Internet Meme Demolition Derby: “My Parents Spanked Me as a Kid” Edition

Full disclosure before we start in case Mom is reading this; my parents almost never spanked us. 

I find it interesting that, in the USA at least, I can use the term “Demolition Derby” and be incredibly confident that my audience will know exactly what I’m talking about. And I can credit Garry Marshall, creator of Happy Days. Despite completely whitewashing anything remotely controversial about the ’50s and contributing to the slang lexicon the phrase “Jumping the Shark”, Happy Days was one of the most popular situation comedies of our childhoods. And thanks to the seminal 2 part episode “Fonzie Loves Pinkie” in which the Fonz and love interest

Also: AgorophobiaPinkie Tuscadero compete in the big demolition derby against the hated Malachi Brothers (I finally learned how to spell that), and their dreaded “Malachi Crunch” double team maneuver, most of us are familiar with the basic idea, even if we grew up far away from the flyover country fairgrounds where the sport is practiced.

Well this edition’s meme is the Malachi Brothers of the Internet Meme world. It is scary, violent and quite possibly after poor Pinky. It is literally all over the place, as some form of this meme has been popping up on my Facebook feed on a monthly basis.

My parents spanked me as a child


As a result I now suffer from a psychological condition known as

“Respect for Others”

“Share if you Agree! So true! Sharing!”, say various members of your extended family who you will have to have civil conversations with at the next family reunion. Possibly whilst holding a softball bat, or perhaps a Jart.

Interestingly, in the almost 300 Grounded Parents blog posts that have been crafted as of this writing, exactly two of them even mention the word “spanking”. Is this some sort of oversight? Why haven’t any of the thirty Grounded Parents bloggers felt the need to address in depth the subject of corporal punishment? Whilst the motives of our diverse and cantankerous collective may be difficult to divine, this blogger can at least provide mine own reasoning on the subject.

Isn’t the case closed?

Seriously, in the twenty first fucking century it’s still considered not only OK, but somehow necessary to hit you kids as part of a proper upbringing? And we’re not just talking a quick corrective swat to get them out of reach of the hot stove. Or even the regretful smack of a parent at their wits end with an incorrigible toddler tantrum on hand and a temper temporarily misplaced. We are talking about “spanking”. Sitting down and administering a deliberate corporal punishment to a child via the application of open handed strikes to the bare posterior.

I mean less than 30 seconds of Googling found me this March 25, 2014 report from CBS News bearing the headline “Spanking triggers vicious cycle, study finds”. 

“You can think of it as an escalating arms race, where the parent gets more coercive and the child gets more aggressive, and they get locked into this cycle,” MacKenzie said. “These processes can get started really early, and when they do there’s a lot of continuity over time.”  said  study author Michael MacKenzie, an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City.

What does the American Academy of Pediatrics say? You know, the people in our society who have trained specifically to deal with children’s medical issues.

The use of physical punishment to discipline children has been linked to a range of mental health problems and is strongly opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Seems pretty straightforward. Anyone else want to chime in?

The American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) condemns the use of physical punishment (corporal punishment) in the discipline of children and recommends alternative methods that enhance children’s capacities to develop healthy emotional lives, tolerate frustration, regulate internal tensions, and behave in socially acceptable ways.


So, if the experts are fairly unified n the subject, why the popularity of this meme? And make no mistake it’s a popular sentiment, look at this screenshot of a Google image search for the simple white on black statement I picked as an example. wall of memes

(Note, the tab marked “Sexy Time” is for my friends band “Sexy Time Live Band Karaoke”, so get your minds out of the gutter. Although the band would gladly join you there.)

Very popular on Pinterest for some reason.

I think you can divide the people most likely to share this meme into four groups.

  1. Bible Believing Evangelical Christians (or similarly motivated believers of other religions) who take that “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” mandate super seriously. Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism has written extensively about the authoritarian style of parenting espoused by Michael and Debi Pearl, including a page by page fisking of their child raising manual “To Train Up A Child”, and I recommend reading her work because she has personal experience with such methods.
  2. Conservatives: To some people authoritarianism just comes naturally. There are some people who think that we would all be better off if our childhood resembled the basic training segment of Full Metal Jacket. They want obedience and they aren’t too concerned with how they get it. They also have a marked tendency to dismiss scientific evidence that doesn’t conform to their preferred notions. There is certainly a lot of overlap between these folks and the first group.
  3. Well meaning folk who were spanked as children and don’t feel like they were harmed by it: These people are for the most part ok. They don’t start smacking their kids in the high chair like the Mom at 4 little Fergusons from our previous Derby smash hit “Dear Mom on the iPhone”, as part of a decade long plan to turn their children into immediately responsive show ponies. These folks are just typical Americans. They share the common belief held by every generation of parents that the current generation of children are coming to no good whatsoever and somebody aught to teach kids these days some respect etc. etc. etc. And their parents dealt with that situation with some trips to the woodshed. And they love their parents. They don’t want to think that their parents may have screwed them up somehow, thinking things like may lead to painful cognitive dissonance. So, likely unaware of the prevailing notions of the pediatric medical community, they perpetuate the cycle. These are the people we can most likely reach with some patient education on the subject.
  4. Assholes: Some fuckers are just assholes. Their Venn Diagram may overlap with the other three categories, but it’s not necessary. Patient education will not work with these people because they don’t really care about anyone but themselves. The meme tickled their diseased little funny bone so they passed it along. You should seriously consider unfriending these people. Or stop being one of these people.

Don’t even get me started on how disrespectful this meme is to people whose actual and serious psychological conditions are mocked and minimized to form the punchline for your shitty joke. As one of those people, let me just add a personal “Fuck you and the horse you Rode in on,” to the creators and purveyors of this meme.

