Corporal Punishment

Having completed her summer full-time job from Hell, R-Hill Asian is finally back and writing!

Today’s topic is corporal punishment (this may be a sensitive topic).

Something every ethnic (non-White) kid will understand, growing up, is corporal punishment. Sorry, white kids of the Gen X and Y generation, but you never had it the way we Asians did. White kids generally get grounded, lose TV and computer priveleges for one night, or receive “extra chores” when they cross the line. Conversely, an Asian kid has been hit with feather dusters, fly swatters, textbooks, the backs of slippers, “tung tiew” (a portable and less deadly version of the batons policemen/street patrollers used to carry, used for the sole purpose of hitting naughty children), and the parent’s own backhand.


Yes, this colourful, friendly-looking duster.

See Russel Peters: he has a very good argument for why White people should “beat their kids” as Asians and other ethnicities do. Because when the kids are gathering in the schoolyard telling stories of last night’s whupping, the white kid loses out on the special social bond that only occurs through recollections of corporal punishment.

This extends to Richmond Hill Asians, too.

I kid you not, while my R-Hill friends sat around our ramen bowls one night and lamented the lack of employment, the unfortunate results of the most recent provincial elections, and the worsening traffic conditions in the GTA, the conversation turned towards the corporal punishments we recieved as kids. These stories, told with the bravura of American soldiers who’ve just survived a P.O.W. camp, shared the following similarities:

1) Creativity: We were hit with anything that won’t actually kill us.

2) Honour is education:  Many a beating occurred out of frustration when parents tutored or provided homework help to their own children. The difficulty of learning fractions or decimals often incurred the worst punishments of all, because if you think about it, they’re actually quite a conceptual step-up from the straightforward, whole (or whatever they’re called) numbers learned beforehand.

3) Bravery. We liked trading these stories, proving our strength and dexterity with each beating more than brutal than the last.

4) Severity (lowers with each new child). Interestingly, among my friends and most Asians I know, the severity of punishment decreases with each new child and differs by gender. While my brother was hit by a ruler and spanked multiple times, I only recieved a few slaps on my palm and a stern lecture. Perhaps parents became Westernized over time or realized that spoiled, privileged, ill-disciplined (North American) kids can still grow into functioning members of society.

Well, what does corporal punishment do to these Asian kids who grow up, and for the most part, become normal citizens? I can’t say. Most kids, I think, bury these stories deep into their unconscious and see it as part of their rigorous upbringing. After all, Asians don’t have “emotional problems” or “childhood trauma.” Others rebel, manipulate, or intentionally hide information from their parents: Asian kids are the masters of covering up their dating life, report card marks, university plans, and so forth. There are stories of Tiger Mothers who drilled harsh, disciplinarian upbringing to their children with mixed results.

The effects of corporal punishment are perhaps best left to counselors, psychologists, and so forth; from personal experience, spankings definitely kept my mouth shut. As an adult, I may have feared and become more avoidant of conflict, though this is a tendency of Asians in general (who emphasize peace/harmony in interpersonal relations).



2 thoughts on “Corporal Punishment

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  1. Wow, so much truth! I wonder if it has to do with having multiple children and the mental healthiness /education level of the parents… but in the case of the tiger mom I guess not hmm..
    As an only child, I have never experienced any type of “actual” corporal punishment, other than firm rejections on some actions or scary yellings when things didn’t go the way my parents wanted. Maybe I was just lucky that my parents didn’t believe in beating, even though they were beat up growing up… But everything you mentioned here I’ve heard from many friends of mine that had siblings, or strict Asian parents.. Especially the burying in their consciousness part… When we talk about this stuff, I just listen as they very reluctantly share their almost erased terrifying memories as locked up/beat up/threatened children.

    I also wonder why none of these beat up Asian kids reported the beating to child abuse services… From the stories I heard, the “punishment” or “discipline” could get so bad that the kid needed to wear long sleeved clothing in the summer to cover things up. Had this had happened in a white family, would things be different?

    Anyway I love your writing!! =D

    1. Thanks Bella! I’m glad you enjoyed my writing and got some thinking out of it. I experienced some scary yellings or “denial” too so I understand how that would be stressful! In fact, I’m not sure if that’s even worse than just a straight up beating… the most terrifying part, for me, would be the looks my Dad gave me after.

      Anyways, stick around! : )

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