Does a More Peaceful Generation we Make?

My parents spanked me. I don’t think they’re awful human beings, they just saw things as the world was at the time: when a kid acts like a little stink, you lay a whoopin’ on his ass. Literally. That’s not to say that when I didn’t put my glass in the sink or “forgot” to wash the car some Saturday morning they left me black and blue, but a good ol’ fashion “lickin'” wasn’t uncommon (particularly with a particularly naughty child like myself, in particular).

Knowing my grandparents, they most undoubtedly spanked my parents as well. Probably by saying “Go out in ’em woods and get a switch, boy, I’m a lay a hurtin’ on you like not enough of the Good Book left you spoil’t!”

Ten generations ago, when a baby was ready to crawl, it was ready to smack it’s head off of the sharp corner of a coffee table. Now, we barely even let our children walk around our own homes for fear of the inherent dangers of hardwood flooring.

My point? As a people, we’re getting weaker. It’s true. My dad is coming up on 60 quickly, I’m 32. He worked his 20’s away in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, then went on to teach inmates at the state prison carpentry. In case that didn’t sink in, we’re talking inmates, and we’re talking hammers, nails and various other metal and sharp objects. I sit at a computer and make pretty pictures all day. My dad, at 58, could still beat the hell out of me, a man who should be in his “prime”, without really even trying as hard as a baby does to fall over.

So it’s true, we as a people get weaker as each generation of American comfort rains over us. It’s nice though. I mean, I don’t have to walk outside in the middle of winter to poop in a hole somewhere. I don’t have to break my back underground shoveling coal out of the ground, only to die of a heart attack before retirement. And our life expectancy is somewhere around 85, I believe. Compare that to 35 in 1900.

There’s another upside though, at least I believe it. With every generation that we get softer, we essentially get “more loving”. Sounds a little gay right? That’s ok, it is. As each generation has it a little easier, we have more time on our hands. More time leads to more thinking about the way things are, the way things should be. It leads to more games of catch, mores family outings, more of just about everything except for hard work and sweat. We become a little closer with our kids, a little more understanding of their predicaments, and we become softer.

By “softer”, of course, I mean we don’t commit what would in some cases be considered child abuse today, but back then was simply “correctional measures.”

Every time you don’t respond to a child’s behavioral discrepancies with raising a voice or swinging a belt, though, you teach them something. “Problems can be solved with creativity and words.” For example, I have in the past made my child do ridiculous things as punishment. “Go put your back up against that wall, and then slide your back down the wall as though you were going to sit in a chair that wasn’t there.” It’s a disciplinary move we used to do in Tung Su Do, not because we were bad, but because martial arts is generally about “discipline.” Perhaps you could have your child run laps around the house, once per year they are old depending on the crime. I recently heard of a family who made their child drink hot sauce as a punishment. Were I the judge, I would have exonerated them, perhaps even given them the keys to the city and/or asked them to babysit my own troublesome youngsters. Knowing what your child’s favorite toy is, for example, and then taking it away for a period of time slightly unfathomable to that child (ie, a day for a 2 year old, a week for a 5 year old, a month for a 10 year old), is one of the best show stoppers ever. Throw that same toy away right in front of them, you’ve corrected the problem for life. Of course, after you’ve thrown enough toys away, you’ll actually have to play with the child yourself.

But as we teach our children that there are other solutions to solving issues then slapping them over the bottomside a few good, firm times, we instill in them from youth that when something goes awry, start thinking. Think “how I can work this out,” or “this person hurt me, what would be an appropriate response.” The alternative is “punch, punches, and more punching”.

I argue that we’re leading the race as a planet to a more civilized, peaceful time. Of course, it’s only when a country becomes rich enough for it’s inhabitants to own MacBook Pros and have enough free time in the evening to write nothing parenting theories that they can move ahead to this level, but here’s to hoping the Congo gets iPhones before the Xmas sales figures are in.

Up Next: Two Short Years