How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Ugliness

Posted by on May 5th, 2012, under NOTEBOOK

I can’t believe I’m going to say this out loud…

There are too many ugly parents in the world.

Yes, this is judgmental. Yes, it’s a horrible thing to say and I don’t mean to single anyone out, but I’m tired of pretending they don’t exist. Maybe my time in Los Angeles has frayed my fuse. Stay with me if you can.

I’m sitting here at the park right now watching my son making sandcastles (AKA mounds of sand) and my gaze snags on something unsightly. I can’t take it anymore so I’m writing this down… on my phone. I’m watching a dad. He’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. Grotesque.

His kid, in their own way, is just as hideous. Is it simply genetics? Did he work hard to get this way? Did he grow up not caring about how he looked? Maybe the reason his kid cries so much is from having such a repulsive father.

Ugly people like him, they walk around and spread their disfigurement. I wonder if they know it. It’s one thing to be ugly and not know, but this guy acts like he knows damn well how he appears and doesn’t care.

So, I’m at attention on this bench, debating how to tell this dad just how ugly he is. But then my conscience or decency or whatever, let’s just call it my ‘second guessing voice’, speaks up. ‘Who the hell are you to drop the hammer, Charlie?’ Some onlookers would probably cheer while others cringe. I cringe when I see people approach strangers for less. There’s no question it would be out-of-place and irresponsible of me. Society’s social veneer has me prisoner for the moment.

But a thought begins to burn a hole, ‘hopefully he won’t have any more children’ because you know he’d just be passing it on to them. And those kids then grow up ugly and theirs too. It never ends.

This man is robbing the world of its beauty, one day at a time, by his mere existence. It occurs to me that the reason for my hatred is perhaps unconscious identification with my own ugliness. That may well be true. I’ve got the scars and misshapenness too. But this guy has the market cornered.

I’m unable to stop myself. I walk over to him, now out of ear-shot of his kids. He stands there texting, probably some disgusting thing to another ghastly person, leaning against a wall. He reeks of unpleasantness. His ugly face vomits out an ugly word, “What?”

“Stop hitting your kids. I’m watching you.”

You’ll recognize them by the ugliness of their actions.

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199 Comments

199 Responses to “Ugliness”

  1. Monica says:

    So I started reading your post and thought surely he is not talking about looks alone. I am not beautiful but I don’t think I am ugly either. I could not believe these words would come out of your mouth but I kept reading knowing there has to be more and you did not disappoint. I don’t understand how people can be so cruel to children. Innocent children that are learning and growing and you are right, some of those children will think that is what you are suppose to do but some do overcome it and try to be better. I want to put all “Ugly” parents in a torture chamber but they were probably beat as children. How do we stop the “Ugliness?” It isn’t right and it does take so much beauty away from children.

    • charlie says:

      I remember being a child and being so mad when I’d see kids getting bullied or hit by their parents. Being a parent now and understanding the things that kids pull, I get it. People overuse force all time, but it’s because they are afraid. It takes more courage and usually more sleep/sanity to take the other roads.

      • Monica says:

        You, Charlie, have a lot of courage. You can talk about being scared, but courage is overcoming that and you did when you spoke up. One of the many, many reasons why I check back everyday with you guys.

      • Robin says:

        I think you’ve touched on the source of a lot of wrong in the world. When people operate from fear instead of from knowledge, they lose perspective and they hurt others.

      • Jana says:

        I agree: parents get angry out of fear or lack of hope. That’s why it’s always better to reach out with sympathy and compassion, rather than threats like “I’m watching you.” Applause for saying something,and next time, say something that will calm both of you. “Kids can be pretty trying, but …” I say this as a parent who was misjudged once and accused of ugliness, and it just made me so hurt and angry. I wished that the other person had just approached me like a fellow frazzled mom and not a criminal. (It wasn’t violence though!)

        • Gary says:

          I’m with you, Jana! You never know what’s really going on. Better to ask if you can help, and if the parent reacts nastily, then discuss how hitting a child isn’t going to solve things. Even say politely, “Please don’t hit your child anymore.” But … “I’m watching you”? Now that sounds really creepy! I’d probably call the cops on him for being a creep hanging around a children’s playground!

  2. Gigi says:

    Oh……….wow. This left me speechless, in a profound, heart-breaking, sort of way. Perfectly said Charlie.

  3. horrible. I don’t think I will ever be able to understand people

  4. Jason Feffer says:

    Charlie,
    Thank you for saying what you did to this man. Men need to be men. And that means not hitting our kids. It means not taking our failures, disappointments, missed expectations, and brokenness out on them. It means standing up to ugly turds like this guy. It means using our God-given strength to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Thank you for being a man in this situation.

  5. Betty says:

    I wasn’t sure where you were going with this! I thought…the punch line must be coming… good for you. Thank goodness for men like you who stand up to bullies. Great example for your kids. You must have been shaking with anger.

  6. Joanne says:

    Bravo Charlie. Not only did you speak up for a defenceless child, you just set a perfect example for your son in humanity and dignity. Well said.

  7. My wife and I were just discussing last night how to deal with difficult situations like this when you encounter them. It’s easy to look the other way, but the easy way is rarely the best. Kudos for letting this clown know he’s not getting away with it.

    • charlie says:

      It’s a tough one. It’s easy to look away, but not easy to sit with yourself knowing you’ve done something against your own code. That is the worst. And it doesn’t have to be confrontational. I think we’ve all gotten scared of talking to each other, which makes it that much harder to say what we know to be true for us.

  8. Les says:

    If this man is hitting his kid in public, imagine what he does behind closed doors.

      • Les says:

        You’re right, we’ll just push that ugliness right out of our minds. Out of sight and all…

        • charlie says:

          You get my point right? It’s a hard one to look at.

          • Les says:

            Yes, I got your point. But mine is this, when my abuser would get called out on his actions by another, my stomach would drop. I knew that it meant that when the doors closed, he would come at me twice as violent. From childhood on up, a reprimand has never caused abuse to stop.
            Hell, maybe the asshole took it as a sign from God that he should stop. Or maybe the punch he wanted to throw at you for getting in his business landed on his boy when they got home. I don’t know. And neither do you.
            If you are truly concerned, perhaps a call to the proper authorities is in order.

  9. Dena says:

    Thank you, Charlie. One big thing about bullies is they rely on being left alone – to “operate in secret” in so many ways… sometimes because you never see what’s going on, and sometimes through staying just shy of that “social veneer” line in public. It’s awful to be on the helpless side of that line, but it is a great thing for the bully/abuser to be called out on any level, and also great for the bullied/abused to see that happen too when possible. When everyone is being silent, the helpless feel more isolated and can assume they have no out, no support. When everyone is being silent, the abuser can continue to operate in their delusion of self-rationalization. Thank you for letting this parent know otherwise.

    Simple acts, but not easy. Good on you. :)

    • charlie says:

      Thanks Dena. I wouldn’t consider myself a very courageous person, overall. I get stuck in my head and worry about the ramifications for my actions a lot. More so than ever now. But I have found, when I’ve confronted situations in my life, that capitulation is quick from those who act tough and strong, but are really scared shitless.

      • Dena says:

        No kidding it’s scary! You hit it right on the head when you mentioned the issue of “logic against the illogical”…! I don’t do well with irrationality either (scares the crap out of me), but sometimes you really must steel yourself and just plain do *something*.

        And you are right – so many are scared shitless at being called out on what they are doing, making things potentially a lot more volatile. Hopefully though it is the kind of shock they need to take a more honest look at what they are doing (even if they can’t admit it at the time) and make a change.

        • charlie says:

          And that fear can make them react in very different ways each time. It’s never a good idea to make rash decisions about confrontations unless you have the artillery to back it up…. lol..

  10. Dani says:

    Damn, just…Damn. I got chills, and I don’t chill easy. I’ll admit that I was skimming near the middle because I was thinking “Who the hell does this guy think he is, going on like this?”. But the ending was perfect and you are exactly right.

    Damn.

  11. Antonia says:

    Wow. Well said!!

  12. Rusti says:

    good for you Charlie. I haven’t yet been in this situation, but after reading this, and hearing bits & pieces of what my husband deals with on a regular basis (he’s a cop) I certainly hope that if/when I am faced with something similar, I can do just what you did. thanks for being an inspiration, to other adults, and to children learning from us all.

    • charlie says:

      I can only imagine the level of horrible your husband has to deal with. I have a huge amount of respect for people who chose careers that look this stuff right in the face. Not everyone is ready for it.

  13. Tara says:

    Thank you. My brother and I were abused by our father but 20-30 years ago, no one intervened in the raising of someone else’s kids. So we kept getting beat. And you can’t tell me that no one knew about it because I know people saw it. So, on behalf of all abused children, thank you, you might just have saved, or maybe changed his life.

    • charlie says:

      I won’t pretend to say that that was my impetus, but I do know we all need a little bit more fortitude about the things we observe. That might helps things out around here.

  14. Yeah, watching a parent haul off and smack their kids in public is annoying. I can’t tell for sure if you’re against corporal punishment on the whole, but people who smack their kids on a whim or do it over and over again are definitely frustrating. As with any punishment, it needs to be controlled, needs to be private, and needs to redirect behavior.

