Getting Spanked, and Cared For

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Brandon McFarland, left, preparing to practice martial arts with his father.

Brandon McFarland, left, preparing to practice martial arts with his father. McFarland Family, Youth Radio hide caption

itoggle caption McFarland Family, Youth Radio

Youth Radio's Brandon McFarland recalls corporal punishment as a child. He says he deserved it, and he knows that it meant that his parents cared enough to discipline him.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Youth Radio's Brandon McFarland has a story of crime and punishment, his own.

BRANDON McFARLAND:

Think of your deepest, darkest fear. Maybe it's lying in a tub of rats or getting jumped or being caught on Jaws' territory. Me? I'm scared of leather. I was eight years old when I got my first whoopin'. I remember waiting outside my dad's room as he browsed through the massive belt collection hanging on his closet door. I kept wishing I could rewind to whatever I did and just stop doing it, but it was too late.

My dad grabbed this black leather belt with the gold buckle. `Come in here and close the door.' I was terrified. I wanted to run, but I braced myself and did what I was told. Afterwards my dad told me, `It hurts me more than it hurts you.' But how could he possibly know the pain in my five-alarm butt cheeks? I was mad that night, but I knew it was cause and effect. I couldn't stay angry at my dad for giving me the punishment I deserved. At the same time some part of me still couldn't understand why Pops had to go to the extreme like that.

Now when I'm at the mall with my mom and we see kids going nuts, we say that's a shame. Their parents should do something. I mean, you ever watch these kids? They throw fits, kicking and screaming for no reason. It might seem a bit sadistic, but if we see a little black kid running around and yelling, we follow them and just wait for the mom to snatch them up and spank them. The flip side is those white mothers who try to hold a conversation with their semi-lunatic child. It just seems like a waste of breath and time.

For a lot of black kids, getting whoopings is the norm. My friends and I even used to compare horror stories and compete over who got it the worst like, `My dad body-slammed me,' or, `Mine made me go outside and pick the switch to beat me with.' It's a point of pride to have parents that involved. To us, if your mom didn't bother to whoop you, it showed she didn't care. I knew a lot of moms who were too consumed with their own lives to take the time for discipline, and their kids ran the streets. But if parents put the fear of the belt in you as a child, I think you're less likely to end up on probation or parole as an adult. I always knew my family loved me. Sure, I never liked getting a whoopin', but it worked. I've grown to be a responsible, respectful young man.

NORRIS: Brandon McFarland comes to us by way of Youth Radio.

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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