Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


When I was a kid, I was a very good kid. I knew that my parents loved me dearly; I lived in a very structured home where rules were spelled out clearly; and I knew that, if I broke the rules, I would immediately get a spanking. The latter was sure and certain. It gave me a tremendous incentive to follow rules. I look back on my childhood fondly, not as a series of unending spankings, but as a peaceful, sheltered time. I now live in a community and a time where spanking is verbotten. If teachers learn from conversations with a child that the parents use spanking as part of the discipline process, they are likely to report the parent to Child Protective Services. Older children use that threat to blackmail their parents. The problem, of course, is that parents have no real means to control their children. Time outs are a joke. My kids view them as a pleasant break from the sturm und drang of the day. They also stressful for me, the parent, since they involve policing the bedroom, or wherever the child is. Thus, a timeout punishes and frustrates me too. In addition to those useless timeout exercises, what's in nowadays is creative punishment. These tend to be rather Gilbertian -- a la "My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time, to let the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime." Some things, of course, are easy: if the child refuses to pick up his or her toys, you pick them up and put them in a closet. Except that this doesn't work (a) if the child is not particularly committed to any given toy; (b) if the child has other toys; and (c) if you don't want to find yourself ending up packing away every toy the child owns. And so it goes.... In a way, there's an additional level of sadism to the current regime, with its "creative," unstable punishments, and its frustrated parents, who must always dance one step ahead of their mischievious, intelligent, wilful children. I really miss the days of a quick spanking. As a child, I always knew I deserved those spankings, I never felt brutalized (no belts, no beatings), and they served as a safety valve on my parents' temper too (that is, instead of them getting increasingly angry, the whole thing blew over). Ultimately, I'm not sure that the way we do things now is any more humane than the way our parents raised us, and I know that it leaves a family with a much more chaotic, frustrating household.