    Sometimes, I’d like to redirect these parents myself.

    I wonder how much their behavior would change if they could see a video of themselves reacting to their kids this way. People today are just not very self-aware.

    • charlie says:

      I haven’t taken a stance on it yet on the blog for a number of reasons. But I will say that this guy crossed into “using force to prove how big and strong I am” land. No, thanks.

  15. Shilpa says:

    That kind of behaviour makes my blood boil… Gah, I’m too cross to say anything else coherently! Good on you for calling him on it. The way you describe him reminds me of that wonderful book by Roald Dahl, The Twits, where someone’s inner beauty or ugliness shines through…

    • charlie says:

      I LOVE ROALD DAHL. I think it sparked my resistance to inanity from adults. His characters gave me hope. As flawed as any of the leads were, they also had tremendous talent, ability or tenacity. It was okay to be imperfect and still be amazing.

      • Les says:

        How ironic that you profess your love for Roald Dahl in this thread. The guy is a first class creep.

        • charlie says:

          Why did you come to our blog Les? Your two comments are critiques and I’m not sure why you stuck around. As far as Roald Dahl goes, I know nothing of his life and only what he wrote. Please, educate why he’s a creep. And then enlighten me as to how you’d do this blog better.

          • Les says:

            I come to your blog because I happen to love it. I’m a facebook fan as well and share your stuff often. I didn’t say a word against your blog. Here’s a link where people discuss Roald Dahl and his creepiness: http://boingboing.net/2011/06/07/roald-dahl-kind-of-a.html

          • jan says:

            Hey, Les had some very important points to make and they aren’t personal, but info related to the topics being discussed.. accurate info too.. Dahl was disturbed, but his books are still awesome. And there are often times its better, and safer for the victim, to keep your mouth shut around the abuser and just quietly but quickly report them to protective services. Neither of these facts make the blog any less awesome.

  16. Phil says:

    What goes on in their heads? Are they embarrassed by their kid’s behavior and think that it makes them look like good parents? Do they simply lack the self-control that it takes to be an adult?

    What I really want to know most though, is if back on the day their child was born, they held the little bundle of joy in their arms and wondered when the first day would come when they had the chance to throttle their innocent little baby?

    • charlie says:

      Your second paragraph is amazing. Blew my mind.

      • Phil says:

        Thank you, sir! (this makes up for the “screw you” I got)

        My wife and I chose to raise our kids without hitting from before day one. Their behavior is a reflection of our parenting, and I’d say that so far we’ve done a pretty good job.

  17. Emily says:

    A lot of parents think its okay to hit as discipline, that their kids have to shape up and know who’s boss. I wish they would stop and think how it felt. What if someone they loved smacked them, just hard enough it hurt a little (or maybe a lot) each time they did something wrong. Every lie they told (sorry, I’m sick today, I can’t come to work). Every time they broke the rules (the speed limit is 30, not 45). Every time they didn’t listen (the house is a mess, didn’t you do your chores?). They would feel humiliated, disrespected, ashamed, misunderstood, and low self esteem. These are thing no one wants for their kids. I would never hit my husband, mother, or friend for any reason. I would never accept being hit by my boss, my husband, my teacher, or my friends for any reason. I don’t want my kids to ever think its okay for someone to hurt them, humiliate them, or treat them with disrespect.

    • Christina says:

      I will not lie – I spank my son. I was also spanked. To say I find any amount of pleasure in it is so totally wrong.

      I use other methods of disciplining besides spanking, but this one this is sometimes necessary. I do not think time out for running in the middle of a parking lot when I told him to hold my hand is something to be tolerated even a little bit.

      I hate it, but sometimes smacking my son on his bum is A THOUSAND TIMES BETTER THAN HIM THINKING RUNNING IN THE STREET CAUSES NO PAIN. Or that hitting other children doesn’t cause them pain. Or that throwing toys at siblings and parents won’t result in someone getting hurt.

      And every time, I pull him into my arms and cradle him trying not to cry.

      But what I do isn’t abuse. Slapping your kid over nothing is not the same as what I do. Please, stop equating them.

      • I’m going to preface what I’m about to say with this: I’m not yet near the spanking stage (our daughter is 10 months) but it is an ongoing discussion between my husband and I. I’m sure there will be many more discussions when we actually need or have reached the point of spanking.

        With that said, I agree with Charlie, spanking does not equal abuse. I think it is another tool in a myriad of disciplining options that needs to be used correctly. Charlie gave several good examples (in my novice opinion) where a spanking would be effective. I think an age appropriate discussion should also follow a spanking once everyone has calmed down.

        Both of my parents hit my sister and I over the stupidest shit and even at a young age I remember it just being completely out of line. Having this experience won’t prevent me from spanking when necessary and appropriate…it will however make me more mindful about the motivation behind it.

        It’s a fine line to walk for parents, especially out in public, and I think a lot of people just have that sense when a so-called spanking has gone too far or is out of line.

      • Jennifer says:

        There are so many alternatives, Christina. Your words are far more powerful than your physical ability to cause your child pain. What you teach him, he will pass on. Possibly on to his wife. To his children. Do you want that when there are so many other ways to teach him to be safe?

        • Tiffany Naquin says:

          My five siblings and I were all spanked as children, and it worked well for some of us. In my opinion, getting spanked was definitely preferable to being grounded. However, my father never spanked in anger. And he never spanked us hard enough to leave any kind of pain. That is completely different that an abusive man angrily slapping or hitting his children. Plus, none of us have any anger or violence issues.

        • Shawn says:

          I have 5 children 5, 16, 19, 21, 24. I’ve parented solo since my wife was killed 4 years ago. My youngest has never been spanked, although I’ve smacked a hand twice-his response “You hurt me!” Me: I felt wretched. It did no good over talking or redirecting. As I’ve become older (45 now) the ‘need’ for spanking is nil. My first rarely ‘needed’ it, #2-oh ya! and a great decrease to #3 to nearly nil for #4. The difference, my parenting skills improved over time and my children behaved better. Children learn what they live. ‘Spare the rod’ doesn’t mean ‘beat your children into submission’, it means love them enough to guide them to change from the inside out-disciple them.
          Spanking doesn’t guarantee a criminal or abuser, but it sure has a greater correlation to those than nurturing does!

          • Emily says:

            I’ve had a similar experience. When my first entered his toddler years I would occasionally spank him, my husband too. He would look up at me horrified. After it happened a few times my husband and I talked about it. We agreed it “just felt wrong” to spank him. This was about a year ago. As time has gone by and I now have a second child my parenting skills have grown. Less and less I feel the urge to spank. When I do, I take a deep breath and pull from my memory a store of techniques I’ve gathered from books and other parents. Some techniques I even came up with on my own. An observation: My toddler slowly stopped hitting as I did. Amazing. He’s two and a half and never hits, even when the other kids hit him first. Instead, when’s he’s angry, he says “I’M ANGRY!” and walks away.

          • vegas710 says:

            Me too, Emily and Shawn. We tried it a couple of times but it felt *wrong*. In our house the rule is, “we don’t hit” not “hitting is only for grownups”.

      • Evonne says:

        I am with you all the way Christina… I too will spank my children if such a thing is necessary. No it is not the only form of discipline but is sometimes necessary.
        I also was spanked as a child and, no, I don’t believe it screwed me up in any way, shape or form. In fact I respect what my parents did. There is a HUGE difference between spanking and abuse. I didn’t see what Charlie saw so can’t weigh in on that.

      • vegas710 says:

        Amazingly enough, my kids learned not to run into the street without anyone hitting them.
        I have no doubt that you are doing what you believe is best for your son. I also recognize a huge difference between hitting out of anger and a swat on the bum of a wayward child. That said, you are arguing a false dichotomy. Spanking and getting run over by a car are not the only two options for this scenario.

      • Dena says:

        Just a thought – if your method of discipline makes you upset to the point of trying not to cry, perhaps something better can be used.

        I personally do find timeout to be effective, though it *is* more work to enact, and in the scenario you painted you can’t instantly apply it. It’s also a strategy I can feel good about – we all cool off and my kids get the chance to think about things a bit.

        And I have a lot of empathy for that particular parking lot scenario – I am past 8 mos pregnant with 2 and 4 year old sons. I *cannot* have one run off – there is only one of me, I can’t run effectively just now, etc… If one has tried the “breakaway”, they are grabbed asap and everyone marched to a safe area where I *can* enact a timeout. (And it is good for the nonoffender to see me do this as well – they see that I am consistent and fair, that I am taking care of them, etc.)

        And my kids do understand pain and hurt – it is part of life – they accidentally (and yes – sometimes rather deliberately) hurt themselves and each other and hubby and I in different ways all the time. We work hard at pointing it out, making them think about it, and then having them do something to make things right/better. I don’t think it necessary to add pain to the lesson, and so far (despite having days when they push every boundary over and over again!) I am happy to say I can see my sons growing in their empathy and compassion and overall thoughtfulness. It does work!

        Parenthood – it *is* a hard, demanding job. But there are alternatives to corporal punishment that are effective and you can feel good about… and you really *ought* to be able to feel good about the methods you are using!

