“don’t misbehave”



About two years ago, I went back to my hometown, Canton, Massachusetts, for a high school reunion and visited an old friend. It was great to see him. I had forgotten or perhaps not fully appreciated before how bright and witty he could be. I always knew he was good company.

Our friendship began in the seventh grade.

We got to talking briefly about our intermediate school and our old teachers.

My friend was not a great student, but he was not a bad kid.

He told me that in school, one of our teachers hit him one day — he didn’t know why; she whacked him across the face.

My friend told his father about it that evening. He said to his father, “Mrs. —- hit me today.”

His father asked him why the teacher had hit him; he said he didn’t know why.

“Well, don’t misbehave,” his father said.

So different from nowadays.

But I think his father handled the situation well. Not knowing what had occurred, he assumed his son might have been misbehaving.

I knew my friend’s father well. He was not a mean person nor overly strict. He worked in a factory. He was a loving parent.

The message he conveyed to his son was, don’t do anything that might get you in trouble.

This was actually good (tacit) advice, because — although I have said above that my friend “was not a bad kid” — I know that he could be mischievous at times, and he did get in trouble on at least one occasion where school administrators were on his case.

Very different from today where parents are always crying “foul” and assuming that their darlings can do no wrong!


— Roger W. Smith

     October 2016





Addendum: The following is a Facebook exchange on October 29, 2016 about this post with a relative of mine.


Maclaren Harris:

Sorry, slapping a child in the face is just plain impermissible, whether inflicted by a teacher, parent, guardian or anyone else. It is ruinous to the child’s self-esteem and inspires hatred and depression.


Roger Smith:

Mac — thanks.

What you say prompted me to pause and think.

I barely remember this teacher, but I recall that she was mean.

You’re right: she should not have slapped my classmate.

But given that it did happen, I don’t think my friend’s father handled it badly.

He didn’t freak out … he suspected his son had probably misbehaved in class … I think he tacitly sent a message that may have actually been good for my friend to hear: don’t antagonize your superiors.

I was trying to make a point about permissiveness and knee jerk reactions commonly seen in many parents nowadays

I don’t necessarily disagree with you, and if I were a school principal, I wouldn’t want my teaching staff to be punishing kids physically.

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin.
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