SMOKE: Alternative Punishment

Originally published: 9 December 2004

You've heard ad nauseam about the various maimings and beatings and thrashings I've endured throughout my life, and rest assured this is not yet another story along the same lines.

This is a punishment story with a difference - an educational piece, if you will, for all those parents out there trapped between the forces of political correctness and their own natural instincts.

Back in the day - if your child gave you lip, or in any way pissed you off - you gave him a clip around the earhole or a flat swat on the ass. It was perfectly acceptable to spank your child for any offence and nobody batted an eyelid when a child copped a hiding.

These days, however, you're pretty much the antichrist if you so much as look at your kid funny, much less ask them to go upstairs and wait in your room to be joined shortly by you and your belt.

There's no law against beating your child, but as far as I understand it attitudes are not quite as laissez faire on the issue as they used to be.

One of the (serious) reasons for my not having a child is my temper, because I know if I lost it a child could get seriously hurt. I can't abide disobedience - from kids or dogs - but unlike kids dogs can be told to stop doing something and they will comply, rendering a beating unnecessary.

But what happens when you tell a kid to stop doing something and they look you square in the eye and continue doing it?

That's what I used to do to my mother - she tells a story of how I was still in my crawling phase and one day crawled up to the coffee table in the lounge and started touching something on it that I shouldn't be touching (some ornament, I think).

My mother told me to stop - I removed my hand, looked at her carefully, then defiantly reached out for it again. I got a smack on the hand for my efforts. Apparently I looked at my hand, looked at the ornament, waited for a dramatic pause and then reached out for it again.

Another smack, this time a little sharper. I started to blubber a little, but after wringing my hand and rubbing it a little - out it snaked again, drawn irresistibly to the forbidden.

Some things never change.

I don't remember how the incident ended (I think my mother admitted defeat and eventually simply removed the ornament), but all I know is that if I were my mother in that situation I would have held me up by the ankles - upside down - and thrashed me until I bled.

Maybe I wouldn't be quite that harsh, but nothing gets my blood boiling like disobedience. Which I suppose is odd and maybe a little hypocritical considering my own history of disobedience.

Thinking about this yesterday I remembered a couple of alternative punishments my father came up with when the normal channels of punishment failed (with six kids you need fresh ideas constantly), and thought I'd share two of them with those of you struggling with their consciences.

The first was never used on me and was only ever applied once to my younger brother (who was by far the naughtiest of the lot of us).

I can't remember what my brother had been doing, but it's irrelevant - he was always in trouble and never really cared, which is a dangerous combination to have in a kid when you're a parent with rage issues and unresolved personal childhood traumas.

The punishment was called Hammers, and it involved my dad getting two heavy hammers from his tool kit in the garage and giving them to my brother to carry - one in each hand.

My brother had to carry them around for an entire Saturday - wherever he went - and he could only put them down when he sat down at the table for meals.

Once he'd eaten he'd have to pick up his hammers again.

Apart from being hilariously funny to watch (my brother was very small at the time, and the hammer heads brushed the carpet as he walked in his loose-fitting baggy shorts), it was brilliant - since he couldn't put the hammers down he couldn't use his hands to touch things he shouldn't be touching.

It wasn't malicious in any way and my brother seemed to enjoy it immensely, as did we all. And of course he caused no trouble that day.

The second punishment was a truly inspired piece of work, and a definite must for anyone with two kids of similar ages who are constantly bickering.

My oldest sister and I were fighting about something or other. She was no doubt sitting on me to pin me down - something I absolutely hated. And she knew it. I'd get quite fierce in moments like that and would start hitting out, and it was one of these impromptu mêlées my father walked in on.

He parted us then went to the corner of the room and got a tennis racquet and a hockey stick. I got the racquet, my sister got the hockey stick. Then he told us that since we enjoyed fighting with each other so much he just wanted to help us out a little with some weapons to up the ante.

He encouraged us to beat each other senseless with our weapons, saying it must be quite a treat since we liked fighting so much, but of course we stood there nervously not knowing what to do. Neither of us was going to hit the other, of course.

But my dad wouldn't let go and insisted we start laying into each other, and at his cajoling we sort of tentatively stuck our respective weapons out in front of us and each of us poked the other a little.

"Hit her!" he roared, and I nervously poked her in the midriff, feeling incredibly foolish. "Beat him!" was the cry, and my sister tickled my arm lightly with the hockey stick.

Seeing that we were not going any further my father then asked if that was really what we wanted to do, we sheepishly acknowledged that it wasn't, and the relief at being able to put our weapons down was so huge all quarrels were forgotten and we were best of friends again.

That was brilliant, in my opinion. I've never had my anger diffused so quickly and completely before - normally a beating will still leave you fuming and angry and perhaps even angrier if you feel it was unjust, but in that situation it suddenly all seemed so silly when we put in a position where we could really hurt each other.

Of course - if I were to try that with my kid he would no doubt grab the stick or racquet in glee and lay into his sister like never before, beating her to a pulp. Then I'd cop the blame and be labelled a bad parent. I'd have to use my standard "I told you I didn't want any kids" line, which never goes down well with chicks anyway.

So ultimately spare both the rod and the child, I say, and buy yourself a few years more life. But if you insist on having the little bastards, I hope I've inspired you to get a little more creative with your punishments.

Alternatively give them klap on the back of the head and send them to bed without any supper. But don't come crying to me when they turn 16, get weird, blame their shit life on you and axe you to death on a moonless night.

You made your own bed, mate - you know what to do in it. That's right.


All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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