      • Kathleen says:

        I’m disappointed that most people on this thread equate all kinds of spankings with abuse. It’s not the same.
        My sons will grow up to be respectful, productive members of society. They get spanked for major offenses ~yes, lying is included! We would not tolerate “I’m sick so I’m not coming to work today” in ourselves or in them. If you are going to ditch your responsibilites – own it! Personal responsibility, accepting blame when it’s appropriate and receiving correction are natural parts of maturity. When they are old enough to “feel the pain” of society’s imposed consequences to their actions, we release them. Our oldest son unbuckled his seatbelt, unbeknownst to us. When we got ticketed for his infraction – HE PAID. It hurt, A LOT! He worked every weekend for a month, weeded a widow’s garden, trimmed her hedges, mowed her grass. He had more scratches and bruises than he ever got on his rump from us.
        Charlie, I don’t know what got you so worked up at the park, I won’t judge what you did to that man. But I’ll say ~ I have been judged so sternly by people who practice NO SORT of discipline! And I will withhold my correction and judgement of parents who let their kids “free range”!
        Terrible abuse is different. That should be stopped! And I’ll help with that! Just please DON’T confuse the two!
        So… that’s my 2 cents!

      • Well said, Christina. Unfortunately, seeing people equate spanking (particularly when it is a controlled and predictable consequence for the child) with full-on physical abuse only serves to render the term “abuse” completely meaningless. That’s akin to saying that even raising your voice to a child is the same as verbal abuse. Let’s disagree honestly, people.

        I’m with you. The VAST majority of discipline that my son receives is completely non-physical. Unfortunately — try as we might — there are times when he will not respond to the usual methods, and we are forced to resort to spanking. People can tell me with all the hysterical fervor they can muster that I’m an abusive father and that I’m damaging my child (even my child’s future wife and kids *gasp*), but I know how my child responds, and sometimes a physical consequence is exactly what he needs.

        It amazes me that we can fight with him for 45 minutes using timeouts and other reasoning techniques, but a couple of swats on the bum and an explanation of the reasoning behind the spanking will snap him out of misbehavior in 30 seconds.

  18. Melinda says:

    Thank you for doing what so many others do not have the courage to do. My sister works with children who have been abused, and you would be shocked at the number of times a neighbor, boss, teacher, etc. has told her “I saw the mom/dad grab/hit the child, but I didn’t want to interfere”. And then one day that child ends up in the ER with her little head bashed in, and we watch a tiny casket being lowered into the ground and ask “How did this happen?”
    It happens because too many of us are too self absorbed or too afraid to do what you did.
    Thank you!

  19. Lucy says:

    When we were wee, and our monster of a stepdad used to treat us as his personal punchbags I used to wish so hard that somebody would notice. He was a sneaky one though, preferred hair pulling and knuckles rapped hard into the skull in public. Camouflaged by his uniform he got away with some of the most appalling behavior. Well done for telling this man that he was seen, please can everyone try to do the same? TaTakes half yer life, trying to feel like a worthwhile human.

  20. Lucy says:

    Should say, my healing is complete mostly due to my very small but very wise kid, as well as the joy of watching my beloved man be a dad. Charlie, Andy, this blog always makes our day. :-) xx

  21. Duuuuuude. Good job telling him what’s up. The voiceless need a voice. As a former teacher, I take that crap seriously too, it enrages me. Those men are COWARDS.

  22. MotherDuck says:

    I cry every time I hear this song. I think it’s perfect for this posting.

    http://youtu.be/m39DWVFK-Bw

  23. Shirlie says:

    I started reading this and got further down I was praying to who ever listens to my Prayers Please dont let this be about looks but please dear Lord don’t let this man be hitting his kids. I am sickened, saddened and given some heart that people like you speak up.

  24. MotherDuck says:

    …and thank you Charlie for having the balls to call him out on it.

  25. So well done, Charlie. What did the guy do??
    More people need to speak up more often. On my walk last night I saw a guy with a beer in hand talking to his daughter, so mean that he was making her cry…and cry. Cruel. She was maybe 8 for Godssakes. I stared. He told her, “See, now you’re making people stare at you.” I said, “I’m staring at YOU.” and I was ready to run. I was alone. It was dark. If ever I DON’T speak up, it’s out of fear of what the person will do, how they will react… especially if I’m alone and there’s nobody else around to witness or offer any kind of protection! So… what’d he do?

  26. beta dad says:

    Good job, Charlie. I don’t know if I would have had the balls to tell somebody that. Thankfully I haven’t seen anyone hit their kids in public for a long, long time.

  27. Kathy V. says:

    Awesome. Well written, courageous. It’s a wonderful thing to read.

  28. MadHatterHarris says:

    Good job! If more people would stand up we might scare these people out of existence. Give them a taste of the paranoia that they are instilling in their children.

  29. Elizabeth says:

    I’m glad you said something! Americans tend to not speak up, because they don’t want to get involved. Then you hear on the news later that, had someone stepped up, X person would of been alive…etc.

    Maybe you made an impact on this guy and he will actually think about it!

  30. Rach says:

    Thank you for speaking up. The “live and let live” mantra that we are taught in our society is great when it comes to tolerating differences in people who aren’t mirror images of ourselves, but it also means that we often aren’t comfortable speaking up even when we know we should. I’m glad you kicked social norms to the curb and spoke up. :)

  31. Kelley says:

    Yay, you! You said something. You spoke on behalf of the child. That probably really shook up that dad. Let’s hope

  32. Kelley says:

    Yay, you! You said something. You spoke on behalf of the child. That probably really shook up that dad. Let’s hope.

  33. Timmeh says:

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

    Thanks for relaying the story.

  34. asraidevin says:

    This is the saddest thing I’ve read. Maybe not in the world, but in a long time.

  35. Mista says:

    This post went in a totally different direction then I had thought it would end up…. By the end of it I actually said out loud “WOW!”…. Thank you! Thank you for taking the time to write this…. I have started many a blog post about this topic but haven’t quite figured out how to complete them…. So thank you, again. You are strong to bring up such a topic!

  36. tinyhands says:

    This was a great first-post for me to read. Hooked.

  37. You know that if he’s hitting his kid in public, that much worse goes on at home behind closed doors. DESPICABLE!

  38. Crankymamma says:

    Wow! I have to say like others I wasn’t sure where you where going with this or if you were really being that arrogant but damn I wasn’t expecting the ending. Very well handled and bravo to you for standing up to that guy. Like some else said I can’t believe he was doing in public I just can’t imagine what he does to them at home.

  39. Laurie says:

    Wow, Surprised at first, but wow, that was a really great post. Some people will just never cease to amaze, in good ways and also really awful ways. Well written!

  40. This was so poignant. Wow. I loved the language you used and the way you portrayed it. I couldn’t agree more; I think hitting is humiliating, wrong and bullying behavior. It teaches nothing positive. Thanks for writing this. Thanks for speaking up.

  41. Thank you for saying something. The world needs more people like you in it.

  42. Brandy says:

    Fantastic post. Just wonderfully written. High fives, my good sir.

  43. zoe says:

    Well, since you wanted some thoughts on it…. No, actually, I don’t think hitting a child so they won’t go out into the street is a thousand times better, and here’s why. At the age where they don’t take your hand, it’s simply a matter of being responsible for taking your child’s hand yourself. I remember when bouncy was likely to run off. He was far too young to be trusted to do anything reliably, and I would have been at fault for trusting/believing that hitting him would have ALWAYS prevented him from running in the street. What prevented him from NEVER running into the street was my taking his hand each and every time. This same thing goes for the month long phase where he bit when he got excited, or when he would cry over not getting things he wanted, or whatever other reason parents sometimes find to hit their children. I’ve never timed out my kid, and have never had a need to. Being a parent means doing the hard thing, and for some folks that means not hitting their kid no matter the temptation. That’s my weigh in.

    • Jennifer says:

      Amen. Well said, Zoe. Great advice.

    • Shawn says:

      Agreed.

    • Kerry says:

      Best parenting trick I ever learned was how to hold a kid’s hand so they can’t pull their hand away and run into the street and get killed. Have the kid hold your thumb, then take their wrist between your index and middle fingers, and close your hand up. It should put them in a wrist-lock they can’t get out of, and makes the whole crossing the street conundrum almost obsolete.

    • Christina says:

      You know, I do the same thing. But you wouldn’t know that because you don’t know me.

      Walking out of the YMCA every day where he stops and turns to grab my hand, its totally easy to forget he doesn’t always. Especially when he asks for “Hand?”

      So on that one day when we walk out and I’m touting his sister in her carrier and he takes off running…

      Just imagine that dilemma. Run after the 3 year old un-inhibited and risk LOSING the baby or run at a gimpy pace lugging a 30lb bit of something just as precious as what is running away from me.

      Yeah. Its not a perfect world we live in. Oh and for this – I hate time outs to. I hate being mad at him. I hate disciplining him PERIOD. Does that mean I should give up all of that? Just because it makes us feel like crap doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Or should I throw out exercise and eating right? Cuz doing those make me feel like crap in the short-term, too.

  44. Jennifer says:

    You are awesome. Thank goodness for people like you. I want to hug this post.

  45. zoe says:

    …oh, and at 3 weeks shy of 7, he takes MY hand, and it makes me cry because it is such a loving, trusting thing to do.

