Can we survive without Dr. Spock?
When I was a child, way back when, there wasn’t any such thing as “child abuse”. It was called discipline. I got hit each and every day, at least once. So did all my friends, it was a fact of life. No one talked about it, it was expected. It wasn’t unusual to see a mother paddle her toddler on the behind, right out in a public place, such as a restaurant, bus or subway. This was the norm.
Things have changed drastically since those days. There was a saying way back then “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. Doctor Spock put the kibosh on that little ditty. Not the one from “Star Trek”, the one who wrote a book about bringing up children, “The right way.” I brought up two boys and I’ll admit to giving them a little paddle when they needed it. This was when they were 3 or 4 years old, when they needed to learn right from wrong.
If your child runs out into traffic, a scolding may not do the trick. Something more substantial may be needed. Touching a hot pot, or sticking a tiny finger in his brother’s eye may also call for more than a scolding. I always had a guideline that I kept to, never discipline out of anger.
I was in a supermarket a few weeks ago and a mother was scolding her little one, and the child talked back to her. The mother seemed dumb struck at the child’s response and immediately paddled the toddler on the rear end. I said to myself, “good for you mommy”. A little while later as I was at the check out counter I saw the lady with the child leave the store. As she exited, all hell broke loose. She was immediately surrounded by what seemed like a S.W.A.T. team. She was arrested and put in the back of a police car. Her young child was taken from her and put into an unmarked white van. Both mother and child were crying profusely. Very sad!
A crowd had gathered around the proceedings and I’m sure the culprit that called the police was among the crowd. I wonder if that person, after seeing what he or she had caused, regretted their action.
There are other ways to discipline children once they understand what punishment is all about. One method that I always tried to adhere to was “confinement and restriction.” Yes, take away the one thing they cherish most at that moment and confine them to a place away from the family. It rarely misfires, but it takes some courage on the part of the parents. You’re often not only punishing your child, but also yourself. Your conscience will punish you.
Back when my youngest boy was five years old my wife and I took him to see the circus. He was very eager and excited after all he was told about what happens at the circus. We traveled into New York City, a distance of about 25 miles. Before the circus, we went to a restaurant a few blocks away from Madison Square Garden, where the circus was appearing for a nice quiet lunch before the mayhem would begin.
We finished our sandwiches and were killing some time before the start of the event. As my wife and I talked, my son kept interrupting our conversation with silly talk and noises. My wife asked him to stop in a stern way, and my innocent little son said, “Fuck you”. After the shock, my wife’s kneejerk reaction was to immediately slap him in the face. Something she would regret. My little son’s reaction was to slap her back. At this point I was having some trouble keeping from laughing out loud. It was like watching a scene from the Three Stooges.
I gathered my wits and courage and pronounced, “That’s it, no circus. We are going home”. I grabbed him by his little arm, pulled him out of his chair and headed for the exit. Of course he was now screaming bloody blue blazes. This is the second part of the courage aspect of this sort of punishment. Having to walk through a crowded restaurant with an ear shattering screaming little child attached to you. My wife was now staring at me trying to gauge just how serious I was about my “No circus” pronouncement. I gave her that look that meant, this was happening, no turning back now. Get ready for an excruciating ride home.
I know those with children that are reading this can relate to this incident, one of many that my family has gone through over the years. I’m happy to say that my two boys are now successful young men with families of their own. Hopefully their childhood upbringing will aid them in the upbringing of their own kids.