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The Cult of the Wooden Spoon
I was sitting at my computer the other day and daydreaming, trying to decide on another topic to write about. Nothing was coming to me, and there was no doubt about the source of my frustration, Emily. For what seemed to be the one millionth, billionth time, I was again interrupted by the high pitched scream of a 3½ year old throwing a hissy fit.
Let me explain a hissy fit. A hissy fit is the high pitched scream followed by copious crying and unintelligible garbled explanations of what her 13 year old brother did to piss her off followed by the imperious request to “make him stop it Mommy!”. A hissy fit is also the head banging, feet stomping, “I don’t wanna!” screaming meltdown that occurs when her idea of the perfect world is interrupted by reality. Realities that include things such as eat all your food, take a bath, pick up your toys, etc.
Now, I do remember hissy fits from my older children. However, they never seemed to last as long or be as often as this child. I know why and I know who to blame it on. I’m blaming the babysitter and the other kids that she watches. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sitter to death. She’s been there through sickness, overtime, weekend overtime, and family emergencies. The problem is: she doesn’t know about the Cult of the Wooden Spoon. The other kids’ mother is also ignorant of this passage rite to true motherhood.
Cult of the Wooden Spoon
The Cult of the Wooden Spoon used to be a normal part of society; a sisterhood of mothers united in the proper upbringing of children. Simply put, the purpose of the Cult is to raise well behaved children that know that selfish and self-centered behavior has unpleasant consequences. Sadly, today’s society has lost their direction and purpose and the Cult has become a thing of shame and secrecy. In my opinion, it’s time to bring it out of the shadows and back into the light of mainstream child rearing practices.
How does this Cult work? It’s a rather simple theory – pain and the threat of more pain is the best, fastest and most memorable deterrent of unacceptable behavior. What do you remember more? The 100 times your mother told you not to touch the pan it was hot or the first time you accidentally did and got burned? For most of us, it was the first time we actually felt the pain of the burn. We then understood what the words our mother was saying meant: “Don’t do that – it will hurt you.” Then next time she told us something was hot – we listened and didn’t touch.
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But - that's Abuse!
Now, I can hear you saying- use “1-2-3- Magic”, use “Time Outs”, use “Positive Reinforcement”! How in heaven’s name can a child understand Positive Reinforcement, or self esteem or anything else, if they don’t know that there are painful consequences to their actions? Time Out becomes a game of let’s see how much I can move or wiggle to get more attention. Positive Reinforcement becomes, I won’t do anything unless you give me something for it. 1-2-3 Magic and other such programs are around because we, as parents, are so frightened of Big Brother that we’re afraid to actually parent as we should. If the truth must be told, the only reason these methods have come about is because of that brainwashed fear reaction. Folks, you’ve been brainwashed into thinking that childhood should involve no pain, no consequences, no boo-boos, and always happy, happy, happy!
The members of the Cult of the Wooden Spoon know better. Parenting is work, 24-7 work. The fun comes later when the work is done. We’ve learned that our method is quicker, more memorable, and less stressful in the long run for both the parent and child than any other method. One or two swats and it’s done. The nice thing about this method is that after the first two to three times – a threat is as good as the actual application. Both the child and parent get on with life. No long explanations, no constant vigilance and power plays over a time out, no catering to the Pavlovian children who will only perform correctly when rewarded.
This same principle applies to behavior in small and medium sized children. A touch of pain applied consistently has the remarkable ability to end bad behavior at a rapid rate. Today’s parents have been brainwashed and browbeaten by experts into believing that any type of physical punishment is abuse. These parents have been inundated with articles and studies and media that tells them that the primary goal of parenting is to raise children who believe that the world runs on praise, self esteem, and equality.
I address the next statement to these parents. Get a clue!!!! Words like burns, hurts, cuts, breaks a bone, have no references in your child’s mind. However, a stern “No!” with a swat on the gluteus maximus area with the flat side of a properly shaped piece of pinus genus elicits an understandable cause and effect. The word “no” now means, to the child, do it again and it will hurt me. Since most sane people like to avoid pain whenever possible, the behavior and the possible reward becomes less desirable or completely undesirable and the bad behavior stops. Of course, children being children, their memories are short and it takes consistent and repetitive correction on the part of the parent to form a long term memory. .
I can remember when the Cult was an everyday thing. Mothers carried wooden spoons everywhere, in the car, in their purses, at the park, in stores and occasionally, even to church. The wooden spoon was a symbol to everyone of a woman who took her role as a parent and guide of future members of society seriously. I proudly carried a wooden spoon for years.
Yet- the Cult Lives!
Sadly, in the last two decades, it has become the symbol of abuse and neglect. Its reputation for correction has been tarnished and besmirched by scholars and theorists, who believe that pain is no longer a necessity of growing up or of life. Yet, in spite of the cries of abuse and neglect, the Cult of the Wooden Spoon lives on. It may not be shown openly as it was in the past, yet a discerning person can spot almost instantly a cult member. How do you recognize such a person? Just look for the following:
1. Mothers who carry large hairbrushes in their purse- these are an excellent substitute for a wooden spoon.
2. Any child whose hands immediately go behind their backs and cover their bottoms when caught by a parent doing something the child knows is unacceptable.
3. Any parent who can walk down a supermarket aisle and not have to stay in the middle to keep the shelves out of reach of a child.
4. Any parent who can walk with more than two children without having to chase after them.
5. You hear the phrase “If you don’t stop, I’ll give you something to cry about”.
6. Any parent who can instantly stop bad behavior by simply raising their hand.
7. Any parent who looks at a harried stressed out mother trying to get more than one child to behave a time with pity.
There are other subtle signs that show themselves, but why should I give away all of our secrets? If you decide to enter this cult and leave the world of feel good parenting behind, you’ll find them out soon enough. You never know, your children might just one day thank you for it.
Now, you may wonder what happened to my 3 ½ year old, The Queen of Hissy Fits. She’s in her room, happily playing with her dolls, threatening to give them something to cry about if they don’t behave. She’s learning quickly.