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„Beatings? It didn’t hurt me.“

Again and again I get – whether as a pedagogue, as a father or as an Internet surfer – in discussions about the question of the justification of blows in education.

It is noticeable (to me) that, on the one hand, people often take part in the discussion who themselves have no children and that the way they argue is often reminiscent of religious forums: Above all, laws are quoted and other discussants are snarled at:

„If I were in the Youth Welfare Office, I would really see to it that such mothers have their children taken away.“  „With some things, e.g. if he has peed his pants on purpose again, it can be 30-35 fixed slaps.“ „But are you crazy? I never heard shit like that before. I could get the naked puke with your erzihung…“ (Source)

First of all the legal basis is relatively clear: According to BGB §1631 „Inhalt und Grenzen der Personensorge“ (content and limits of personal care) the following applies

1. The care of persons shall include in particular the duty and right to care for, bring up, supervise and determine the residence of the child.

(2) Children have the right to a non-violent upbringing. Physical punishment, mental injuries and other degrading measures are inadmissible.

In principle, the following applies for the time being: No, children may not be beaten. And yet there are these recurring discussions – which are lived out with blatant intensity. And the more clearly someone represents his point of view, the more suspicious I become (mostly): Who can stifle a cynical grin if another conservative and „homosexual healing“ preacher is caught ordering a callboy. The more conservative and zealous the preacher, the greater are his own grievances in life – at least in my experience.

For example, Natascha Kampusch, who grew up in a small everyday suburb, writes in her (remarkable) book that she too was beaten by her mother.

It was not unusual at that time and in this area to deal with children in this way: On the contrary, I had a much „easier“ life than many other children in the neighborhood. In the yard I could see mothers yelling at their children, knocking them to the ground and beating them. My mother would never have done that, and her way of slapping me on the side never met with a lack of understanding anywhere. Even when she slapped me in the face in public, no one ever interfered.

So there seems to be a consensus that beating is officially forbidden, but basically okay. And especially in the petty bourgeoisie („What should the neighbours think!“) the front garden often seems more important to me than questioning one’s own upbringing.
When I look around my circle of friends, I discover different experiences – but with those who were beaten as children, I remarkably often hear the sentence: „Well, it didn’t hurt me, did it?
Mrs. Kampusch writes elsewhere, by the way:

In addition, there was an everyday form of violence – not brutal enough to be considered maltreatment, yet so full of marginal disregard that it slowly destroyed my self-esteem. Violence against children is a systematic and severe beating that leads to physical injuries. None of this I have written in my
Childhood experienced. It was this fatal mixture of verbal oppression and „classic“ slaps in the face that showed me that as a child I was the weaker one.

I myself am fundamentally (!) against any form of violence in education – but I am also in the fortunate situation of having a daughter (raised by my wife) who has never even brought me to the edge of my patience (not even when she consciously and repeatedly cut up her clothes and painted the walls). I’ve never hit my daughter before. And I don’t intend to do that. Nevertheless, to quote the concerned lady from above, I wouldn’t „take the children away from their mother“ if it did happen.
Bill Cosby tells in his book „Fatherhood“ the story of his son Ennis, who at the age of 12 got used to lying to his parents and embezzling school letters. Despite the appeasement that he would improve, the situation got worse. „Why didn’t you do what your mother told you to do,“ Cosby asked his son at the time. „I just didn’t feel like it,“ he justified himself on the phone. „All right,“ Cosby replied, „how do you like that? When I get back home, I’ll kick your ass good!
A little later he was home again and late in the evening Ennis came home. Cosby writes that he was marked by doubts.

I was a father with absolutely no batting average: I had never before hit him or any of the other children. Was I making a mistake now? If so, it would just be mistake number nine thousand, seven hundred, and sixty-three.

His son begins to beg and vows betterment. „I’m glad you see it that way,“ Cosby replies, „but I made you a promise and you’d lose respect for me if I broke it now.“

„Just turn around,“ I said. „I want you to know that this is a form of punishment I truly do not believe in.“
„I hate to see you go against your principles, Dad.“
„I can make an exception. I also won’t say that this will hurt me more than it will hurt you. That would be true only if I turned around and let you hit me. This is simply a barbaric form of punishment, but it happens to match your barbaric behavior.“

And then Cosby strikes Ennis, who then begins to cry. „Do you understand now that I don’t want you to lie to me?“ „Oh yes, Dad,“ sobs his son, „I’ve never understood better!“
„Good. Then you can go now.“
Ennis turns away, but at this moment Cosby beats him again. Ennis looks at him in horror, with the look of a betrayed man.
„I’m sorry. I lied to you… Will you ever lie to me again?“

Cosby writes that even afterwards he was plagued by doubts.

Could I have done anything else to put him on the road to righteousness? My wife and I spent long hours pondering this question. The problem was that the reservoir was empty: we had tried all the civilized ways to redirect him, but he kept feeling he could wait us out and get away with anything. And we loved him too much to let him go on thinking that.

There is a difference between what Natascha Kampusch suffered and what Ennis Cosby experienced. I consider beatings against children to be fundamentally wrong and do not belong in education – but I am too much of a father not to be able to understand the story of Bill Cosby.

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