Contrast in Dialogue: Writing 101

The subject in the psychology class was punishment. The professor was also a practicing psychologist with several degrees behind her name. Most of the people in the class were fresh out of high school, I was the lone thirty-something-year-old.

“Punishment doesn’t work,” Dr. Atkins said.

I raised my hand. “Do you equate punishment with discipline?” I asked.

“Of course. There’s no difference.”

“Wrong answer,” I countered. “There is a big difference. I was raised with punishment. That’s when you’re in trouble because someone else is having a bad day and you’re the one handy enough to take it out on. Discipline is done with love and understanding.”

Dr. Atkins smiled. “Our prisons are filled with people who are being punished by our penal system. It doesn’t work. They get out and go right back to crime.”

The just-out-of-high school students were hanging on her every word. Just because a person has a lot of learning doesn’t make them right about everything.

The professor continued. “Hitting a child teaches that child to hit. Biting them back because they bite reinforces the biting; it doesn’t correct it.”

“That’s because it is done as punishment, not discipline,” I said. “When my children do something wrong that is, or may be harmful to them, and they don’t listen to instruction, they get a spanking–on their bottoms, where it is supposed to be administered. Before the spanking is administered we talk to them and explain that this is not fun for us as parents. We don’t enjoy spanking, but they must learn not to continue in this behavior. It is for their own good. We tell them we love them and spank them because we care what happens to them.”

Her face wore a cocky expression, the look of triumph from a superior to an unlearned pupil. “You expect your children to believe that you hurt them because you love them.” She turned to the class. “Does that make sense to all of you?”

Some said yes while others agreed wtih me. But I wasn’t quite finished. Maybe I just had to have the last word.

“After our children have stopped crying they come to us for a hug, which is joyfully given. We ask if they understand why the spanking was administered. When we are certain that they understand they are allowed to play or we play with them. They know they are loved.”

Dr. Atkins still disagreed with me. “Just make sure you answer the question correctly on the test,” she said.

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