How I Was Disciplined As a Child

Hi everyone. Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is “rules and discipline”. I am going to try to keep this post as non-triggering as possible, but if you endured childhood abuse, you might want to skip this post. Then again, maybe what I endured wasn’t abuse at all? Well, in that case actual survivors might want to skip it because it might come across as invalidating.

My parents rarely set clear rules when I was a child or teen. I can’t remember having curfews and, even at ten-years-old, I was allowed to stay awake in my room for as long as I wanted provided I didn’t wake anybody else.

In this sense, none of the provided questions in Maggie’s original post made much sense. I mean, I was often sent to my room as punishment, but I cannot remember what for. I also was never told how long to stay in my room, so I usually stayed for about an hour then slowly re-emerged.

My parents, both of them, also used corporal punishment. However, I get a feeling that they hit me more out of a sense of powerlessness than out of a righteous wish to set me straight. Unfortunately, corporal punishment didn’t stop when I got older. In fact, the last time I was hit, was when my parents more or less kicked me out of the house when I was nineteen. And then I don’t include the time my mother tried to slap away my hand from my hair to prevent me twirling it when I was 23 but I slapped her hand away.

My parents, like I said, didn’t have clear-cut rules, but they did have expectations about socially appropriate behavior. They had their own words for ridiculing me when I “misbehaved”.

The positive side of there not being many clear rules, was that my parents encouraged me to do things most other teens, and certainly disabled teens, would not have been allowed to. I was allowed on a four-week-long summer camp to Russia at age fourteen, being the youngest of the Dutch participants and the only one with a disability (the program officially catered towards the visually impaired). Then again, when I struggled socially in Russia and for this reason wasn’t allowed back the next year, my parents, especially my father, completely guilt-tripped me rather than showing me support.

I was mostly a rule-follower, insofar as there were rules at all. However, as a teen, I became secretive. I actually had my father drive me to a meeting of people with mental illness when I was seventeen, while I’d led him to believe it was a disability meeting (because one of the people there was in a wheelchair). I’m pretty sure he knew, but he never confronted me.

I don’t have children of my own, so I cannot say whether my upbringing influenced the way I discipline them. However, I did find I got easily triggered when I got the impression my sister and brother-in-law used corporal punishment on my older niece (this was before the younger one was born). Thankfully, they were able to reassure me that they didn’t.

10 thoughts on “How I Was Disciplined As a Child

  1. Astrid, thank you for taking the time to respond this week. I am sorry you had to endure the things that you did. So much of society has been based on corporal punishment and often children’s boundaries are not respected. I appreciate your honesty in reflecting about your experiences. It is always a pleasure to have you join us. I am also glad you stood up for your niece even though she was not exposed to corporal punishment after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for validating me. I am so glad my sister and brother-in-law don’t use corporal punishment on my nieces. Not that it’s allowed here anymore, but well.

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  2. I’m sorry that you had bad experiences with discipline in more than one way. 😦 My parents used corporal punishment as well, but they stopped by the time I was a young girl so I don’t remember it. I, however, chose not to use corporate punishment with my own kids, and I have no regrets about that decision.

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    1. I am so happy you didn’t use corporal punishmnet on your own kids! Like I said, my parents’ hitting me was more out of powerlessness than out of a righteous need to punish me. That made it worse, because the situation quickly escalated from bad to worse, including things that border on actual violence. I don’t fully blame my parents, as I too was quite a difficult child, but then again my parents could’ve accepted outside help.

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  3. A mental health meeting IS a disability meeting.

    [and also one for difference and divergence].

    Whether it was focused on peer support or recovery or information/experience sharing.

    So you were telling the truth to your Dad.

    [the wheelchair thing – he would or should have known that lots of people have multiple impairments like you – and very different].

    The guilt-tripping…

    And this is reflected in his expectations of social behaviour.

    [and sometimes I do feel you were expected to be a female-him].

    Staying awake in your room is a thing.

    It gave you a sense of your own power.

    I appreciated the effort to keep it non-triggering or minimally so.

    [even though the stopping a stim is very triggering indeed].

    The liberalism of your parents made me think of a good messageboard person from Germany – whose mother was very liberal about sex education when she was about 15 years old.

    And those words!

    Punishment is for three things I can think of:

    1. rehabilitation

    2. deterrence [of a future action]

    3. upholding the state and the law.

    The third reason goes into our rights and desires/controls as human beings.

    These impressions really do inform us.

    I think also of modelling – as when you discussed how you came to secrecy [as opposed to privacy and security].

    I had secrecy modelled for [and used against] me much earlier than the teen years.

    And the distinction which you make between rules and expectations.

