Monday, October 6, 2008

Spare the rod and spoil the child; "Experts and their useless advice"

10:08:26 PM CDT
Feeling Quiet
Hearing The Bee Movie....again!

Spare the rod and spoil the child; "Experts and their useless advice"

People assume that I read a lot of parenting magazines because of my career. The truth of the matter is that I haven’t cracked a binding on one of those magazines since the last time I was at the doctor’s office. It’s not because I’m not interested in the latest baby carriage design or the newest line of children’s wear; it’s because over the years I’ve grown tired of listening to “expert opinions” on how I should rear my children.

Any time an act of senseless violence from a child hits the media, everyone wants to know what went wrong in the discipline department; why didn’t his parents teach him better? Although, I will admit that part of the problem is a relaxed attitude regarding discipline among parents, it’s not the entire problem. The biggest part of the problem is the media’s intrusion upon parental choices of discipline – particularly the use of corporal punishment. Parents should have the ability to use any disciplinary tool they feel is necessary at their discretion, without fear of outside involvement; providing it doesn’t surpass the boundaries of humane behavior and is never dispensed in anger.

Before Dr. Spock wrote the first Baby and Child Care book, most parents took home their bundle and relied on relatives and experienced friends for advice on “behavior modification techniques”. Afterwards, “experts” started appearing on the scene by the truckloads with “new and better ways” to rear your children; if you raise your voice to your child - it’s verbal abuse. If you deny anything from your child - it’s considered neglect, and God forbid you ever invoke a little old fashion corporal punishment – that’s considered physical abuse. Who are these people and what exactly makes them “experts”?

Beneath our designer clothing and material possessions we are nothing more than mammals. Advanced as we may be, our basic instincts still tell us when we are hungry, when we are thirsty and when we should not put our hands on an oven door (yeah, I learned this one the hard way). From the moment a baby is born, he possesses primate characteristics necessary to survival - the ability to tightly grasp an object, particularly hair, is a natural reflex passed down by our primitive generations to ensure our children’s safety within his ability to hold tightly to his mobile mother. To deny the use of these instincts in a child rearing capacity is like attempting to run a marathon without a pair of sneakers - sure, it can be done, but you aren’t going to get very far without some serious injury. Utilizing these instinctive reflexes can really hit the matter home; for every negative action there is an equal reaction – put your hand on a hot stove; you get burnt – and you figure out real fast that you don’t dare attempt to touch the flames again (another hard lesson learned by yours truly). Somehow throughout the generations, we have forgotten the lessons of our forefathers. We assume we are more evolved and thus should utilize logic rather than instinct to discipline our children. Have you ever tried logic on a screaming toddler?

My youngest daughter is an extremely head-strong individual. As a toddler, everything that didn’t go her way evoked a temper tantrum that could make Linda Blair flinch. Once during a trip to Menards, she grew extremely irate when she discovered that she couldn’t take home the car shopping cart. Calmly and without anger, we attempted to reason with her why we couldn’t take the cart home; “The other kids won’t have anything to ride on when they come here”, I said. “We have to leave it here so the workers can clean and polish it for you and get it ready for your next visit,” my husband suggested. She wasn’t buying it. After 40 minutes of reasoning, we decided it was in everyone’s best interest if we simply plucked her out of the cart and took her home regardless of her protest. That’s when the storm rolled in. Instantly she began clawing, screaming and hitting her father - twice he almost dropped her, but never once did he raise his voice in anger. You could barely hear his calm voice assuring her that he understood she was upset, but that sometimes we can’t always have everything we desire. Well, that was all she heard – can’t have what I want - and the rest was history. Bystanders turned and gawked; most of them in disgust, a few of them in sympathy (probably fellow members of the “head-strong” children’s club) as my beloved toddler caught her father with a quick left hook that sent his glasses flying onto the floor and shattered in a million pieces. Amazingly, he never lost his temper – but you could see the “just wait till you get home” look in his eyes as he blindly continued out the store to our vehicle.

Obviously the heat of the moment is not the opportune time to evoke a disciplinary action, but I can also attest to thefact that your toddler will not remember why you are disciplining him an hour and a carton of smokes later. Any choice aparent makes regarding discipline in a situation such as the “Menards incident” will conjure a negative reaction from an audience influenced by the latest media trend. If I “use my words” to express my dissatisfaction with the behavior before I’ve completely cooled off, I might sound tripe or terse – that could be construed as verbal abuse. If I deny any outside playtime, that could be construed as neglect, and if I decide a quick pop on the rear will convey the message until I’ve “come to my senses,” well – you get the picture. Doing nothing about the behavior only teaches the child that you accept what he’s done. The fact is, that as a parent – I’m damned either way, and if I’m going to hell at least let me do the driving.

Parenting is a “learning moment” that never ends once the child hits 18 (much to the dismay of my father). No matter how much experience you have under your belt, you never cease to learn new things when the siblings come around. Every child is different. Each has their own personalities and triggers that help shape their moral behavior. A parent knows their child better than anyone else. If you’re going to hold them accountable for their child’s behavior, why not allow them to do what they feel is best to correct it providing they don’t violate the boundaries of humanity? An astute parent can realize and accommodate these differences and discipline in accordance to their own personalities as well as those of their child. There are no wrong or right answers in this job, and the “experts” certainly can’t pin a “cure all” on a child they’ve never met.

So the next time you find yourself witnesses to heinous behavior from a “head-strong” child ask yourself: Am I their parent? Do I know the child and is it my responsibility to discipline them? If you can’t answer “yes” to any of these questions, consider looking the other way and allowing the parent a moment to correct the problem. Experts don’t have all the answers and neither do spectators influenced by the media. As a rebellious teen I was introduced to the phrase, “you broke it – you fix it.” If you’re going to blame the parents for their children’s actions – at least allow them the ability to apply the superglue without fear of chastise.

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