  46. Shawn says:

    I challenge anyone to replace the word ‘child’ with ‘dog’, ‘cat’, ‘Bengal Tiger’, etc. in the ‘spanking/hitting’ discussion and listen to how different the response would be…how many pet owners would lose their animals and we’d cheer…yet they get to keep their kids, and make more.

    • Lara says:

      Well said Shawn.

      So many people in the US seem to equate “spanking” (hitting) children with discipline…or use the “stop them from killing themselves” argument.um?…what? Then why aren’t all the children growing up in countries where spanking is rare dropping like flies? Why are those children in those countries growing up in scholls and communities where there is virtually no bullying?

      If it’s OK to hit my kid “for their own good”, by that logic its also OK to spank/ hit a person with a disability, someone’s elderly grandmother with alzhiemers, or a returned vetran who ended up with brain damage: all in order to “stop” them doing something to hurt themselves when they are not in full control of their facaulties.

      As a parent I can understand that we all lose our cool from time to to time and say/ do things we regret and hope our kids will forgive us for. But to deliberately set out to use hitting (what you call “spanking”) as a way of teaching a human being “right from wrong” – sheeze guys, seriously, go and read some of the research about what it does to your child’s brain, and attend a parenting class to get some other strategies.

      (PS – the argument that “I was spanked and it didn’t hurt me”…well, that would be an opinion, not necessarily a fact”).

      • DearHarrison.com says:

        I would love to read the research that shows that controlled corporal punishment damages the brain of children. Please pass on the link to some of those studies. I promise to read them.

        And this magical, faraway country that has schools and communities with no bullying? It’s a nice sentiment, to be sure, but this foreign utopia you speak of doesn’t exist.

        • Lara says:

          DearHarrison,

          I’ve read through some of your other comments – and you come across as a pretty respectful kind of guy, even when you are disagreeing with what’s being said. That’s kinda nice – and rare – to see.

          So, happy to share with you some of the research I’ve read:

          http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1983895,00.html
          http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051114110820.htm
          http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=2540224
          http://www.canadianmedicaljournal.ca/content/161/7/805.short
          http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/5/e1057.short

          You seem like a pretty sharp guy. So I’ll jump in ahead – yes, there are some grey areas and caveats in the research. I’m not suggesting the full body of research is saying “parents who spank are evil, terrible” or will inevitably damage their children. There’s definately some other factors which seem to impact on how “bad” the impact of spanking is. In particular, culture, ethnicity, the age the spanking starts and stops, frequency and also the extent of other parenting behaviours that are nurturing seem to be pretty important in determining how bad the long-term impacts of spanking are (interestingly, none of the “features” of Troy’s chilling instructions on how to spank a child are refelcted in the research)

          Take Melinda’s story below – a pretty abusive behaviour was perpetrated by her dad – but according to Melinda, this was an extremely rare thing in an otherwise, loving, respectful and safe relationship. This would be a situation that is “grey” in the research. Certainly, the research would suggest a single incident like this in childhood has far less an impact on brain, psychological or social outcomes than constant verbal harrasment, bullying, abuse or intimidation by a parent.

          Nor am I casting judgement on parents who just simply lose it on the odd occasion. We’re all human, and – let’s face it – most of this parenting gig we do on our own (check out Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s work if you want to know about the impacts of that).

          My point, was that using spanking as a deliberate, calculated way of discipline or “teaching” boundaries simply doesn’t add up. I agree with Shawn – if its not OK to hit other members of society, it doesn’t make sense to me that its OK to hit the most vulnerable and dependent people in our community (i.e. our kids).

          Even though there are still grey areas in the research, and individual studies always have a few flaws you can pick apart – there is absolute consistency in the research that shows that it does something negative, to some degree to many, many children.

          So – quite frankly, I’m not going to deliberately expose my kids brains to something like that any more that I’m going to expose them to some “test drug” that I know is likely to stunt brain development, even though there might be a few “grey areas” that suggest it doesn’t harm some kids as much as others. And because – when they are bad, the effects of spanking have a flow-on impact to other kids, families and communities as a whole – you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to stand up and defend a child’s right not to be spanked.

          And just for clarification…I didn’t say *no* bullying – but *virtually* no bullying – a somewhat lazy way of saying there are countries where schools have lower rates of violence, intimidation and pasychological and physical warfare than in the US. I personally don’t know about Utopia, but come on over to Sweden sometime – I’d be happy to take you through some of the schools I work in, in a country where spanking is outlawed and a much greater number of parents manage to find other ways to teach good boundaries to their kids boundaries without risking their growing brains or personalities.

          • Excellent. I will look those links over like I promised.

            Thanks for taking the time to send this to me, and thanks for your kind words — I do try my best to disagree respectfully. I can tell that you do the same, so kudos back to you.

            Here’s the thing that make me (and many other loving parents) nervous:

            I would advocate that any child who is physically abused should be removed from the abusive home, at least for a time as to get the parent the help to learn to control their actions. I think any human with a heart and brain would agree.

            Where I get nervous is the immediate equating (by many) of spanking with abuse. You specifically compared spanking to hitting the elderly, injured veterans, or mentally challenged people.

            You also mentioned Troy’s “chilling” instructions on spanking. I agree with him 100%, and that’s an excellent illustration of how spanking is carried out in our home. I assume that you would categorize this chilling practice as abuse. Does that mean that, if you had your way, I would be in danger of having my son taken from my home by the state? That’s chilling.

            When we begin to use strong words like “abuse” to describe spanking, we open ourselves up to very serious problems. If abuse no longer holds the severity of a truly heinous action, then we can prosecute people for all sorts of things. I happen to believe that permissive parents are doing greater harm to their children (mentally and emotionally) than responsible spankers ever did, but I would never say they are abusive.

            Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s got some very serious ramifications, and MANY healthy, loving parents could face the removal of their children if we let this overly-emotional, sensationalistic rhetoric go unchecked. And the damage that would cause to children is incalculable.

            *Please note that I am not trying to insinuate that you are being overly-emotional and sensationalistic, or that you advocate the arrest of parents who spank (you may or may not, I don’t know), but I am showing the potential that this line of thought might have if we don’t step back and really look at the whole picture.

            **Also, to Charlie and Andy: I apologize if it appears that I’m hijacking this comment thread. Macro issue like this really need to be discussed on a deeper level than just a snarky one-paragraph comment, and I’m just trying to give a different perspective to those who would potentially label me (and thousands of other parents) child abusers. Out or respect to YOUR forum, this will be my last comment (on THIS issue, anyway). :)

  47. Nia says:

    Good on you for saying something! That’s always scary to do!

    I think there’s a bunch of good advice in the comments for alternatives to corporal punishment. That said, I do sometimes spank my kids and sometimes I use timeouts and sometimes they get a privilege taken away. I don’t think you can make a blanket statement that all corporal punishment is bad any more than you can say all verbal discipline is bad. Both can cause lasting damage, seen or unseen, and the point of any discipline is to make the unhealthy behavior unappealing until they are able to discern on their own, and what works for one kid will not work for another. I have three kids and it takes a lot of love and brain power to work out what discipline is going to help my children the most. Whichever form of discipline is used should not be satisfying to the parent’s upset emotions in any way and I think that is a better measuring stick for determining the health of a means of discipline.

    • “Whichever form of discipline is used should not be satisfying to the parent’s upset emotions in any way and I think that is a better measuring stick for determining the health of a means of discipline.”

      SPOT-ON.

      What a great line. I wish I would have written it. :)

      • Dena says:

        Agreed – well said! If what you are doing is to satisfy your own flash of frustration or temper (etc) in the heat of the moment, it’s a red flag about how healthy the strategy is. If you get sad/upset/consumed with guilt afterwards doing what you do – red flag. And at the extreme, if the child is showing signs of damage (physical or emotional) *HUGE RED FLAG*! Time to sit down and think hard (and get help if need be) about what could work better.

        There are many, many ways to approach discipline that are positive and effective. You have to apply both proactive and reactive strategies all over the place! I don’t think anyone can use just one method. Circumstances vary – and children themselves grow and change so much! You have to adapt to the constant change.

        Any time I have succumbed to my own upset emotions, as we all do from time to time, I have known right away that I was making a mistake. I fully admit that is part and parcel why I like timeout so much – *I* need the breather/cool down/think time as much or more as my kids! ;)

  48. Aicha says:

    I just don’t understand people who hit their kids. I was spanked as a kid, my husband was beat. We made a decision together, when I was pregnant, that we would not hit our son. And we don’t. In the beginning, my family thought i was crazy for not hitting him. I got all of the “kids need spanking” comments. Well, we don’t regret out decision. He is 4 and he behaves like a 4 year old should. He tests boundaries and we talk to him and tell him what is acceptable and what is not. We do time outs occasionally, but we’ve never had to, or felt the need to physically punish him. Good on you for speaking up Charlie.

  49. JeninCanada says:

    Well done, Charlie, and to everyone else in here who said that they would do the same, and who don’t condone child abuse.

    That’s what hitting your kids is; abuse. You don’t hit your kids. Full stop. Don’t try to justify it as discipline, that you were hit and you turned out ok, that it’s *just* this or that. It’s not. Don’t hit your kids.