    I do think those could be linked better with common and shared understandings and undertakings

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your extensive comment once again! My parents didn’t know or believe I’m multiply-disabled, so they wouldn’t have thought of me as somehow telling the truth about the meeting.

      Yes, you’re correct that my father wanted me to be much like him. My mother, too, always said I had all my positive traits inherited from him (and all my negative traits from her). My mother even at one point claimed we had the exact same IQ (back when my verbal IQ was assessed as 154 when I was twelve). I doubt that’s true and even if it were, who cares?

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      1. Splitting!

        [when we put the positive on one side and the negative on the other – and it WAS The Other with your Mother]

        Ah – the distinction between knowing and believing and acting.

        And 154 is hardly the ceiling [not in a Stanford-Binet universe – mine were always Weschlers – at least the Anglophone one].

        A verbal IQ would be harder to ascertain than a performance one.

        [My own PerfIQ has been dragged down by both Object subtests; Similarities and Picture Arrangement].

        The important thing for me is: give your child the benefit of the doubt.

        This shows a fundamental respect of your child’s agency and autonomy as a thinker; a decision-maker; a *person*.

        Yours truly was reading a crime writer recently.

        Silvester talked about 3 reasons most of us obey the law

        [and those are not the only 3 reasons I should hope!]:

        1. We don’t want to hurt people.

        2. We don’t want to be in jail.

        3. We don’t want to be arrested.

        And there was good in that man – even if it was “He made the best scrambled eggs ever”.

        However his evil did wreak a community – up to and including the 10-year-olds – to the middle-aged and the elderly.

        The thing I could not forgive so very easily – is he exploited an intellectually disabled man and used him as a pawn.

        [now too many people do this and as hard as I try to be systemic and structural – it goes straight into my Squick Meter/my spam folder of ethics and moral considerations].

        [Also the man I speak of was a perpetrator of domestic mayhem and violence].

        Two of those are due to fear of consequences or sanctions. [I will put it very bluntly – if we were less likely to be caught – we would do them].

        #TheParableOfTheCookieJar

        I also read Athena Walker a lot. It was a habit which began on Quora.

        She is much more of a rewards person – as in High Risk and High Reward.

        On a recent Substack she talked about a world run by people with Antisocial Personalities [what the common folk call psychopaths and sociopaths] and what that world might be like.

        She has other interesting topics like

        * intolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty

        * the illusion of cosmic justice [and everyday justice]

        * the deconstruction of certain popular psychological theories [for example the Hare examination]

        * relationships

        *mysteries civil and criminal

        Oh! Walker wrote about twin flames and about masking.

        Our true selves are about what and who we are when no-one is watching.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow, this is all so interesting! I do agree that verbal IQ is a lot harder to pinpoint than performance IQ, because it relies so much on what we in western societies learn in school. Also, well, my tests were Wechsler scales too and on at least one subtest (arithmetic) I obtained the top score at age eleven. Then again, by the time I was 30, my verbal IQ according to the Wechsler test, albeit a different one of course since it was nearly 20 years on and I’d become an adult, had dropped to 119. I till this day think that’s more accurate than the 154 I was ascribed at twelve (which was not even a year after that test on which I got the top score on arithmetic, exact same test so retest effect is likely). I mean, when talking subjects I know well, I can come across as quite intelligent, but I honestly don’t know how to talk about topics that aren’t within my interest range, as is common among autistics.

          I might indeed hope there are other reasons people want to obey the law, but these do sound plausible. Particularly since they really boil down to a wish not to hurt others and a wish to avoid negative consequences for themselves.

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  4. Well, if what you describe doesn’t classify as a form of abuse or neglect, then I wonder what else it could be. From what you’re saying it really does look like your parents felt quite powerless raising you, it’s very sad that they chose to deal with it the way they did. Adelaide makes a good point about mental illness being a disability as well, or at least if not a formal disability then it certainly is disabling, which practically means the same thing, so yes, I’d also say that you said the truth.
    I think it’s cool that you didn’t have a rigid bedtime and could stay up late. So could I, because my parents realised that even if I’d be in bed I just wouldn’t fall asleep if I wasn’t sleepy so it would be counter-productive. But it sounds like yours did it more due to lack of care if the only condition was that you wouldn’t wake up anyone else and if so it’s quite depressing. If I was up really late, my Mum would check on me and see if I was okay and stuff, or would try to help me fall asleep, at least if I had to wake up early in the morning or something, so I wasn’t completely left to my own resources.

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    1. Thanks for validating me! Oh no, my parents never checked on me when I was in my room and I knew better than to go to them at night when I was scared/worried/whatever. I mean, I did when I was little, but rarely after that time my father told me I could basically stay up as long as I wanted to when I was like ten.

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