Violence Begets Violence?

A true story from Detective Robert R. Surgenor, a retired Ohio police officer.

“Dispatch to unit sixteen twenty four, we have a domestic in progress at 383 Walnut Drive. Units sixteen twenty eight and sixteen twelve, assist.”

I had been a police officer for less than three months when I heard those words come over the police radio in my cruiser one night as I patrolled the city on the midnight shift. I was anxious to get involved, so I hit the red lights and siren as I headed in the direction of the domestic violence call. Dispatch then advised that she heard a lot of screaming in the background as the caller described how the fifteen year old boy was beating up his parents. I thought to myself, “This kid must have a lot of guts to be beating up mom and dad!” Then one of the veteran officers called my number over the radio. “Surgenor,” he said, “get used to this kid. We deal with him on a daily basis!”

It took five police officers to get the fifteen-year-old boy in handcuffs and place him in a police car. Since the veterans usually get credit for the arrests, they took him back to the police station while I was burdened with taking the report. I interviewed the mother to determine why the boy had become so violent. The mother stated that they had simply tried to restrain the boy from leaving the house after curfew. Not wishing to comply with his parent’s authority, he proceeded to punch the daylights out of both mom and dad.

Mom explained that they had lost control of the boy at an early age, as young as three or four years old. He simply refused to do what they said. “We've tried everything,” she sobbed. “We’ve tried time outs, we’ve tried grounding him, we’ve taken privileges away, it just seems like nothing works.”

I then asked mom a very simple question. “When he was three years old and refused to do what you said, did you ever spank him?”

Mom became very angry as her eyes narrowed to slits and she gritted her teeth. With blood running down her face from a broken nose, she replied, “We don’t believe in spanking. Violence begets violence!”

I didn’t tell the mom how ridiculous she sounded. During the next nineteen years I heard that statement from many parents who were trying to deal with out-of-control children. It soon became apparent to me that children who had never been spanked were more likely to get in trouble in school, in trouble with the law, and were more likely to grow up with an attitude of complete defiance of authority. It appeared that spanking a child for certain types of misbehavior instilled the healthy fear and respect for authority that is missing in many of today’s youth.1

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