Punishment: Times Past


courtesy State library of Queensland via Wikipedia

Few conclusions can be drawn from last months prompt Crazes due to low response rate. I can only conclude that I must have covered most of them in my own post. It was seen that many crazes traversed the globe but sometimes with a different name. Elastics in Australia was French or Chinese skipping in England. Thanks for the photo memory of this activity from Anne.

Our one male participant recalls conkers and the methods used to enhance the chances of winning. In post war England crazes were predominantly ones requiring little monetary outlay. Hence conkers and games like it. Some of the ditties used to determine who was it were universal across the globe. Hornby train sets were an item to be hankered after – a bit like leggo today.

Without further ado on to this months prompt: Punishment

If you are new to Times Past visit the Times Past Page to see the conditions and the purpose of the challenge. It will also let you know which generation you belong to if you aren’t sure.

As children growing up in our respective generations punishment is meted out when we do something wrong, particularly if we know we are not allowed to do it. Did you grow up with corporal punishment or were you relegated to the naughty stair, to sit isolated in silence? Did you fear your punishment or was it just an annoyance? Were you sent to your room or miss your supper? Did your parents tell you how disappointed they were in you and please don’t do it again.Who meted out the punishment. If you feel comfortable tell us about how you were reprimanded. My guess is we will have clear cut generational differences with this one. Post your response by 31st May to be included in round-up.

Baby Boomers

Australia    Rural

I don’t think I was a bad child however I feel that I was a better child because I did not want to incur the punishment we received for the times we were really bad. The wooden spoon. At school it was the cane. This I received only once in infants school. My crime – I have no memory of it at all. The punishment remains vivid in my memory. There were three of us sent to the principal’s office. I was the youngest, the other two being a grade higher than me. That worked in my favour as I only received one lash. The other two girls had to bend over, lift their skirt and they received their two cane falls on their bottoms. For some reason I received mine across the palm of my hand. It stung like billy-o and brought the tears to my eyes.

I was probably eight when I learnt an important lesson. I had tied my brother to a crumbling chimney with a rope we’d found in the garage. I’d used a multitude of knots and I told him he was Houdini. In the time he could extricate himself I’d have hidden and he’d have to find me. Whilst I was in hiding my Mother found my brother still tied to the chimney and in retrospect she was probably freaked out that my brother could have been hit by crumbling bricks and injured. We had been told not to play near it. I knew I was in trouble so whilst my brother was being untied by my mother I raced into the house and collected everything I would need when I left home. I was going to run away to avoid punishment. I took my school globite case, my toothbrush and toothpaste and my hairbrush and my favourite doll and off I set. I didn’t get that far- several blocks away when I was found. My mother was even angrier and punishment did not wait until I got home. Instead of the wooden spoon my hairbrush was used. I learnt at that point – do not leave home with any implement which can be used against you.

Australia          City


U.K. City


U.S.A. City 


U.K. Rural

crime and punishment #times past



About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
This entry was posted in Australia, Memoir, musings, Past Challenge, Times Past and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Punishment: Times Past

  1. You have a lot of courage to talk about this topic, especially so personally. Sorry, I can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Norah says:

    The cane at school, wooden spoon at home and, in my case, the buckle of a leather strap were familiar forms of corporal punishment in my younger years. I’m pleased things are changing and abuse of children in such forms is no longer accepted. It’s a brave topic to broach and whether people respond or not will probably depend on how they were treated. Fortunately for me I never got the cane but the way you and the other girls were treated would be totally humiliating, as were other forms of emotional and psychological punishment that were just as common.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes I’m pleased times have changed. In fact I almost wrote that we had capital punishment at school it is so long since I’ve heard the term corporal punishment.
      Yes, as I said to Sharon I did wonder whether I should pursue this topic because although it was a generational way of doing things the severity of it could be massive and I don’t want to trigger bad memories. For myself I wasn’t humiliated, the experience was enough to persuade me better behaviour was preferable and from that point on the worst I received was standing outside the classroom. Some of the other treatment (psychological) that some of my primary school teachers used had a much more devestating effect on my psyche. The caning probably pushed me up a notch in my peers esteem.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Norah says:

        Sometimes it felt like capital punishment, or felt that it may have been preferred. Not by me, of course, I was a good little girl. I didn’t like getting into trouble.
        Interesting that you went up in your peers’ esteem for the caning. There is a certain level where that occurs, and then it can be too much.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I was lucky I guess that I was so young and had the palms rather than the backside and only one whack. It was enough to teach me to avoid any activity that might result in more. It couldn’t have stopped me totally though as I can remember often being stood outside the classroom as punishment during sewing when I was in 3rd grade and Mrs Berry passing and tutting about how I wasn’t good like my brother had been.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Norah says:

        Comparing you to your brother! Tut-tut!

