Getting a handle on unruly kids as easy as 1, 2, 3
By Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times, April 6, 2006

I ran across an article about a situation in Guatemala City that made me think.

Four young men who were accused of trying to rob a school were publicly whipped by their parents in a punishment that was dictated by Mayan elders. Each of the offenders received 13 lashes. They were also forced to walk on their knees for a quarter-mile in the village of Barreneche, according to the Associated Press.

That's what needs to happen to the four Kennedy High School students who attacked another student, breaking his nose and pelting him with human waste.

Besides getting whipped, the Guatemalan youths had to complete seven days of community service. About 1,000 people from two Guatemalan villages witnessed the punishment. Apparently a treaty ratified in 1996 allows Guatemalan cultures to follow their own customs when it comes to punishment.

Given what has happened since African Americans became fully assimilated, black leaders should have obtained a similar treaty, instead of black parents trying to emulate white parents when it comes to discipline.

Two-parent households that have access to counseling may be able to use "The Nanny" approach. But households headed by bone-tired working mothers can't afford to experiment with methods of discipline. What they need is the three strikes and you're out approach, already proven to be effective.

One. Tell them what to do. Two. Cut them "the look." Three. Snatch them up, give them a shake. If the child continues to act up, their behind is yours.

I know whippings sound barbaric, but the heavy hand of respected neighborhood elders might have kept some thugs from growing into urban terrorists.

You can only reason with gun-toting gang-bangers after they are locked up in a prison cell. With no place to run, many of these tough guys find themselves picking up the Holy Bible or the Quran for direction. But we must do more to quash the anti-social behavior of black children before they are locked up.

If a neighbor reported we were cursing, stealing or vandalizing, that was it. Despite being worn out from a hard day's labor, our mothers or fathers would grab a belt.

Kennedy kids getting off easy

Let me be clear, there's a big difference between giving a child a "whupping," as black folks call it, and slamming a child up against a wall, stomping a child, or punching a child with your fists. Normal, loving parents know the difference between abuse and a whupping.

Abusive parents aren't administering discipline, they are taking their frustrations out on their children.

Today, too many of children -- unfortunately many of them black -- are out of control.

It is despicable that four black Kennedy High School students are accused of beating a white honors student. The victim suffered a broken jaw and, according to witnesses, was attacked with human waste.

The alleged attackers are charged with a misdemeanor -- which is light considering the intensity of the attack -- and face expulsion. As part of their punishment, these young men should be on their knees walking through the 'hood like the Guatemalan offenders.

While their elders are fighting to improve the educational opportunities for young African Americans, these students are making that job harder by feeding the perception that young black males act like animals.

'Afraid' of corporal punishment

Unfortunately, many out-of-control youngsters are being raised by grandparents or foster parents who are hamstrung by laws that make it a crime to put their hands on them.

Marva Smith knows all too well what can happen when a grandparent tries to raise kids the old-fashioned way.

In 1991, Smith, a former schoolteacher, brought four of her grandchildren back from Mississippi to raise because they were being neglected by their mother. Smith tried to give them structure. But a couple of years after she adopted them, the oldest granddaughter started stealing and running away from home.

"I tried to spank her butt and was accused of fracturing her arm," said Smith, who denies she broke her granddaughter's arm.

Smith, who acknowledges being strict, said she stopped using corporal punishment. She could do little to stop her other grandchildren from running the streets.

"They want to walk out the door, they don't tell me where they are going. They go to school and treat the teacher wrong, and stay with other kids for a week," Smith said. "I think if I was using corporal punishment, they would be afraid to do those things. Kids don't have to take responsibility for their actions."

The punishment meted out by the Mayan elders in Guatemalan may seem harsh, but I bet the young thieves won't be breaking into any more schools.

To keep black youngsters from disgracing their families, their communities and themselves, black parents need to return to practicing the same tough love here.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


April 6, 2006

Dear Editor,

Inciting violence is a very ugly thing. Inciting violence against a minority even worse. This is exactly what Mary Mitchell did in her column regarding getting "unruly children" under control with physical violence. If we are going to advocate Mary's method of using old "cultural" techniques for controlling people, should we bring back sacrificing people to the gods, slavery, lynching, the guillotine and the stockades? Has Mary forgotten that City of Chicago recently passed the Positive Parenting Resolution?

If Mary's article had been directed at any other minority group, there would be outrage. But, because she directs her message of violence towards children, somehow this is overlooked.

In this world, violence is easy and we all pay for it on many levels. The research is clear: violence negatively impacts upon the development of the brain, hurts the victims, damages families and reinforces more violence. Perhaps, this information should become widely taught in schools, so that it can grow to be as widely accepted as the violent messages with which we are flooded from the media to the streets.

Dr. M. Y. Gómez*
President, PsycHealth, Ltd.
Organizer and Presenter of Summit Conference II: National Leaders in the Child and Non-Violence, April 7, 2006, Hartgrove Hospital, Chicago, IL.

* Madeleine Y. Gómez, Ph.D., DABS, FACFE, FACAP, is a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in the area of children, families and abuse and has been a Clinical Supervisor at Hartgrove Hospital for many years. She coordinates mental health services for members of United Health Care, is an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University, and is a member of the Board of Directors of PTAVE..

Mary Mitchell's e-mail address is

Chicago Sun-Times Editor John Barron's e-mail address is

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