Discipline

When did disciplining your child stop being a thing? It often occurs to me that a lot of parents appear to be afraid of their children, when really it should be the other way around. I remember growing up I had a deep seated fear of my parents. I have to preface this with stating that they weren’t abusive or unnecessarily cruel. However, if I misbehaved, God help me.

And the punishment always fit the crime. Whining and general brattiness got no more than a slap across the face. Failure to stop, or anything more serious and my mother would not hesitate to remove the strap from her purse and put it to good use. A few times I tried resisting, or worse, swatting her away, but I quickly found out that was useless and then my father would have to become involved, holding me down for prolonged discipline. My point in sharing this is that most people reading this today are probably totally freaking out right now thinking I was maliciously beaten. And really, I wasn’t.

I am not sure how I feel about corporal punishment. I have swatted my children a few times for general brattiness, and I have physically removed them from stores and other venues kicking and screaming while being shoved in the car, but I have never used things on them, or slapped more than their hands. But having had experienced more than that, I can’t say it scarred me for life, or really did anything to me.

I am in no way saying that what my parents did is the answer to anything, but I can’t help wondering at what point the relationship between parents and children become so skewed.

What prompted this post was a trip to the grocery store. A woman was there with her daughter that looked to be about 3 years old – only a few months younger than Ally. The child wanted something and the mother said no. Then the child started crying and the mother said no. Then the child started screaming and the mother handed her the item she wanted. All the child learned was to scream louder next time.

I don’t know what the woman’s discipline tactics are since all I saw was an isolated event, and don’t even know all the details. I guess what bothered me was that she appeared to have no authority over her child. I think I would have had less of a hard time with this if she had let her child continue screaming. Not how I would have handled it, and yes, a screaming child at the grocery store is annoying (yet not the end of the world), but she would have exerted some control in the situation.

This happens all the time, so what exactly happened in the last thirty years to invert the parent/child dynamic? And I totally mean “invert” because there have been several occasions where the parents actually seemed to be afraid of their children, doing, saying, or giving in to *anything* just to pacify their angry child. And this is why I began this post by discussing corporal punishment. I am well aware that it is not just frowned upon, but in some cases illegal, but there seems to be correlation between the decline of corporal punishment and the increase in undisciplined children. Just an observation.

If I were to slap my daughter at the store for throwing a temper tantrum and not heeding my warning to stop, someone would surely call CPS. When my mother did it, not only did no one flinch, but it was practically expected. I was never big on temper tantrums (wasn’t really part of my personality, and I learned very early on that they would not grant me anything), but should I have done it, it would not have only been acceptable for my mother to take matters into her own hands, quite literally, but any other adult in the vicinity. We were living in New York, I was about six, at the grocery store playing with something I should not have been playing with, and one of the store attendants took it away from me, swatting my behind in the process. My mother hadn’t seen what I had done, but because the lady was upset with me I must have done something wrong so I got a strong glare from her just in case I even thought of doing anything else. Seriously folks, if you think hitting your own child in public is bad, try doing it to someone else’s these days. Blood bath in aisle five….

But aside from actually touching someone else’s child, you can’t even verbally discipline them. Somehow that is not okay. They are someone else’s precious jewel, can do nothing wrong, and if the mother didn’t see it, then it obviously didn’t happen. When I was a child I was never asked if what the other person said was true. If someone went to my mother and said I did something, it didn’t matter if I had done it, could have done it, probably did it, or thought about doing it, because as far as my mother was concerned, I did it. That too instilled fear in me because while I had some control over the things I did, I had absolutely no control over what others told my mother. However, my punishments were brief, and I learned to just take them and be done with it. My parents didn’t believe in taking things away, grounding me, or withholding anything. I got the strap, and I was done. Cookies anyone?

By the time I was seven I never had tempter tantrums, behaved exceedingly well in public, addressed people correctly, was getting perfect grades, kept my room clean, and hardly if ever talked back to my parents. In other words, I had the fear of God in me (or my mother’s purse strap… same thing).

Again, I don’t know if physically punishing children is an answer to anything, and just because it worked on me does not mean it will work on all children. Not to mention there are surely other parents like me who will practically cry at the idea of *really* hitting their children, and that wouldn’t do well for anyone. But seriously, when did child discipline of any kind just stop? And is it coming back any time soon?

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2 comments

  1. Discipline is the one thing that really scares me when I think of raising children! Making them understand what thay are and aren’t allowed to do and correcting them on their mistakes seems really difficult. I wonder if more people felt the same way before having children…

  2. For me, there was a general cloud surrounding the subject before having children, as I didn’t actually have the slightest clue what to do with them. After having had them I realize the process is easier theorized upon than practiced, and while children will get away with many things (and only a completely totalitarian home regime can stop this), there are limits that vary from child to child, but still there to be upheld. And children, even from exceedingly young ages, are aware of this. For example, mine know what they can get away with, and know when they are pushing their limits (which doesn’t mean it stops them from doing it), and they understand what I say to them (whether or not they choose to listen, which is a completely different thing).

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