When Pretty Boy McCoy was in the fourth grade, his teacher flagged me down after school and told me that the eldest Barnes brother had a piss-poor day.
He was behaving like a follower, was involved in various scenes of silliness and mischief, or what I would call, ‘unnecessary coonery’, with other kids. Andthe worst part—he scored C’s on all of his Friday-end of the week-tests (spelling, math, and social studies). You know he caught a bad one when we got home.
I’ll post my ideas on spankings and ass whoopins (which are not as bad as they sound) in a later post, but I’ll be brief about my methods. First, we step into “The Room” aka the half /guest bathroom, and have a sincere, heart to heart conversation about the details and what lead to their unusual behavior. I always give them a chance to tell their side. And then, depending on the severity of the situation, I determine how many heavy, open handed swats to the backside they’ll receive.
I’ve never and would never use an object to discipline my sons. That type of punishment, especially from Black parents, is the result of a lingering connection to slavery. I wouldn’t beat a stray dog with a belt or a switch, but that will also have to wait for another column.
But to be quite honest with you, none of the Mighty have felt my wrath since they were seven. My philosophy is, if you’re still spanking your kid after seven, something is either wrong with the kid or you. And most importantly, they should know the routine and what’s expected of you by that time.
The thing that I express the most with the fellas is that they carry my name, our name, when they leave this house.
Represent it well.
So after Pretty Boy McCoy’s embarrassing day in the fourth grade, I added another phrase , or mantra for the guys to remember. It’s a call and response phrase that I say to them EVERY SINGLE MORNING that I drop them off during the school year. Initially it went like this:
Me: Be good. Be a leader…
Barnes brothers: BE A BARNES!!!
But when they all started attending the same school, we replaced ‘good’ with GREAT. My expectations for them are high, but theirs should always be much higher.
And sometimes, well, all the time really, it’s better to be great than good.
Be GREAT. Be a LEADER. Be a BARNES!