able to parent effectively and lovingly.

Aug. 13 2014 10:10 AM
Sage from Brooklyn

My grandmother from Miami used to make us walk to the switch tree and pick our own switches to be whipped with when we were bad. The immediate response is to grab a thick and sturdy one, but she would always make us go back and get the thinnest and flimsiest switch possible. It was absolutely horrible to use the thinner ones, because they would cut the skin.

Aug. 13 2014 10:09 AM
Roshen from Midtown

My uncle used to just follow through on his threats.
He used to say: "If you don't stop misbehaving we're not going to [enter awesome destination here]". If I didn't listen he'd have no problems with sitting in the house all day (He watched the news or baseball or something). In the summertime that was torture. At least he was consistent so I eventually learned to stop testing his patience.

Aug. 13 2014 10:09 AM
Desiree from West Milford, NJ

My mother found a pack of cigarettes in my room. Instead of confronting and punishing me she just left them on my pillow. The mental anguish of figuring out what she was going to do was torture. I was so scared I went ahead and just grounded myself for the week. Talk about mind games! It worked though, I never smoked again.

Aug. 13 2014 10:07 AM
Rachel from Brooklyn

Whenever my mother grounded me as a kid, she took away the TV, the computer, video games, even the radio - but I was still allowed to read. Maybe it's because it takes a lot longer to read a book than to watch a movie, or because kids' books can often have more depth than other forms of entertainment for children, but I think that turned punishment into a time that was also for exploration and reflection. Probably did me a lot of good.

Aug. 13 2014 10:07 AM
suzinne from bronx

Once while vacationing in the summer out at Long Island, me and my brother became lost. I was around 6 and my brother 4 1/2. With the help of one of our neighbors, eventually made it back to our bungalow. Upon seeing me and my brother, my mother raised her hand and came down full force across my face. Had no idea what I did WRONG, but years later realized my mother had been worried about MY BROTHER, and how dare I put her through such "suffering"?

My parents didn't punish us. What they did DO was take out their anger (and believe me there was A LOT of it) on their kids. It's called child abuse these days.

Aug. 13 2014 10:06 AM
Sage from Brooklyn

My sister stole a cigarette from my mother when she was 12 years old, and as punishment my mother made her smoke an entire pack of cigarettes. After throwing up and coughing for a few days, my sister learned her lesson.

Aug. 13 2014 10:06 AM
connie from nj

I got caught chewing gum in 7th grade French class. My teacher made me stick the wad of gum on the tip of my nose for the rest of the class. It was a little embarrassing. I never chewed gum in class again. And I don't chew gum now, but I don't think that's the reason.

Aug. 13 2014 10:04 AM

Whenever my brother and I would get too roudy, our dad would grab the wooden spoon and wave it at use while scolding us. The threat of a spanking was there but he never followed through.

Aug. 13 2014 10:04 AM
Roshen from Midtown

Growing up in India my mom sometimes had my brother and I hold our arms up--oh, that one's taken already :)

Aug. 13 2014 10:03 AM
Palisades from Westchester County

My parents NEVER punished us, but had talks with us about what we did, why it was wrong, and what would be better. When appropriate, we discussed what would help us avoid that behavior in the future. The closest to punishment I had from them was when I was driving too fast for the weather, and slid the car off the road. I thought I would be in huge trouble, but my father suggested I take a week off of driving (an activity I really enjoyed) and we'd talk about driving in bad weather. All I felt was relief, and we ended up driving together a couple of days later, so my Dad could explain driving on snow and ice and in rain. It was boring and nothing I didn't already know, but it hammered the message home, and I had already been "scared straight" by driving the car off the road.
Punishment creates a power structure that breeds resentment, anger and embarrassment.
Dialogue (even if it involved my father's endless lecturing) allows for respect and growth, and sends a message that a child is capable of recovering and improving.

Aug. 13 2014 09:29 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.