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Pingback: Punishment | Musings of a Retiring Person

  4. noelleg44 says:

    This can be a tough topic. In school, I grew up in a transitional period – no paddling – but at home I still got the switch while my cousins got the belt. Schools were peaceful – it was rare that a student would disrespect a teacher and I never saw anyone physically attack a teacher. Now, with the new rules from the US Department of Education, if a student attacks a teacher, they cannot strike back to defend themselves, but just hope the beating is not too bad. We’ve had teachers here with concussions. Also, children who are disrespectful and disruptive can no longer be punished by detention or suspension. So the students rule the schools. What a way to educate…or not.

    Liked by 4 people

    • That sounds just terrible Noelle. It is a wonder that anybody takes up teaching as a career. I don’t understand why suspending or detention cannot be utilised as a form of punishment. Mind you if the kids are likely to be bashing you up I wouldn’t want to stay after school with them either. I have to say that when I went to school we also had respect for authority figures which included teachers. Now we don’t seem to have respect for anyone as enough police, clergy and politicians are shown to be acting in ways that don’t deserve respect. Although I don’t believe in corporal punishment, I do admit it didn’t hurt me but it did hurt many others but allowing children to live without any form of punishment is not good either. I don’t know what the answer is.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Annecdotist says:

    Yes, there’ll certainly be generational differences in this one and I’m not sure whether I’ll take part. My memory is vague, but I don’t think I was physically punished very much, mostly because seeing what happened to others was enough of a threat.
    I love how you’ve managed to add humour into your report of own experience as a child, but I think it exemplifies what we know from behaviour theory that what we learn from punishment isn’t always what was intended, whereas rewards for good behaviour are more effective.

    Liked by 4 people

    • No problems Anne. I don’t think I was punished in this way often either but certainly the knowledge of its possibility reigned in some activities I may otherwise have tried. Positive reinforcement is certainly a better option but even then I feel there has to be some potential punishment for when all else fails. I am experiencing that with my puppy at the moment. I have used only positive reinforcement. Until they are 6 months you don’t want to do anything that might make them wary of coming to you so I have done nothing but reinforce good behaviours and growl at bad behaviours. The growling gives me a sore throat and she disregards it. Now 8 months old she is getting some destructive habits which are expensive as it involves shoes and spectacles. On discovering her eating yet another pair of shoes I finally lost the plot and yelled and threw the shoes at her aiming to hurt. Luckily I’m not a good throw at the best of times. She has not eaten another pair of shoes since. Some children I feel need similar. Having said that I don’t believe in corporal punishment. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow. What a topic. As you and Anne say, I’m sure the generational differences will be the biggest issue here. I can’t believe what I’m reading (in your post and the comments). I’ll see what I can do with this one. I don’t think a teacher was allowed to lay a finger on a child by the time I was in school. These always get me thinking, though.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thats the idea Sarah. Get thinking. I don’t know what year corporal punishment was banned in our schools but certainly by the time I got to high school which was lucky. I was sent to the principal more times then and in the past. I must have known I would not be caned.

      Liked by 3 people

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  8. Sherri says:

    Fascinating prompt this month Irene, also the responses and your replies. Definitely huge generational differences here. Certainly by the time I started school, there was no more corporal punishment, at least not the cane as was prevalent in my parent’s day. But I do remember one time getting in trouble at the little village primary school I attended after my parents split up and my mum moved me and my brother with her to Suffolk. The headmistress was old fashioned in more ways than one. I remember getting the shock of my life in being lined up with some of the boys (we had been playing chase too rambunctiously for her liking is the only explanation I have) and getting the slipper, a black plimsole, across the back of my legs. Then one other time only when she lined me and a few up (again, same ‘crime’) and rapped us over the knuckles with a ruler. That stung like billy-oh (I used that expression too!) but it was the humiliation that burned more. I feared the wrath of my mother if I was disobedient much more than any teacher, so I tried to behave and be a ‘good girl’. I don’t know, at first I didn’t think this subject would be troublesome for me to write about, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder how I can approach it without sounding angry because of some reminders that might be too personal to share on my blog. I’ll have a good think though. Your wonderful sense of humour rings through which softens the subject matter with just the right touch. I’m not sure I would be able to manage it, although come to think of it, there is one incident that was not physical, but punishment of a sort and was funny after the fact. Hmmmm…otherwise, please feel free to share anything in this comment for your research if it’s helpful. I am now going to go away and have a good think 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Annecdotist says:

      I’m furious on your behalf, Sherri. Absolutely bonkers to hit a child for overenthusiastic playing – perhaps it was envy at your exuberance. I think that’s perhaps why the headmistress of my primary school was so sadistic.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Sherri says:

        Ahh…thanks Anne…and yes, I think you’re probably right and sorry to hear of your own sadistic headmistress. I hadn’t really thought too much about it, one of those things that happened when I was young. But when I did think about it, I never forgot the sense of burning humiliation. She eventually left and was replaced with a young, male headteacher who was wonderful. It was a small village CofE primary school, only about 50 kids, and there I learnt to play the guitar, do country dancing, earn gymnastic awards, play rounders and football (tomboy, yes!) and go on school trips to France. Maybe his influence helped blot out the horrors of Miss Parr’s Victorian treatment. Either way, it didn’t dampen my exhuberance 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Charli Mills says:

    An interesting topic, and complex. I agree with comments so far that generational differences will exist and US schools shifted from one extreme to the other in about two generations. My husband was paddled nearly every day in second grade and harbors a hatred for the teacher more than any “lesson” learned. His punishment was not completing homework, yet by second grade he was expected to go home and work on the family dairy with no one to make sure he did his homework. Now, as Noelle says, its unlawful for a teacher to even strike back in self-defense.

