Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family Ch5 – Part 12

More Questionable Child-Rearing Practices

Biene contributed this post.

Another child-rearing practice my parents employed is also of dubious nature. My parents’ generation stood under the influence of the naturopathic medicine movement of Sebastian Kneipp. He believed in the therapeutic power of cold water. My parents wanted us to grow up strong and healthy. Every Saturday, my brother and I had our weekly bath in a big zinc tub placed on two chairs in our spacious kitchen. A hot bath was a luxury at that time.  We enjoyed this rare pleasure tremendously. But all treats come to an end, and for us, it was very abrupt. Without warning, my mother would dump a bucket full of cold water, which she had hidden under the chairs over us, as suggested by Sebastian Kneipp.

This “shock therapy” was supposed to toughen and strengthen us. Before we could utter desperate cries of protest, we were wrapped in warm towels. Time and again, my mother would assure us that she would not do it again. But she never kept her promise and was very skillful in hiding the bucket of frigid water. Until the end of his life, my brother detested cold water. I, on the other hand, started to like this invigorating therapy. To this day, I love swimming in cold lakes and conclude my warm bath with a cold shower. 

Another Kneipp practice my parents employed was even more dramatic and terrifying. As a small child, my brother had terrible temper tantrums. He frequently would fly into such a rage that he almost turned blue in his face screaming.  All measures to calm him down failed until my mother and sister started to resort to another Kneipp treatment. They would quickly pick up my hysterical brother and hold his head under running cold water from the tap.  The shock would instantly calm him. I was very scared watching this cruel procedure.

Like my brother, I was also strong-willed. But I did not voice my protests in furor. I would instead use passive resistance. My mother tried to give us one teaspoon of pure cod liver oil every day during the fall and winter season to prevent rickets and other health conditions. I vehemently detested this foul-smelling and even worse-tasting liquid. My mother could neither coax nor threaten me into compliance. I kept my mouth pressed shut. When all attempts failed to change my mind, my sister would hold me down on the couch, open my mouth forcefully. In an instant, my mother would pour the disgusting sticky liquid down my throat. I could not understand why my mother and sister, who loved us so much, could do such horrible things to us.

16 thoughts on “Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family Ch5 – Part 12

  1. All that sounds so dreadful. Today it would be considered child abuse, but back then no one questioned what parents did “in the best interests” of their children.


  2. I suppose your brother detests cold water because of the “teatment” of his anger, not because of the cold water bath. Its most shocking for a child not to be allowed to express one’s feelings


  3. Liebe Biene,
    ich muß Dir voll zustimmen, mir ging es mit dem Lebertran
    ebenso 😡
    Das war einfach schrecklich, später gab es ihn ja mit wesentlich verbessertem Geschmack!
    Liebe Grüße


  4. One of my grandmothers used to talk about how much she disliked the daily spoonful of cod liver oil, but I don’t think it crossed her mind to refuse it. I’m grateful for the gelatin capsules they have now.


  5. Although I’m not a fan of all the modern theories of raising children, I’m very glad that some of the old ones are no longer in use. Those may have worked, but in my opinion they were too cruel. I’m glad we’ve moved on from some of those practices!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, dear! I know about the shifting hot and cold showers that Kneipp recommended, and they are supposed to be indeed very invigorating, just like the winter bathing in Scandinavia. But, I don’t think it was meant to come as a surprise …
    My mother told me about the daily cod liver dosis, must have been awful. We got something that was called “Sanostol”, a kind of syrup enriched with vitamins, because she did not want to give us the cod liver treatment. Thank you Mum!

    The daughter of a friend of mine also got these fits, usually when she did not get her way. The first time it happened, they rushed her to the hospital, because she was getting all blue. The doctor told them that in the end the child would start breathing. I also think that the cold water treatment of Biene’s brother was very cruel and even abusive, but I am sure they did it, because they were afraid he would die. These fits are terrifying for the parents, at least the first time. I can’t imagine anybody would do that for punishment, waterboarding?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Die Erziehungsmethoden damals!
    Ich erzählte meiner Frau gestern nochmal, daß meine Mutter, offenbar vollkommen konsterniert von der Erziehung (und dem Stress mit dem Ehemann), mir plötzlich eröffnete, dass sie wolle, dass wir beide “gehen”, sie und ich. Ich flüchtete hilflos auf den Küchenschrank, sie sah davon ab, den ersten Teil ihrer Absicht auszuführen.

    Liked by 1 person

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