  50. Helena says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  51. keisha says:

    Whenever I have my niece, I discipline her in whatever for is necessary to get her stention. If It means she gets a spanking, then fine. But i also make sure i have given her every chance to make a better decision and have exhausted my other options. As it stands, I have only spanked her once in her life and she is seven years old. One thing I am NOT gonna do is let a child think he or she is going to have cobtrol over a situation. What i do is make sure I am not mad when I do the punishing, no matter what form it comes in. Once I have decided what form it will be, I then explain why it is happening and what she could have done differently and achieved a positive result. To this day, my niece never tries me nor does she disrespect me. She runs over everyone else but she knows I won’t tolerate it.

    • Ambershawn says:

      I have to agree with a lot of the other parents here.
      I have two kids, and when they are way out of line and I have exhausted all other options, they get what we call a “swat.” With a hand, open palmed on the rear, once. I have a dozen other methods that I also use to try to parent them, and I’m constantly trying to think up others. I do my very best to negotiate, talk, and explain. I have used time outs, and things like giving them chores (if you can’t stop hitting your brother you can go sweep the porch.) But the sad thing is, a swat sometimes works when all other methods fail. I feel that a swat, or a mindful spank, is not abuse. Abuse is wrong, and it should not happen to anyone regardless of age. Whether its verbal, emotional, physical, or neglectful.
      While I’m thinking of parenting I’ll share our latest parenting tool because it’s working well so far. Yesterday I instituted the “T.V. Jar” in our house. At the beginning of the week, you start with 12 marbles in a jar where the kids can see them. Each marble represents 10 minutes, and I have a little chart that tells them how many marbles their favorite shows “cost.” (i.e. one marble for the old school Gummi Bears show, three marbles for Super Why, etc.) When you do something wrong like smack your brother or tease your sister, a marble gets taken out. When you do something kind or helpful, a marble gets put in. So far it’s working great!)

      Anyway, the point is, sometimes a swat helps them remember that you don’t throw rocks in the house – no matter how fun it is.

  52. That was hard. Those last sentences made my defenses crumble. I knew when the post started that you had to mean something like that, but…
    A lot of parents on here seem to think that “hitting” is the same as discipline. It’s not. Texting and ignoring your kids, then smacking them when they get too loud and interrupt your precious conversation: that’s abuse. Paying attention to what they’re doing, giving clear warnings, and then giving them a pop (after talking for a minute and before a hug): discipline.
    Anyway. You’re a brilliant writer, Charlie; I’m glad you share it with us.

  53. Jamethiel says:

    I know it’s been said before, but thank you for this post. It was extremely well written and brought the point home in a different and hopefully more effective way than just saying “Don’t beat your kids”.

    I agree with a lot of the commenters-rarely does spanking really help. It didn’t help with me at all, no matter what age I was-my pain tolerance is so high I just ignored light spanks or swats. I know I won’t be spanking my son when he gets older-he is the exact opposite of me, he’s incredibly sensitive and I think it would just hinder his learning rather than bring the point home to him. Because that should be the point of any punishment-to connect what the kid just did with the fact that it was not desired/unsafe. Not for the parent’s pleasure, as one person pointed out. But I mostly think it’s trial and error-what will bring the point home to that kid?

  54. Katie says:

    This is a difficult one…

    When I was a kid, I was often beaten by my mother for small things – she would slap me around the face or legs to get a reaction from me whilst I remember standing there trying my hardest not to cry. It marked me forever. And made me determined that i will never ever be that person.

    That said, my child (20 months) is willful and is prone to letting go of my hand and running into the road. Almost all the time, I practice time outs or bending down and talking to him, face to face, in a stern voice, why it’s not acceptable. But there have been the odd occasion when he has put himself in real danger and these are times (less than a handful) when I have given him a quick smack on the bottom. He has a nappy on, it’s never been hard and it has never been hard enough to hurt. Only hard enough to cause surprise. I would never, ever hit my son the way my mother beat me…

    And where I live, I remember witnessing a scene where a mother was slapping her toddler – not much older than my son – around the face at a toddler group. It was awful but no-one batted an eyelid. The child was howling. I’m afraid i didn’t say anything, and I have never taken my son back there (I don’t want him to think that this kind of behaviour is acceptable or normal – and many of the older children there were very rough with other kids), but i often think of that child and the horror i felt at that level of violence towards such a small child, and it keeps me in check even when i am at my most frustrated.

    So I do understand those who choose to spank teir child when they put themselves or others in danger, but i in no way condone those who beat their child in a manner which is totally disproportionate to what their little bundle of learning has done…

  55. bri mccloud says:

    Kudos for standing up. I remember once as a child there was a woman in a gas station who’s car was opposite ours at the pump and she was screaming and yelling at this poor child maybe 4 or 5 saying “you took my $5. Theif liar! You took my money” and such while that poor baby just cried aand cried saying mommy I didn’t take your money! My mom marched over and threw $5 at the woman and said “here b!t*h, here is your $5 now leave your kid alone!” I respect my mother so much for standing up to that woman. And on a side note I’m proud to see your followers not getting into fights on your blog over the child abuse subject :)

  56. Cobacrtr says:

    Heartbreaking doesn’t begin to cover it. I’ve always believed that there is a special hell for people that bully and abuse children and animals. Until we all have the courage to stand up like you did, this will continue. It’s a hard thing to do because I think it all makes us look at our parenting, too. What is “right” for one person and their family may not be “right” for another, but if you get that sick feeling in your stomach watching someone “parent” you know something isn’t okay. I live in a CO county with highest number of abuse cases in the state and it sickening. We owe it to each other to have the courage to speak up for those that can’t. If we don’t, we can’t continue to act surprised by all the atrocities we see and hear about daily. It starts in our own homes…teach your children compassion not only through words, but deeds. If each person, just once in their life, stands up and says “Quit hitting your kid/wife/dog. I’m watching you” I believe we can make a change for the better.

  57. Melinda says:

    I was 15, a total brat, got in a fight with my mother and called her a “f@cking bitch”. Dad was within earshot. Dad grabbed me by my arm, threw me over the couch, and hit me about three times with his belt. He then took about five steps back and said to me “She may be your mother, but she is also my wife and no one, not even you, will ever speak to her that way while I’m alive.”

    Dad was right, and even though I was furious at the time, I now respect what he did. I never swore at my parents again.

    I am NOT advocating spanking as a catch-all punishment. Our children have been spanked less than a dozen times in 10 years. I happen to personally feel that some times the situation warrants it.

    • Phil says:

      Look at the above article. Read it again, very carefully, then come back down and read the rest of this response.

      Your father is one of the ugly ones.

      • Melinda says:

        First of all, screw you Phil for casting my father as a monster based on one single act. You know one story. You did not know him.

        He was kind, honorable man who served his country during a war, raised four successful children, and had a wonderful happy marriage. I loved that man with all my heart and miss him every day.

        My father spanked me exactly three times in my life, and this was one of them. If he’d been in public and some person had called his wife that, he would have knocked thier lights out. I am, in retrospect, horrified that I called my mother that, and still maintain he did nothing wrong.

        I was raised in a loving, happy home. If you can’t reconcile that with the incident I relayed, that’s your problem. Your home may have been very different. But there are plenty of people like me out there who were spanked, loved our families, and didn’t grow up to be derelicts.

        You may never lay a hand on your child. That’s your perogative.

        • Phil says:

          We officially have a new definition for spanking: Throwing your child over a chair and beating her with your belt.

          • Melinda says:

            Oh, get over yourself.

            I got in a bar fight in college. Crazy drunk girl who thought i was hitting on her boyfriend came at me with a bottle of Corona. THAT was a beating.
            Getting smacked, with jeans on, three times on my ass? Hardly.

            Honestly, I have had dental work that hurt a hell of a lot worse.

        • Phil says:

          Are you the same Melinda from above who thanked Charlie “for doing what so many others do not have the courage to do?” That would be ironic.

        • Phil says:

          Getting into bar fights. Clearly your father drove you down the right path in life.

          I’m done here.

          • Melinda says:

            Read my post. She came at me. I have never instigated a fight. Although, I know how to defend myself when/if that does happen.

        • Phil says:

          He could have been the best dad ever, and it’s awesome that he was your “great” dad, but he falls short on that category for me.

          The argument here is over here, simply for the fact that you are calling what he did to you that day a “spanking.” That is not a spanking, that’s beating you. Sugarcoat it all you want, or maybe you just said it that way so people would pay attention to your response. Maybe he set you down in a chair and gave you three quick swats to send you a message (STILL abuse).

          Just another reason I would prefer a detailed account of what occurred in the park with the author, because what he witnessed, if it was worse than what you went through, should have ended up with a call to the police.

          It takes a village to prevent a child from getting beaten by his own father.

          • Troy says:

            Phil,

            If you’re going to step in on the conversation of what the lady said and throw some pretty hefty insults at a loving father… be man enough to not back away from the discussion with a lame “the argument here is over” and refuse to continue the discourse. Anytime you step heatedly into a conversation, throw some nasty insults, get snotty, and then cover your ears and run… you are not doing any justice to your points. You are showing yourself to be a coward.

            Simple fact is that loving, awesome parents have for centuries and longer used corporal punishment to raise kids. It is effective. Also a simple fact is that for just as long parents of all kinds (including the loving awesome ones) have misused corporal punishment in ways that are borderline (or not borderline) abuse.

