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Corporal punishment is too extreme for some parents to handle

My brother, Kenneth, says his last whipping from Mother came when he was just shy of 16. He had scolded our innocent, little rat terrier, Whitey, and Mother didn’t like his tone of voice.
“Go get the razor strap,” she told him. (Our dad, by the way, called it a razor “strop,” and for years I thought he was mispronouncing the word “strap.” But I didn’t have the nerve to correct him. Turned out, he was right. The razor strop, a flexible strip of leather barbers used to sharpen their straight razors, was an unfortunate gift from an uncle who owned a barber shop.)
What Mother didn’t know, Kenneth says — and he had forgotten at the time — was that he carried in his back pocket a “torpedo,” a foil-wrapped July 4th firecracker that would explode when thrown onto pavement. Torpedoes also explode when struck firmly by a razor strop.
Which this one did — and blew the back pocket of my brother’s pants clean off, fortunately backwards.
“We both cried for a while,” Kenneth recalls.
I’m using my brother, instead of myself, in an example of corporal punishment simply because none of my whippings ended that dramatically. I did not carry torpedoes in my back pocket. But I received ample doses of punishment.
No doubt most of the whippings were justified. But would I recommend such discipline to other parents? No, I would not. Besides, you don’t need my advice.
And you don’t need the advice of folks like Michael Pearl, a Tennessee preacher who, along with his wife, Debi, has written a self-published book titled “To Train Up a Child,” which advises parents to use a switch on children as young as 6 months old to discourage bad behavior. The Pearls describe other implements, including a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line, to teach children to submit to authority.
Some parents have taken such advice way too far. In Sedro-Woolley, Wash., prosecutors have charged the parents of an 11-year-old girl who was found naked and emaciated in the backyard. Forced to go without food for days and made to sleep in an unheated barn, the girl died of hypothermia and malnutrition. She also had been beaten with a plastic tube, as recommended by the Pearls.
Two other investigations have been tied to similar advice, police say. In California, a mother and father are serving long prison terms after beating their 7-year-old daughter for hours, with pauses for prayer. The girl died. In North Carolina, a mother who had read the Pearls’ website has been charged with suffocating her 4-year-old. She had beaten the child daily with a plumbing tube.
I’m not here to condemn or commend corporal punishment of children. My wife and I used other methods of discipline. Whipping seemed to work for my parents; none of us three kids, even my exploding brother, was permanently scarred. But it’s not for all parents. And there’s one simple reason for that:
Some parents don’t have enough sense to be parents.
 
Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.