The child rearing experts are at it again. And this time they’ve chimed in on the punishment issue.
According to them, gone are the days when belts and switches and wooden spoons are the disciplinary tools of choice among parental units. This is because studies have shown that spanking is not only fruitless, it can also lead to lower IQs.
Yeah, maybe it’s because people are more enlightened. However, personally I think it’s because the political tide has turned on the “mind your own beeswax” rule. And the anti-corporal punishment contingent doesn’t look kindly on seeing a child with welt marks across the back of his/her legs. And so they’ll actually speak up about it. Usually to Child Protective Services. And there’s no better deterrent to the pro-corporal punishment faction than the fear of jail time or being on the outs with neighbors from whom they borrow power tools.
So what do parents do instead of hitting their kids? In a word. Yell. I mean, what else can we do?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found those time-outs to be totally ineffective. Maybe because my kid is an only child and she has the ability to entertain herself under any conditions. So sending her to her room or the bottom step to sit quietly only results in her singing to herself or talking in different character voices or just plotting the next neighborhood musical.
So… there’s yelling. But to be honest with you. I’m not a fan of that either. I grew up in a house where yelling was used in conjunction with the belt. Also solo, without any hitting at all. In fact, yelling happened pretty much all the time. It mostly came from my mother to whom, being of Italian heritage, it seemed second nature…and not just relegated to moments of anger. “CLEAN YOUR ROOM!” WASH YOUR HANDS!” “COME EAT DINNER!” “I LOVE YOU!”
Of course, she did it so much that we became numbed to it. And children have an amazing ability to tune out things. Even the screaming of a wild-eyed Italian woman brandishing a wooden spoon.
So I developed a strong aversion to yelling and swore I wouldn’t have that kind of household. Not that I don’t yell at my kid. Oh I have. Yessiree. And when I do it, it scares the bejeezus out of my kid. Because she doesn’t expect it. Because I don’t do it often. Usually it’s during one of those “end of your rope”, “straw that broke the camel’s back” moments. Which is really much more effective than yelling all the time. The result is that she usually hops to attention…if only for the moment.
But the experts say it’s not good to yell too much. Also, they say that there is “appropriate yelling” and “inappropriate yelling”. And in case you don’t know the difference, I will give you examples.
Appropriate yelling: THERE’S A CAR COMING! GET OUT OF THE STREET!
Inappropriate yelling: I WISH YOU WERE NEVER BORN!
See the difference? If you don’t it’s probably time to seek counselling.
The experts also say that moms do more yelling than dads. Well, duh. First of all we’re with our kids more. And therefore are likely to have our last nerve worked more often. I remind Randy the perfekt husband of this when he comes home to find me irritated with Julia and tells me that I “need to be more patient”. Yeah. I was more patient the first 15 hours. But by the 16th hour, whining and the inability to find a pair of socks in the drawer right in front of her take on monstrously irritating porportions.
Second, women are more emotional and verbal creatures. So we tend to screech to the high heavens let out our feelings instead of bottling them up. Third, we don’t have the innate power to scare the crap out of our kids with just a look like fathers do. It’s one of the disparity between the sexes. Like equal pay and the ability to remember thousands of baseball statistics.
So if it’s not good to spank and it’s not good to yell, how can we discipline our kids?
Well, the experts say be firm and consistent and don’t get angry. I say, spoken like folks who never had kids.
Look, every parent has their own parenting style. And what works on one kid might not work on another. Discipline, like everything else in child-rearing, is a trial and error thing. You have to find what works for you and your kid. But it should never, ever include hurting a child…and that includes with words.
As for our house, we have found that the most effective form of discipline is chocolate deprivation. Cuz as Julia will attest to, there’s no worse punishment for a girl than to be without her chocolate.