After everything I’ve done to avoid repeating the legacy of physical abuse that runs in my family, my eight-year-old son has just informed me that he would greatly prefer it if I could hit him, please, rather than using penalties (loss of playdates, etc.) as punishment.
“Why??” I ask.
“Because I like getting hit,” he says, “it’s fun.”
“But I don’t like hitting you,” I protest, greatly puzzled as to how getting hit could possibly be fun, “and you know I really don’t want to hit you in case I lose it and end up really hurting you.”
“But words don’t do anything, Mama” he says, “when I’ve got that bugger-energy, words mean nothing. You can give me whatever penalty you want and I don’t care. I can’t stop it. But if you hit me, then the energy from your hand drives the bugger-energy out of my body.”
“Then,” he continues, “you have to immediately start talking about something else. Don’t talk about what I was doing wrong, talk about something completely different – like getting a dog. Because if you keep going on about it – you know, like Daddy does – then the bugger-energy just comes back. Or it skips to someone else, like Zara or Hugo. But if you, right away, start talking about something else, then I can be loving and get back to normal and the bugger-energy stays away.”
I clarify, “Oh, so you mean you want me to take your mind off it right away by talking about something interesting.”
“Yes,” he says, “or fun; like what are we going to do today.”
I think on this rather startling information for a bit, then I say, “But I really don’t like hitting you, because it hurts my hand.”
“Well you don’t have to hit me hard,” he replies, “you know, you should really learn from Nana, she hits us three times, but none of them are hard – maybe all three add up to one of yours.”
I’m still having a really hard time getting my head round all this.
“But Oscar,” I say, “for me to get to the point where I’m going to hit you, I’m really angry, my rage is breaking out and I just wallop you. But if you hadn’t pushed me past what I can take, then I wouldn’t hit you in the first place.”
“I know,” says Oscar, “you should do what Mrs. Strong [his teacher] does. You get three warnings and then you have to go sit alone outside the class. So you could give me three warnings and then one hit. Before you get angry.”
“Oh, so you don’t need anger with the hit?”
“No,” he says, “and the anger makes it worse, because then I get angry too.”
“Okay, so three warnings, then one hit – not hard and no anger – then don’t talk about it, but immediately change the subject to something fun or happy. Is that it?”
“Yes,” he says, “And you can tell Daddy to do that too. But, oh man…Daddy is way too….you know, he just gives us chance after chance and then he still doesn’t hit us, he just raises his hand and shouts and then we run away. So that doesn’t work at all. He’s got to become… you know, more like you.”
“You mean more strict?” I ask.
“Yes, he’s got to say it and then right away do it. You have to do the actions. And if you ever don’t do the actions, then that’s it, we won’t listen to you after that.”
This parenting advice from my eight-year-old son, has really turned me on my head. Talk about torching pretty inviolate principles I’ve held since I was a child, when I vowed I would never hit my own children. And yet, he’s not requesting that I beat him in anger; resulting in fear, rage and humiliation. He’s not even asking me to physically hurt him.
But somehow, or for some reason (perhaps on the energetic plane) he’s telling me that the only way he can break free of the “bugger-energy” is if I spank him. And then I need to keep the bugger-energy from resettling on him or his siblings, by immediately directing his mind and energy to something fun, loving, happy, etc.