Respect for others is a complicated thing to learn. Some of us still have a lot to learn, despite the fact that we are legally adults. And some of the people that we need to have more respect for are CHILDREN. The idea that we can “beat some sense” into kids has been thoroughly debunked. Try something else folks. Look on the internet, there’s lots of good advice.

I think we can all do a better job confronting this meme when we see it in the wild. And you don’t even have to have the obvious comedic talents of a former amateur stand up comedian who blogs for free. You can strike back with a meme of your own that harnesses the words of one of the premier American comedians of the 21st Century, Louis CK. Here’s an example.

louis ck

Have you come across an Internet Meme about parenting that you think needs to be demolished? Share it in the comments or tweet a link to @blotzphoto or @GroundedParents and we’ll do horrible things to it!

Featured Image Credit: Dave Willett of Canandaigua and the 2001 Ontario County Fair

Louis CK Meme image credit: Who knows, it’s a big internet, I hope Louis is OK with it 😉


Louis Doench

Lou Doench is a 52 year old father of three. Twelve years ago he married the coolest woman in the world and gave up the lucrative career of being a photography student to become a stay at home husband and Dad, or SAHD. An atheist geek, or a geeky atheist if you prefer, Lou likes reading, photography, video gaming, disc golf, baseball and Dr. Who. He has been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1976. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an excellent home cook, not that his children would know because they only eat Mac & Cheese. Follow Lou on Twitter @blotzphoto or check out his photography at www.flickr.com/photos/blotz/

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  1. My parents spanked me as a child.
    And what I remember most vividly about it is not the pain. Pain was something I dealt with daily, because I was a wild kid and there was always some part of my body that was bleeding. What I remember is the shame, the feeling of powerlessness, the sense of betrayal.
    ” And they love their parents. They don’t want to think that their parents may have screwed them up somehow, thinking things like may lead to painful cognitive dissonance.”
    My parents were also abusive in many other ways, but you would not believe how long it took me to say that: My parents were abusive. I loved them, right? And I had happy memories, too, right? And also the official version of history was one in which spanking me was a kind of self-defense.
    We know that parents can make children believe ridiculous things when it comes to religion, so it’s not surprising that the same is true when it comes to the question “why was it a good idea to willfully inflict pain of a small child?”
    Whenever people tell me how wonderful spanking is I ask them if they prefered that cops spanked them instead of writing them a ticket. After all it’s over quickly and doesn’t inflict lasting harm, right? And you don’t have to spend X bucks!

    1. Whenever people tell me how wonderful spanking is I ask them if they prefered that cops spanked them instead of writing them a ticket. After all it’s over quickly and doesn’t inflict lasting harm, right? And you don’t have to spend X bucks!

      That’s a great example. Unfortunately you will run into the occasional liberturkey who has read Starship Troopers too many times who will tell you that we should extend corporal punishment to the rest of the population.

  2. My parents spanked me (a lot) as a kid, and I am not all right. I’m a lot better now than I used to be, but no, not all right. Having the people who you love most in the world suddenly slap you around or take a belt to you does not make you a better person.

  3. Oh, Giliell – yes. In my case, it wasn’t the pain, either. It was the confusion.

    I trusted my mom to have my back in all kinds of situations that escalated beyond what I could deal with. I could handle it when the bullies in the neighborhood picked on me, but when they beat up my baby sister, it was time for mom to step up. I could handle the teacher who tried to humiliate me by making me stand in front of the class because I was a know-it-all who talked back, but when she failed me on assignments and recommended that I be held back (because I was willful, and had not learned obedience), mom had to deal with it. So getting spanked was that weird situation where the person who put herself out there as protecting me, also smacked me around. Not “for my own good” or “just to get my attention”, but to retaliate for my many offenses against her. It was also because her own frustration couldn’t be articulated, and she had a short fuse. Smacking her kids was easier than figuring out a different way to handle the situation. It was what her parents did. And I’m sure I had it coming, right? Getting spanked was something I earned by being a smartmouth, or not following unspoken rules, or by flagrantly violating known and clear rules. I’m sure it was my fault.

    What did I learn? To be sneakier so I didn’t get caught when I broke the rules. To smart off from a distance, or to run faster than she could. To hide out until she forgot what I’d done, or she got less mad. (Good survival skills, these.) I learned not to not trust adults and other authority figures so much. To fear anger (especially my own) because it goes wildly out of control and people get hurt. To regard it as profoundly wrong to bully people who are small and vulnerable. (Also not bad things to learn.) I learned that my mom was a profoundly flawed human being, and though I am certainly flawed, too, I don’t have to hit other people to feel like I’m in control.

    Yeah, let’s demolish this meme.

  4. This idea frustrates me when I find it whether it’s online or off. As a teacher, I was always floored by how often I would hear fellow educators make this claim. . .despite the fact that we all had to take child psych and developmental psych classes and had learned that spanking isn’t effective for positive behavior change in the long term, and despite the fact that we all attended countless inservice sessions that emphasized using logical consequences, and developmentally appropriate behavior expectations. Sigh.

  5. Well written. As for the “hot stove” though, I have always wondered if people really venture far enough away from a stove that they couldn’t just pull the kid’s hand away from the stove in time without swatting the bottom, or what that would really do anyway.

    But I have seriously known kids who get spanked for having so much audacity as to voice an opinion that the parents don’t agree with, interpreted as “talking back!”

    Children should have the same rights not to be hit as adults. There are two ways to accomplish this. I for one prefer abolishing spanking, over making it legal to spank adults, because as you already said, this isn’t Starship Troopers.

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