            The topic is always a heated one. Kudos to Charlie for bringing it up. There is a lot of ugliness out there when it comes to the way kids are treated. Its tough to see sometimes. I also have stepped in and made comments to folks beating their kids in public, and nearly gotten into serious confrontation for it. Its amazing how hot people get when confronted with what they are doing that is blatantly wrong.

            Its also important to note that there is a significant difference between beating your kid and using corporal punishment appropriately. Its important not to see the two as the same. If you are unwilling to separate legitimate corporal punishment from child abuse then you are completely eliminating any effect you may actually have addressing either topic.

            I am the proud parent of four kids (about to be five). My oldest is 13. They have all been raised using spanking as one of the methods of punishment as was I. I studied by butt off before I became a parent to come to the methods of punishment and child raising I would use. It wasn’t something that I fell into because I was raised that way… its a studied, logical, and firm belief that I have that its the right way to do things.

            When my kids get punished it is within these bounds:

            1) The punishment is always only and completely for their instruction and well being.

            2) The punishment is never done out of anger. If I am angry then they are “checked” verbally that they will be punished later and to start thinking about what just happened.

            3) The punishment is always done in private if possible. Its not possible to privately keep a child from touching a hot stove or from chasing that ball into the road. If its not a hazard to their immediate health and well-being… its taken to a separate room.

            4) The kids are asked why they are being punished before they are punished. Then the reason is explained. The punishment is issued. They are asked why they received it and then told how to correct the behavior.

            5) If spanking was involved the kids are always hugged afterwards.

            6) Spanking is always only done on the rear. With clothes on.

            7) Spanking is never done hard enough to leave a mark. Period. If you don’t spank out of anger or to vent frustration this wont be an issue anyways.

            And one last one… that I started as a new parent that I abandoned eventually.

            8) Never spank with the hand. always use a ‘spanking spoon’ or other device.

            I could get into the why’s and wherefore’s on that one another time. :)

            All that said. If I was at the park with my son… and he did something that rose to the level of mandating a spanking… and I spoke to him… and explained the why and what of it… and pulled him aside and popped his butt… and then hugged him and sent him on his way and someone came up to me and challenged that. I would say they were way, WAY out of line.

            Though… you rarely see spanking done the correct way in public. By definition you won’t.

            You will just see the happy, cheery kids behaving very very well in an extremely functional family.

            -Troy

    • Look, while I take some issue with spanking a 15-year-old girl, I have to disagree with Phil’s comment above. Even though you (who experienced this first-hand and have lived with it every day since) completely defend the TOTALITY of your dad’s actions, he feels free to weigh in and attack the character of a man he has never met.

      So let me do the same.

      Based on what you said above, I’d say you were blessed with a great father. I hope that, if you are married, your husband would do the same for you.

      • Phil says:

        “Dad grabbed me by my arm, threw me over the couch, and hit me about three times with his belt.”

        I heard enough.

        • Phil, I hope that your daughters afford more leniency in your parenting failures than you afford to this man. If one single incident is enough for you to trash and dismiss Melinda’s father’s character, then I am saddened at your shortsightedness.

          • Phil says:

            The character in the above story, then, has been “trashed and dismissed” by 98% of the commenters on this site. He is obviously a great and misunderstood father, and beating his child in public was the right thing to do for him down the road.

            Congratulations for pointing this out. Charlie has clearly done the wrong thing in this situation.

          • Phil says:

            I’ve made as many parenting mistakes as any other normal parent, but I can say with 100% certainty that one of them will never be laying a hand on either of my daughters. Mine get taught that women are respected by example.

            Some day, despite my decisions, perhaps one or both of them may act like a normal, rebellious teen. My reaction will not be hitting her. And it most certainly will not be throwing her over a couch.

            I don’t need to be remembered as a great dad, so much as one that did the best he can. And best, IMO, does not involve hitting someone who is smaller than you.

          • Please tell me you’re just being sarcastic for artistic value and not because you actually believe that’s what I think. [sigh] Fine, let me clarify it just in case:

            I happen to think that Charlie did a noble thing in talking to the dad (and I said so in my first comment). I don’t know Charlie personally, but I have a hard time thinking he would agonize over a single swat to the butt of an unruly child. For him to have spoken up, I have to believe the man was not employing self-control.

            With that said, this single act alone doesn’t define the guy. You have no idea what may have been going on outside that incident. He could have been emotionally frazzled because he just had his house foreclosed on, or a family member might have just died, or he could simply be a selfish jerk all the way to the core.

            Regardless, nothing justifies that sort of discipline.

            My hope is that this guy has taken Charlie’s words to heart, and has since had to confront his own behavior because he was called out on it. We’re very good at being blind to our own shortcomings, and when someone points them out, it can cause us to think. Maybe the guy went home and apologized to the child. Maybe he didn’t.

            I’m with the 98% who disagree with the guy’s actions, but I’m not about to make a blanket statement on his character based on one single action.

      • Melinda says:

        Thank you!!! And yes, I was raised by a great man. He wasn’t a perfect man, but I could not have asked for a better father!

      • vegas710 says:

        So now violent actions are not only acceptable but commendable? Ugh, I’m relieved to know that my husband wouldn’t physically harm someone for being rude to me. I’ll tell you what I tell my kids, “USE YOUR WORDS”.

        • What I commended, vegas710, is a husband who stood up for the dignity of his wife in front of his rude and hateful (at the time) daughter. The first line of my response showed that I felt that spanking a 15 year old is a problem for me. I never commended that action.

          Besides, if the girl to whom it happened has no ill will or damage because of the spanking — in fact she defends it — then who are we to judge the man decades later?

          • Phil says:

            It all goes back to the original post. I just have no idea how you can equate “throwing your daughter over a chair and swatting her three times with a belt” with “spanking your kid on the behind in a controlled and disciplined manner.” Your post seems reasonable enough, and offers up a pretty decent defense of controlled spanking as discipline.

            Please update it, however, when you want to post that beating your teenager for being a teenager is a mistake that every great parent makes. Then I’ll tell you you’re wrong.

          • vegas710 says:

            “Besides, if the girl to whom it happened has no ill will or damage because of the spanking — in fact she defends it — then who are we to judge the man decades later?”

            I did that for years as well. I’m done defending violence.

        • Melinda says:

          That’s a very sweet sentiment, and it would be nice if “using your words” worked all the time in the real world. But it doesn’t. If it did, cops wouldn’t need to carry guns an women would never have to learn to fight off an attacker.
          I think it’s wonderful that you love your husband for not being the type to fight for you. You value that. I value having a husband that would kick the living crap out of someone who verbally abuses me. Doesn’t make me OR you better than the other. Just makes us different.

          • vegas710 says:

            I agree that neither of us is better than the other. Self defense is a great thing. My point is that escalating a situation to include physical violence is not a trait that I can respect.
            On the subject of spanking, it was wrong for our family and I’ll admit that I don’t think it’s the best way to parent. That said, to each her own as long as a child isn’t being abused. I just hate to hear the argument that it’s better than a child running into traffic or that there are times when it is “necessary”. It’s just weak arguments.

  58. jennifer says:

    you did the right thing charlie. i get obsessed with tv shows sometimes… when i was pregnant it was law and order svu. go figure?! now it’s what would you do, that abc news shows that’s like a nuevo candid camera, except for instead of practical jokes, it scenarios like abuse, shoplifting, discrimination, etc.
    your story reminds me of something from what would you do, except way sadder because it’s real and reminds us that it’s real.
    thank you for speaking up. violence begets violence.

  59. Phil says:

    @DearHarrison.com, yes, of course it was sarcasm. We are also running out of room for replies, here, hence the new “space.”

    You really have kept your comments respectful here, and I’m really trying to return the favor. I do believe that people should check out your post, no matter what the opinion on spanking. I just wish you had the same kind of commenting system they have here, nice for letting others be aware of who is leaving comments with the links and all.

    That said, you brought up one point I wanted to make about this whole thing. It’s that while Charlie wrote a good and provocative piece here, it’s really way too vague for any of us to judge this playground guy and his actions. Sure we all “know” Charlie enough to agree that he wouldnt have said anything to a guy who was just giving his kid a couple of lovetaps. The way it’s written, though, leaves way too much open to interpretation of the reader.

    That leaves us commenters. I immediately jumped on the assumption that it was a full blown beatdown. It wouldnt be ridiculous to assume that some of the commenters just thought the “bad guy” spanked his kids too many times, just as the same as those who believe it was full on child abuse. Charlie needs to do the responsible thing here, and detail what he saw. Then at least the comments won’t be half-based on assumption.

    You know what though? More facts and less hyperbole just doesn’t add up to “more website hits.”

    And one more thing, relating to the post that started this ****storm: if I’m ever on a playground and I witness a parent throw a child and beat her with a belt, I won’t be telling the parent that I disagree…

    I’ll be calling 911.

    • Hey Phil, I only just now saw this comment. The two of us have hijacked this post long enough, and you’ve now got Troy all fired up and ready for a fight, so I’ll bow out now so that you can redirect your energy. :)

      Thanks for challenging my thinking and helping me to really clarify my position on this important issue. I think through our volleying we have come to understand and agree that intentional, loving parents can take different approaches to disciplining kids. We all screw up, but our kids will make it through.

