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Disciplining Children

By Angel Nuñez

We hear of a whole lot of misbehavior, mischief and even delinquent acts that go unpunished or even unnoticed today.   Not so many years ago in San Pedro when there were a whole lot of people whose duty it was to discipline the children. Yes, I am talking about lashing, something that cannot be done today for fear of human rights violation.

On another occasion I will talk about methods of punishment.  Today I want to deal only with the various situations that did require a good lashing or beating or, as our elders would say, some disciplining.  Admit it; our parents could not say “You will be locked in your room without coming out for an entire week”, because we did not have our own private rooms.  Or they could not tell us that we would not be able to see our favorite television program because there again we did not have television.

Disciplining Children

Parents, first of all, shared very rigid discipline years ago in San Pedro.  A child would be lashed for going out for too long and returning too late without permission.  Coming home at eight o’clock required some disciplining.  If the night curfew bell was rung and you had not arrived home yet, you could be sure you would get a spanking.   Boys would play games on the streets and become very dirty; this was a reason for some pulling of ears.  Using foul language or cursing in the presence of mom or dad would guarantee a whack with anything mom or dad had in their hands- a piece of stick, a kis kis, a frying pan or a belt.  Stealing was punishable with a sound whipping.  Reported fighting on the street with anybody and for any reason would surely garner you a good lashing. Even swimming without permission at times earned us a whipping, so much that often we blamed our brothers of pushing us into the sea and that called for a whipping of both. Finally I want to state categorically that any misbehavior in school also earned you a lashing at home so in that case a double trashing.

Disciplining Children

Now let’s go to punishments delivered at school.  A child would be lashed by his or her teacher for not doing a homework.  Even a very sloppy homework garnered a lashing from the teacher. If children wandered away during recess and returned five minutes late, the teacher would not even ask for an explanation.  He would right away share his love and his wrath assuming that if you were late you were also up to something wrong.  Spelling!  How many children have problems with spelling?  It used to be one cut for every word you spelled incorrectly every time it was your turn.  The same can be said for not being able to chant and sing and repeat your multiplication tables.  Fighting in school was punishable.  Cursing in school was punishable.   Bullying in school was punishable, and it was not called bullying.  It was called teasing, taking advantage or shoving yourself in front of someone in a line. Uncombed hair would get you a lashing. Dirty fingernails also got you a whipping.  Good thing there were no gangs that got children and teens into violence, or that would have probably led to incarceration or a public flogging. Even giggling in class triggered the teacher to twist your ears.  Really stubborn children were put to kneel at the corner or to kneel on sandy floor or even to hold heavy books in their open arms for half an hour.  

Disciplining Children

But that was not the end of disciplining and lashing.  Any uncle on the street could lash a nephew for misbehavior.  If kids would be breaking bottles on the street, an ordinary citizen who was a friend of the family could lash you and then report you to your dad.  Finally the police officer always walked down the streets with a whip that would surely be used on naughty boys and well, even girls if they asked for it.  We can safely say that as a result of a sure punishment for indiscipline, boys and girls learned very early that it paid to be well mannered and well disciplined kids.



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