    Yet, I think our individual responses are going to be clouded by our reactions to corporal punishment. You strike me as having bee a confident and alert child. An alert child will avoid getting punished, as Anne explains. Punishment of others is often good enough. Or as Sherri says, fear of a parent’s response to getting punished at school is also a factor. Yet not all alert children are secure. That’s where I think this topic gets complex. Humiliation is a deterrent to bad behavior, but often deeper shame can create rebelliousness or even continue a cycle of abuse. Having been through intense therapy several decades ago, I know how tangled those squelched emotions and psychological scars can be. Even having learned from every parenting class I could take, coping skills and becoming aware, I still find some topics difficult to address or even understand. But this is also why I write. To explore and understand. I’m thinking I’ll lean toward the changes I made in punishment. I have an amusing story about my son.

    Thank you for getting us to think and discuss! I’m bummed that I missed out on last month’s crazes and will have to find that post. I have no idea what a craze is from your descriptions here!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Annecdotist says:

      Good point, Charli, this might be an area where our attitudes and beliefs are particularly hard to unpack. A child who knows how to stay out of trouble while retaining a spirit of adventure is lucky, I think. Unfortunately I could only manage the first half and was terrified for most of my childhood – I think that’s why I like novels about North Korea!!!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        Your comment makes me think we might share a strange common ground across cultures! Who would have thought your upbringing in the UK would connect you to North Korea? “Hard to unpack” is a good way to put it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad that I have stimulated discussion regarding punishment although I had no idea just how difficult a prompt it would prove to be. I had thought, obviously naively, that it would be hard for some people who may have been punished more severely and more often than I consider to be normal. I knew that corporal punishment would come into it as my generation and early grew up for differing lengths of time with it. I felt for your husband and his second daily paddling for circumstances that he should not have been punished for at all.
      I do feel we have gone from one extreme to another extreme and I was hoping, I think, to discover how punishments were given in the time that there was probably a middle ground.
      I will be interested in the changes you made to punishment and look forward to your story.
      Getting a discussion going on difficult topics is a good thing as if we can stop and listen and learn from the past and the future we can perhaps improve the present.
      I’m sorry you missed Crazes, which are where there is an en masse take up of a particular activity on one day, everyone does it for a short period of time and just as quickly it goes. For me it was things like hula hoops, elastics, for boys marbles. It would have been interesting to see if your generation continued playing the same crazes as my generation did.


  10. Pingback: (nf) Past Times: Fitting the Crime? (5.23) | Jules in Flashy Fiction

  11. julespaige says:

    I finally wrote my piece. You can find it here:
    Past Times: Fitting the Crime?

    One thing I didn’t mention though was a particular phrase I do not like regarding punishment.
    Though perhaps in modern times the meaning has changed. While the origin is debatable and can be found in many cultures ‘Rule of thumb’ isn’t very nice measurement to use. My understanding is that the man or husband was allowed to beat his wife with a switch (stick) that was no thicker than his thumb if he felt she had misbehaved. And I cringe every time that phrase is used.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is fascinating Jules. I’ll think twice before using that phrase (I’m sure the meaning has changed somewhat.) Thanks for taking part again. I found your experiences fascinating across multiple generations.

      Liked by 1 person

      • julespaige says:

        To be clear about the occasional ‘swat’ – it would be more like a tap to the hand for children under five. Same for the padded diaper area. More of a surprise to the child that their behavior had just gone to far. Sometimes children don’t know their own strength and a gentle reminder that they have hurt you by biting you or swatting at you the caregiver, needs to be promptly addressed. I am not advocating beating young children or children or adults of any age. And I am sure that while many others may promote complete non-violence of any kind at all…that everyone has issued words or actions that they in the spur of the moment or even with some thought could be called ‘punishment’.

        I can’t seem to just stop at one thought. One leads to another which may or may not require explaining. But as writers…we tend to want to wrap up loose ends. Their are many roads a disciplinarian can take. And unless we are in the middle of each and every situation we can not or should not judge – within our own social or societal mores. What is good about your prompt (even on a difficult subject) is that we can discuss and learn. Which can I hope help promote empathy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I understood what kind of swat you meant and mine was the same as yours. You are so right that we should not judge and perhaps on the occasion that we see a woman “lose it” with a woman in a shopping centre instead of condemning we should be offering to take her for a cup of coffee and try and offer support and then perhaps suggest alternatives but listening I think would be the most important. I’m glad you see that difficult issues shouldn’t be pushed under the carpet because it is only by being open that we can work out methods which are both compassionate but effective as I believe that early discipline sets a child up to cope in life with failures and disappointments and just doing what they are asked (within reason) when starting out in the workforce. And yes empathy.

        Liked by 1 person

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