The Bridge: A Return to Tough Love

By Darryl James

 “Aint nothing wrong with these kids today that a good ass-kicking won’t handle.”

–Moms Mabley 

I was shopping for groceries on a Thursday evening when it happened. 

A little Black elf who should have been smiling and cute was tearing his way through the canned goods aisle, kicking some cans and trying to juggle a few.  He was cursing at an older girl, who was chasing him, trying to reprimand him, but to no avail. 

I turned around and saw the woman he had been with–a woman I recognized from a Black business networking organization.  She was college educated and a successful entrepreneur, but obviously not a good mother.  She wasn’t even paying the child any attention. 

I knew I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t resist–I stepped in the little manchild’s way, scrunched my face into a grimace and said in my most stern voice: “Stop acting like a wild man before I take off my belt and give you a whipping!”  The little urchin gazed up at me, startled for a moment, grabbed his sister’s hand and froze. 

His mother pretended not to notice the interaction and simply said “Hello” when she walked past me. 

The little boy kept hold of his sister’s hand and when I would see him in a different part of the store, he would peep at me in fear.  His mother never looked my way again. 

I don’t know what was going on in that family and I didn’t ask, but one thing I do know—little man needed his little ass beaten. 

I was fifteen when my stepfather passed away.  I was a bit out of hand, and my mother was trying to figure it out.  I was hanging with the wrong crowd and cutting up at school. 

In my French class, I learned obscene phrases to sling at the teacher purely for the students’ delight.  I was fighting and cutting classes and my former straight-A class work was declining in quality. My teachers were delivering warnings and admonishments that fell on deaf ears.

The answer was simple–I needed my adolescent, testing-the-waters-because-I-thought-I-was-grown ass beaten. 

My mother knew it, and she administered an ass beating.  But she also gave permission to my Senior Military Instructor in ROTC to beat my ass.  She gave the same permission to the Vice Principal.  They both paid attention to my wayward behavior and beat my ass periodically. 

The ass-beatings saved my life.  Adults stood in my path of self-destruction and drew the lines between Darryl and the rest of the world.  I was shown clear limits and given consequences when I drifted beyond them.  My behavior improved and I got back on the right track. 

Sorry, but people who think permissiveness and time outs are the answer for ALL children are damned fools.  It only works for kids who won’t be too far out of line in the first place.  But for other kids, who cannot grasp where they end and where the world begins, a good ass kicking draws clear lines. 

Of course there were problems with corporal punishment in the classroom, including abuse by teachers who went too far and accidental injuries, but to allow children too much latitude will provide them with a skewed vision of how the world works.  For some humans, the result will be a life of out of control situations, based on that skewed vision of the world. 

Funny, but we used to gawk in amazement when little white kids would cut up at the grocery store, calling their parents names and basically doing what they wanted to do without repercussions, save for:  “Johnny, you will get a time out when we get home.”  We knew that if we did the same thing, we would be beaten in the blink of an eye, and that knowledge kept us in line. 

But things have changed and today, after three decades of permissiveness, and a general lack of ass-kicking, many of our kids are out of control. 

The day we followed the dominant culture into permissiveness and timeouts as behavior modification for every child in every situation was the day we began to lose our children.  Since then, we’ve seen Black kids doing things we never thought we would see. 

Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed the felony arrest of a five-year-old kindergarten student in Florida, accused of biting and scratching a support teacher and the trial of an eleven-year-old in Pontiac Michigan, accused of killing another minor with a rifle. 

Today’s youth rarely show respect for their elders and to be honest, it’s not their fault.  They are not being properly disciplined and even though we see the result of the faulty method, we are still acting timid about tough love. 

We’ve come a long way from public floggings, but not so far that we still don’t need to pass out an ass whipping every now and again. 

I say a return to corporal punishment will provide some perspective for out of control children.  Otherwise, let’s get rid of the schools we complain about and leave the children at home. 

For every discussion about what the school system needs to do, there needs to be a discussion about what parents need to do.  And instead of simply looking to add more duties to an already overtaxed and nearly failing school system, we should place more of the focus on parental training.  After all, you have to learn how to drive a car, but no one is trained on being a parent. 

There are a number of things that are wrong with the way we are leaving the world to the next generation, but the overarching problem with today’s youth is that some of them need hands placed on them. 

Some kids may turn out fine with the permissiveness and timeout behavior modification methods, but others, frankly, need their natural asses kicked.  

 Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” Now, listen to Darryl live on every Monday from 7-9pm, PST. View previous installments of this column at Reach James at


One Response to “The Bridge: A Return to Tough Love”

  1. Steve Lenore Says:

    That was an excellent essay about how kids need old fashioned discipline. I grew up in a very straightforward black family (West Indian) and when I got out of line, my parents whupped my ass, so did my grandparent, my oldest brother and sister (they are both 8 and 10 years older than I am), my cousins, and my aunts and uncles. Just like the auhor, my mom gave the teachers, nuns and priests to kick my ass along with the neighbors when I started fucking around. Needless to say that put the fear of God in my ass (I mean Old Testament take no shit kind of God), and now that I’m married with two boys, I show them love like a father would. However, they know I’ll beat that ass if they step out of line. Ass-whupping works wonders.

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