      See you around.

      Good luck with Troy. Hahaha.

      • Phil says:

        Troy? Troy who? (Ha ha ha)

        Thanks for the same thing in return. Critical thinking is a gift I hope my own kids learn from me, as I know yours will as well. And you are right, our kids will make it through, no matter what. Already I feel like I haven’t “screwed up” the way my own parents did, but I’m not the judge of that… my kids are.

        Humankind is a balancing act, and it requires every one of us to keep from toppling over.

        _Phil

        …and thanks for the blog comment! Much appreciated!

  60. hrl says:

    You are brave. I did that to a relative once who was hitting her toddler son. I got fall out, from my relatives!

  61. Brad says:

    Wow, I’ve been fished! You hooked me, reeled me in, and then clubbed me on the head. Exceptional writing and a powerful message. Bravo!

  62. I have never seen more parents hit their children than I did during our one week vacation at Disney World. I didn’t step in when I saw parents slapping their children across the face. Not that I didn’t want to, but I wouldn’t know how, or what to say, especially since hitting your child is still legal in most places in North America. A sad thing, really.

    More important than speaking to parents is speaking to children, I think. If I was going to say something, I would say it in full earshot of those children to be sure that they understand that they are being wronged. Too many children who are being abused think it is their fault and that they deserve it. I like the fact that the schools where we live are proactive about teaching children about their rights.

  63. There are a lot of assumptions as to the extent of the “ugliness” the father exhibited when hitting his child. For Charlie to have been so appalled to spark a need to engage the man tells me it must have been on the brutal side. And yet for many generations, corporal punishment was considered the norm. I, myself, am opposed to using violence in any form of parenting since I believe it creates fear rather than understanding. If in fact, the violence Charlie witnessed was along the lines of a violent assault, then maybe the police should have been notified. And why wait until after the beating to act? My concern ultimately is for the child’s well being. I hope the “ugly” father changes his ways. Maybe Charlie’s confrontation will be the catalyst for positive change. Let’s hope so. Charlie led with his heart to speak up for a child. Given the popularity of this blog, maybe it will have a ripple effect to rid the ugliness.

  64. Lola says:

    Wow…do all your articles get the same number of comments? This was a great article from how it was written to the point it conveyed. You did a wonderful thing to go and tell him exactly those words. I’m watching you, the whole world is watching you…the future is watching you. I believe you would know if that man (I could not write father) was conveying discipline with his actions or was just being a bully. For that is all he is, an ugly grownup bully.

  65. Michelle Bird says:

    I used to think it was ok to spank kids, after all it never did me any harm, but then i began to realise, hell it DID do harm. When i realised that it was close to becoming my first reaction not my last made me realise there were better ways to deal with things. So i then told myself i would never spank in anger, again it came to me that spanking IS anger, its a loss of control. I wont pretend to be perfect, but each time i lost control, and thank god they were few and far between i apologised to my kids and talked it through. I realised i never wanted my kids to flinch before me the way i still flinch before my mother! As for telling a parent to stop abusing a kid, i’ll admit i havent been brave enough to actually talk to them, but i’ve stood there and stared long enough for them to notice and long enough for them to see me noticing. I may not say anything but they dont intimidate me. And sometimes, as my kids are now older i’ve had a slighlty louder than usual discussion with my kids about how i used to deal with that control problem with they were little and about how i realised violence just didnt work as dicipline. And i shall continue to do so. I find it hard to reconcile the love i have for my aunts and uncles with the knowledge they knew what was going on and didnt stop it. But i dont know they didnt, perhaps they did what they could and it would have been worse without them. Since i stopped spanking nealy 10 years ago my kids have been the light of my life. Damn hard to deal with sometimes, but i know i’ve never lost control anymore and i like to think my relationship with them is stronger for it. I know for damn sure its stronger than the one with my mum.

  66. Simon Palm says:

    You are a racist And you are as ugly on the inside as he “was” on the outside.

    • charlie says:

      What race was the gentleman I was referring to?

      • Adam M says:

        Im going to guess the very ugly Klingon race from planet Kronos . Thanks Star Trek for your ugly people!

      • Erin says:

        Racist?! I don’t recall seeing anything in your original post about what colour he was or what country he came from… wth is wrong with people?
        Great post by the way. My father was big on standing up for kids being beaten as well (although not necessarily in the best way since he was sent to jail for assault when he beat a guy with a frying pan who hit his 2 year old so hard he sent her into the wall and she went unconscious… however I think I would have done something similar had I been the one to see it)

    • Rebekah says:

      Did you even read the entire Post??! Seriously, some people..

    • SDMichael says:

      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.  

    • Zane says:

      Are you kidding?! There is no mention of race here…. I think Charlie is a legend. From one Dad to another, well done for manning up Charlie and confronting this guy. I’ve never spoken up about someone hitting their kid, but I saw a woman do it once, I looked her square in the face gave her the dirtiest look I could conjure (If I was Cyclops from X-Men she would have been a gone-burger) she looked at me and went bright red and hurriedly walked away.

    • Ralok says:

      I am going be kill the buzz here, but the article was reffering to people that are ugly on the inside . . .

      also, at no time was race inferred or mentioned . . .

  67. Lami Martin says:

    What a true article and a reflection of a parents heart.
    I think a lot of people would see this article as all about a persons look, but when you get right into the article you see it is the persons actions that make them ugly.

    It takes me back to a time that I saw a father smack his son across the head for walking too slow. He was ugly and making his children ugly by teaching them that violence is okay.. I could only hope and pray that they make the choice to be beautiful.. I called out to the father and said he really should pick on someone his own size (I was quite a large woman back then) Sadly the father did not want to and rushed away..

    I know at times I have been a less than beautiful parent but it is my daily choice not to be ugly and not to let ugliness live in our home. This is a great article, well written and food for thought :-)

  68. Jolene says:

    Wow I feel the need to say something but your relies have gotten off track and abusive. As a teacher, preschool director and mother of four, I applaud your for quietly and privately saying something to this man.

    On a little funny note my daughter, now 19, loved timeout. She would make up stories and have her hands talking to each other. What do you say to that? “Stop using your imagination your in time out!”

  69. Dorothy says:

    Awesome story!

  70. Dorothy says:

    Jolene – I’d say “use your imagination to think of what you did wrong to land in timeout, and think of a better way you could have handled it”

  71. Brenda says:

    Note: I am not attacking this article or anyone in anyway just a comment I would like to share.

    I have personally grown up from a lifestyle of ‘spanking’. My parents never beat me but they did spank me on the butt whenever i did something i knew i should not have done. Many parents say that a time out or a ‘stern talk’ would be more appropriate but sometimes that just doesn’t work. With all due respect to those who don’t agree with this type of parental discipline, it’s not right for you to judge a parent just because they spank their kid when they do not listen or misbehave. If a parent beats their child then that is a different story. But I do not think people should confuse spanking a child with child abuse, and many people seem to be doing that in society. Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and opinions but that doesn’t mean they are entitled to judge or misconstrue alternative lifestyles.

  72. Ellen G says:

    Whatever happens, you probably can’t stop the dad or change his behavior. But maybe, just maybe, you told that kid that someone else knows that what dad is doing isn’t right and someone out there cares about him. Who knows what could happen now, but you did the right thing.

    • charlie says:

      I was definitely worried about that. And I’ve never changed anyone’s mind in the heat of an argument. Even if I did, it was done under threat or by nullification. Where does that get us?

  73. Jana says:

    I so rarely comment on these threads, especially being a new mother of a 4 month old. Who am I to say? (And bear with me when I say my point of parenting comes so much from working with dogs and horses. ) My canine behavior mentor once told me, “sure, spank/hit/bully your dog, it’ll make you feel better…for about 3 seconds, then wait for the guilt to wash over you. Neither you nor your animal are getting anything out of a rash physical/violent reaction. Violence begets violence, Jana. Be a TEACHER, breathe and take the time to teach that animal something.” I think about that a lot when I think about the toddler years. Will I be the teacher I want to be? I hope so. After all, if i can do that for a dog or horse, surely i can grant my future toddler the same. I don’t want to end up on an ugly list. One day, if any of you see me in heated moment, will we all remember it takes a village and say something? I hope so. Parenting, it’s our privilege, it’s our way to change the world, one child at a time. Thanks for the reminder, Charlie. Seriously.

  74. MPC says:

    I was beaten regularly as a child in public and in private and nobody ever stepped in for me. Of course this was back in the 70′s and 80′s and my dad was a physically scary imposing fella to be sure. I’ll bet this child’s perspective of the world may be changed for the better for a long, long time. Well done!

    Going outside your comfort zone for a child is worth the awkwardness and potential conflict.

    -Mike

  75. Jason says:

    I see this scenario unfortunately quite a bit. Since I’m an at-home dad, I see things from other parents at parks and other places quite a bit that make me cringe. I’m also a soccer coach and hear things parents say to their children that are horrible. I always hope that by my interaction with my own children will help. I also am not afraid of giving the look to those “ugly” parents. I also try and encourage my own kids to play with those kids with these terrible parents.

