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Excerpts from “Growing Up Colt” by Colt McCoy and Brad McCoy
Chapter 3: Getting with the Family Program
We believed that God designed the family and that children thrived best in an atmosphere of genuine love, undergirded by reasonable, consistent discipline.
Debra and I believed in spanking. Both of us had grown up with parents who meted out corporal punishment when the occasion warranted. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was their guiding philosophy, and that became ours as Colt and the boys came along.
Now, did we look for reasons to spank Colt, just to make sure he learned discipline by the seat of the pants? Of course not.
We carefully considered the times when a spanking was appropriate because we believed that, when properly applied, loving discipline works.
Debra and I always believed that on those occasions when we spanked Colt, we were drawn even closer to him – and he to us – because we comforted him in his tears. When the spanking was over, we reminded him that we loved him and that we wanted him to grow up to become the best he could be.
We saw the benefits of loving discipline in Colt’s attitude.
Colt didn’t get a lot of whuppings. The times we had to discipline him were few and became rarer as he grew older.
Looking back, Debra and I are glad we administered loving discipline early in Colt’s life because relatively speaking, we sailed through his teen years.
You see, I saw the results of a lack of parental discipline every day on the practice field.
Players broke team rules and school rules, so they were disciplined.
The San Saba story is one reason I always felt discipline was important for my football teams and for Colt and his brothers.
On this spanking thing, Mom and Dad may say I didn’t get spanked that much, and they’re probably right. But when you’re a kid, it sure doesn’t seem that way. I can remember both parents popping me on the bottom with a bare hand, Mom spanking me with a wooden spoon, or Dad spanking em with a belt. If we were outside, Dad sometimes used a switch.
Here’s how I remember things: if I mouthed off to Mom or showed disrespect, she’d warn me to watch it. After the second warning – not the third or fourth – she’d march into the kitchen and grab the wooden spoon. And I’d get a couple of good whacks on the behind.
I soon learned that if I ever upset Mom to the point that she’d spank me, more wrath was waiting for me when Dad got home. Yes, I heard Mom say those dreaded words: “Wait until your father gets home.” When I heard her say that, I knew I was in big trouble, and those afternoons never passed more slowly.
Dad would come home from practice, and after hearing Mom lay out the charges against me, he’d ask me if they were true. I knew resistance was futile. After I confessed my misdeeds, Dad would take me into my bedroom and spank me with the belt.
On one occasion, just after I started attending the University of Texas, he and I were asked to speak at a father-and-son gathering in Austin.
One of the things Dad discussed with the fathers in the room was the value of discipline and what it really means. Discipline is teaching. It’s correcting. It’s respect. It’s all those things,” he said. “Discipline is not going out there and beating your son whenever he does something wrong. Sure, I disciplined Colt, but I didn’t just put the belt to him.”
I raised my hand. “Hold on Dad. I want to show everyone a verse in the Bible that you followed.” “If you brought your Bible with you, turn to Proverbs 23:13.” I read it aloud: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.”
Everyone in the crowd started laughing because they had caught on that my father wasn’t the type to withhold discipline from me, and that meant he did discipline me with a belt. At the same time, everyone in the audience could see that I had not died.
I laughed right along with them.
But there was an occasion when I was spanked outside the home, and it wasn’t any laughing matter. It happened when I was in the fourth grade at Hamlin Elementary School, where everyone knew each other.
My fourth-grade trash talk set him [Matt] off. There was a push and a shove – nothing beyond the usual roughhousing I did at home with my younger brothers – but then Matt fell and screamed out in pain. He had broken his finger. I don’t recall who pushed him to the floor, but I do remember that there were lots of tears. A couple of teachers broke up the scuffle and demanded an explanation of what had happened.
Matt and I were sent to the principal’s office, but I wondered why I had to go. It was Jimmy who had said that Matt couldn’t see his new basketball shoes. I hadn’t started anything.
At least that’s how I saw things. But I knew getting sent to the principal’s office was serious stuff, even if I was innocent. I knew I would be in big trouble one Dad and Mom found out I was sent to the principal’s office, guilty or not. Colt, you’re going to get the hugest spanking, and then you’re going to be grounded for life, I thought.
I couldn’t believe my good luck. Since nothing happened to me in the principal’s office, I wouldn’t have to take a note home to Mom and Dad. Maybe I wouldn’t be grounded for life after all.
We drove home in silence. I tried to keep my composure because I felt there was no way my father could know I was in the principal’s office just an hour before.
When we got home, Chance and Case were playing basketball in the backyard. I was about to go outside when I heard Dad say, “Your mother and I would like to talk to you.”
Dad and Mom drew the story out of me, and I told it in the way I have described it in this chapter. They listened and then Dad cleared his throat.
“Son, we treat everybody the right way around here. It doesn’t matter if you like Matt or not. You will treat him the right way, and you will show everyone respect. That starts with your teachers but also includes your friends and people who are not even your friends. You will show everyone respect.”
Mom added her two cents, and then my father solemnly announced that I would be punished for what happened. A spanking with the belt.
Dad whupped me pretty good that day, and I cried.
I went to school the next day thinking it was all over, but as soon as I stepped into the classroom, my teacher told me the principal wanted to see me in his office again.
My heart sank. What did I do this time?
I soon found out.
The principal was waiting for me in his office with a leather strap, and he explained that I needed to be punished for my role in hurting Matt. He gave me several licks, and I cried again. Then he told me that I would have to apologize to everybody in my class, tell them I was wrong to play favorites and that in the future I would respect everyone the same.
By the way, it wasn’t until years later that I learned Dad and the principal were buddies and they both agreed that I would get some licks and home and at school. But they taught me a lesson that I would never forget.
It may sound like we were too hard on Colt that day, or even like we were abusing him, but that’s far from the truth. The fact is that Debra and I looked for those “teachable moments” that come up every now and then when you’re raising children.
They learned that there were consequences when they crossed that line. Sometimes it was the belt, but other times they lost privileges.
By the time I got to school, I thought “shut up” and “stupid” were bad words. I didn’t say them in the classroom, and I certainly didn’t say them around Mom and Dad because if I did, I got my mouth washed out with soap.
“Stick out your tongue,” she’d say. I’d always beg her not to do it, but she never backed down. Once I stuck out my tongue, she would rub a wet bar of soap all across it. Then I could wash out my mouth with water. The soap tasted disgusting, and it made me angry the rest of the day.