  76. Rick S says:

    Good for you Charlie… What else can you do? I can offer you a little additional perspective. If this is what these monsters do in public, can you imagine what happens in private? Behind the safe, manicured suburban homes in “nice” neighborhoods? It’s a brand of horror and terror that people can not imagine. It breaks the heart of the abused… And damages their trust in something as basic as the idea of love. So, I guess you just do what you can – when you can. You offer a different example – in your words and deeds. You coach teams and work with young people… You teach and show kindness and patience to young people…. You pay attention and listen. You offer them a view of a different reality. You raise kind children that will offer comfort to the abused… And yes, you keep watch.

  77. Chris Green says:

    I knew right away that you were not talking about physical attributes. I always seem to refer to mean or cruel people as “ugly”. They have an ugly spirit or soul. People who abuse children are the absolute ugliest. Thank you for speaking up to that parent. We should all speak up when we can. We should all be watching.

  78. gulsum says:

    Charlie, way to go. punishing your kid may be a measure for some, but hitting a kid is unacceptable. and speaking out loud to that person needs courage, which most of us lack. Kids remember and those parents think that they don’t. Someoneneeds to remind them that even though they look little, they do know exactly what is going on. I do not underestimate my kid even though he drives me crazy sometimes. This is just a reminder for us: we do not have the option to be ugly, when it is about our kids.

  79. Ugly comes in so many forms. It’s sad.

  80. Michael says:

    I somehow doubt they realize that they are being disgusting parents. As a new dad myself, I had an encounter with someone who felt they were being as you were, and while I stand by my feeling that they were out of line and way off base, it makes me think… what if that person were right and I really was endangering my child? (Long story short: we live in Vermont where it’s pretty damn cold in winter and a cashier decided to comment on the fact that my son, held tightly in my arms, was not wearing a snow suit. He said that it was child endangerment and proceeded to make comments implying that we were unfit parents.)

    Anyway, the point is, while I believe my child was not endangered in any way (the walk to the car was very short, he had a blanket waiting for him, it was very warm in the store, he had mittens and pants and a hat and a long sleeve shirt and it was a particularly warm evening for winter, etc.); but what if I was endangering him and didn’t realize it? Would I then be an ugly parent? And what does that mean for me if I am? Am I ugly in other parts of my parenting, or just in that one instance?

    I’m not trying to stand up for the person hitting their kids. That is a horrible thing and I agree that the person in question is disgusting, but I’m simply stream of consciousness questioning what it means to be an ugly parent. Can they simply be told and then correct their actions? Or do they need to realize it deep down inside them? Do they need their children taken away to realize it? Will simply showing them how to be a good parent really make a difference? Can a difference even be made?

    If I were to walk up to a parent who had just hit their kid and slug the guy square in the jaw, would I simply be showing the child that what the dad is doing is ok? Or would I be standing up for the kid by showing the dad what it’s like to be hit?

    I don’t know if there is an answer to this. I wish I knew. I’m pretty sure violence isn’t stopped with violence, but I also don’t think telling him to stop hitting his kids will change anything because I believe he’s already justified what he’s doing to himself, and thinks you’re out of line because you don’t know the whole story.

  81. Michelle says:

    Breaks my heart. As a teacher I have heard so much ugliness out of the mouths of parents towards their children. I am glad you said something, thank you.

  82. Pilar says:

    Thanks Charliefor standing up to the biggest type of bullies out there. You are a great person. Finn will grow up feeling proud of the dad he has.

  83. Ashley says:

    Perhaps the most ironic part of this is that those ugly parents are cowards. I bet he didn’t say a damn thing back to you. Because he’s tough enough to beat on a child, but too much of a coward to stand up to an adult who confronts him. Just disgusting trash. I hope the son grows to learn that he should treat his children with love and care, not in the way of his father.

  84. Yiying says:

    Can believe that I read through this long post. Well done, Charlie, for the courage and thoughtfulness.

  85. Gary says:

    I’m now a grandfather, and I’ve seen many different approaches to disciplining kids. Almost as bad as this ugliness you saw are the parents who are such wussies that they won’t discipline their offspring. It makes me cringe and angry to see a young child whine and cry, and what does a parent do? Gives him whatever he wants just to shut him up. In my book, that is almost as ugly as a father hitting his child, and they both will scar their children for life. So, I hope those applauding your actions also understand that you have to be a parent when you’re a parent. As a father, be a man. Don’t be a wuss.

    If you want some good books on discipline, I suggest getting anything by Dr. Dobson. He uses principles from the Bible to discipline children. (Yep, Christ was no wuss!)

  86. Bill M says:

    I’m late to the party, but after reading your story, I’m left wondering what exactly was going on at the park.

    Was this guy just standing there clubbing the hell out of his kid because he could? Was he using the child as his personal punching bag perhaps? What, exactly, was going on. You say it was ugliness, and that’s fine. It makes for a nice visual without actually saying anything.

    I just wish you had included the actual behavior you witnessed that caused you such disgust and made you feel the need to intervene. The reason for that is, I don’t know if I agree with your assessment based on such minute amounts of detail here. If it’s a spank to correct the child, you’re probably in the wrong. If he’s beating the hell out of his child, you’re still wrong because you should have gotten a police officer involved.

    I have to assume it fell in between the two to spur you into action, and would love to know more about what you witnessed.

  87. Emily Thousand says:

    I was thinking the same thing as others – is this all about looks? – I almost stopped reading but I’m glad I didn’t. THANK GOODNESS you went and said something. I would too. I am constantly fighting for the underdog and putting my nose where I shouldn’t. Someone has to stand up for what’s right.

    I need to know – what did he say back to you after that?! What happened??

  88. Jenn says:

    I woman recently told me on a thread that it’s not my place to concern myself with how someone else treats their kids. I pondered over her comment for awhile. There are kids out there that need us to speak up. I’ve seen it out in public from time to time. It saddens mean because I know that if the parents treat their kids like this in public it is a million times worse at home. Thank you for telling this guy what no one else probably has had the guts to say.

  89. nichole says:

    What you witness in a few minutes might not be the overall situation, why is it anyone’s concern how someone is treating their child.

  90. Cathi says:

    Well said Charlie! Its hard and scary to make the right move in situations like this. I had to approach a woman in the bathroom at Disneyland not long ago. I was shaking but it had to be done.

  91. Deva says:

    Love. Thank you for this.

  92. Charlotte says:

    I will say this, it is all a frame of mind, and on how people are raised. For example, my husband has an ex, he raised her kids with her for a time. He would spank them when necessary. They had different parenting styles, he believes in discipline, she believes in trying to reason with a 2 year old and no discipline. So when he came into the picture with a 1 1/2 year old boy, and a 5 year old girl (who was already being raised to not like men), and he would spank the results differed. Now that they are older the girl tried telling someone that he “beat” her, and the little brother popped up with “No, he disciplined us, he never spanked us unless we did something we shouldn’t”.

    Now me and my husband have three kids (his, mine, and ours). We spank when necessary. But we don’t when angry, we send our kid to their room to think about whatever the infraction is, while we calm down and discuss a punishment. Then we sit with our child and discuss what happened,and the punishment. If it is a spanking, then we explain why and follow through. It is a little different with the youngest, he is only 4. With him we swat his butte, send him to his room and when he is calm we talk to him and try to explain to him why he got swatted.

    As far as someone who spanks their kid was traumatized by being spanked has not as much to do with it. I can’t say that its all wrong, but it tends to be a cope out. My husband was spanked as a child, and he says he deserved every bit of it and respects his dad even more. I was beaten as a child (not spanked) and don’t do that to my kids. I have learned to send them to their room while I am angry so I don’t hit them out of anger.

    It really depends on the person. If a parent can teach the same lessons without spanking then good for them, but really to say you are doing a better job just because you don’t spank is stupid. He with the perfect child (and I mean does absolutely nothing wrong, even the smallest infraction) throw the first stone, and yes I changed the “he without sin cast the first stone” to fit the situation.

  93. Heather says:

    OK. I just can’t take all this justifying of hitting kids. It doesn’t matter if you call it spanking, beating, swatting, popping–it’s all violence and it’s all wrong. As an adult, would you like to be reprimanded by your boss by getting hit with a belt? Or swatted on the hand when you’re late paying a bill? Or slapped when you’re pulled over for speeding? I doubt it. Children need love and discipline. Discipline means “to teach.” It doesn’t mean punish or harm. Good on you, Charlie, for calling out the wrong this father was doing.

  94. Keira says:

    As someone who grew up with very ugly dad, thank you for noticing and speaking up.

  95. Lucy says:

    As a child of verbally abusive parents (I don’t remember very much said to me that wasn’t yelling), I vowed to cherish my children, be firm yet loving, and actually *teach* rather than yell every time they do something wrong until they finally get what to change in order to avoid being yelled at.

    When I see parents screaming at their children or nagging them it’s like I am five years old again. Fortunately, as an adult I’m in a position to stand up to bullies being mean to their children.

  96. Sara says:

    I spank, and I’m ok with it. But I am also ok with parents that don’t. To each, his own.

  97. I say this as a parent who was misjudged once and accused of ugliness, and it just made me so hurt and angry. I wished that the other person had just approached me like a fellow frazzled mom and not a criminal. (It wasn’t violence though!)

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