Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Today's entry is going to be a little different than usual. Today I'm going to try to be a bit more serious. Why? Because today I'm going to deal with something that is a little controversial. If this is your first visit to my little blog and just want a laugh, read "It's a Man's World."

Of course, That doesn't mean I'm going to be completely serious, as regular readers will know, that isn't my style ;-)


I went to the local supermarket today. I witnessed an event that happens almost daily in supermarkets around the world. You know what I'm talking about.

That's right, the dreaded toddler tantrum.

This kid was throwing himself on the ground and literally screaming like he'd been shot. What was the kid's mother doing during this episode? Standing 6 feet away and telling the kid in as low voice as possible to stop screaming and stop 'being silly'.

As usual, I just shook my head and walked away.

Now this isn't going to be a 'How to Discipline Your Kids' lecture. I don't have any kids, and as I've seen again and again with friends and relations who have kids, the great ideas about how they're going to keep their kids in line, seldom work in real life.

Instead I want to compare how I was brought up, and how that differs from today.

For example, as a child I only threw maybe one or two tantrums in a public place. Don't get me wrong, I had more than my fair share of screaming sessions, but the way my parents dealt with it was slightly different.

For one, if we were at home and I threw a tantrum, my parents would just plain ignore me if I wasn't disturbing them from doing something. It didn't take me long to realise that all that happened was I got a sore throat, maybe shouted at and no closer to what I wanted, in fact it usually left me further away.

So why were my public tantrums so few and far between? Because my parents didn't get embarassed and tell me to stop being silly. They'd give me a warning, which if I ignored, my pants would come down in front of the whole shop and I wouldn't be able to sit down for weeks. The woman in the shop today seemed far more concerned with what people were thinking that disciplining her child. A clear case of the child being in charge rather than the parent.

That's become very common today. The line of thought has changed from the child thinking "I'll do what my parents say so I won't get punished." To the parent thinking. "I'll let my child have their own way so they won't throw a tantrum and embarrass me."

Result? Spoiled kids screaming in supermarkets. Reason? Corporal punishment has been pretty much struck off the map.

Please don't get me wrong, This isn't a "Why you should hit your kids." lecture. I don't agree with hitting children, but there is a huge gap between slapping your child's backside for being bad and actual child abuse.

So why do I feel strongly about the way children are disciplined today?

I'm jealous, that's why!

I watched a TV show recently called 'Super Nanny'. The premise of the show is that a family who are having problems with their children call the show, and the 'nanny' is despatched to the house. She sizes up the problems, gives the family a step by step plan, and by the end of the show, everyone is smiling, the children are behaving and there's a general all round sense of a job well done. For the UK readers, I've heard it is very similar to 'Nanny 911' which I believe is being shown over there.

Now, if you've ever watched the show you'll know what I'm talking about. The kids on there aren't just naughty...they appear to be Damien's meaner older brother. You see these kids punch their parents in the face, scream them get the picture.

The solutions are just plain weird. Apparently the punishment for punching your mother in the face is to sit on the bottom step of the stairs for the same amount of minutes as you are years old (IE a 6 year old would wait 6 minutes). After which the parent will come to the step, get down to were they're eye level with their child (apparently that's very important), ask them why they were punished, ask them if they're sorry, and if they say yes, they can go about their business.

Where the hell was this method of raising a child when I was growing up? I didn't get a 'time-out', I got a 'Knock-out'.

The parents on these shows are ridiculous. Every episode there's usually a clip of the child screaming/hitting/spitting at them, the child walking away laughing and then an interview where the parent is crying because their kids are so out of control and they just don't know what to do.

Don't know what to do?! Don't know what to do!?!?


If you can watch this show without shouting at your TV set at least once, you must have the self control of a saint.

Ok, here's another exmaple of what happened on the show, followed by what would have happened to me.

The Nanny had a points system where when a child was good they got a sticker put on a board by their name. If they were bad, they lost a sticker. In return, they could trade stickers for treats.

I have a problem with that from the get go. When I was brought up, you weren't good because of what you might get as a reward. You did what your parents said, because that was what you were supposed to do.

Anyway, back to the show...

The child had got into a cupboard and had emptied ketchup, mayo, mustard...pretty much every condiment you can think of onto the kitchen carpet. The nanny sent the boy to the naughty step and made him think about what he'd done. After 6 minutes she asked him if he knew why he was punished and if he was sorry. The kid had learned the system so he said yes, he knew what he did wrong, and he was sorry and would never do it again. Then when the nanny told him he was also losing a sticker, he threw another tantrum and tried to slap the nanny in the face. This earned him another 6 minutes and the loss of another sticker. The second time around, he had apparently learned his lesson.

Here's what would have happened to me:

Upon discovery of the mess, I would have got shouted at, my pants would've came down, and I'd have had my butt blistered. Then, thrust into my hands would have been a cloth, a mop and a bucket of water. I would then have been made to clear up the mess I would have made.

If afterwards I was asked if I was sorry and if I knew what I had been punished for, the only answer that would have left my lips would have been 'Yes.' If I'd have smart mouthed an answer back, you could add one more blister to my butt.

If I'd even attempted to slap my mother in the face...well, forget 6 minutes sitting on a step, I'd have needed 6 months of physical therapy in order to walk again.

I think in my entire life I actually got my butt slapped only maybe once or twice by my dad. My Dad is probably the most laid back mellow person in the universe. Nothing fazes let's just say, if you got him got him Mad.

Let's just say after the first time I had a run in with my dad, he could keep me in line completely just with a tone of voice. Everyone knows that tone of voice. The one your parents use that turns your insides to ice. The one that bypasses the ears and brain and goes straight to that part of your body we inherited from neanderthal man and speaks directly to your self-preservation instinct.

Every cell in your body speaks to you at once and says "Okay, we're in trouble, but unless we do exactly what the voice says, it'll make this punishment seem like a walk in the park."

Beating your kids is wrong. Plain wrong.

Giving your kids a swat across the legs when they deserve it is acceptable, and if it's not, it should be.

My parents were never afraid of tanning my hide when I stepped out of line, and while at the time I didn't like it, looking back I can say it didn't do me any harm and I deserved it. If they hadn't I probably would've got into a lot more trouble as a kid and once you start down that line, it's a difficult habit to break.

I got the occasional whuppin' as a kid, and many people today would give you the idea that smacking your kids turns them into violent, maladjusted individuals. I finished school, went on to college, later graduated university with honours. Why aren't I some sort of pychopath?

Disciplining your kids is unpleasant, but it's even more unpleasant to raise a child who thinks he can do anything he wants without fear of punishment.

In closing , let me tell you a little about my parents. I don't want any of the bleeding heart liberal types thinking that they're psychotic, un-enlightened child beaters. If you want to know what type of people my parents are, here's all you need to know:

When I was born, My Father worked a full time job and went to college at nights in order to get a higher paying job to take care of Me and my brother. My Mother split her time between working and looking after us. She worked to give us the little extras she knew we wanted, but didn't need, when she could have easily stayed at home. Neither one ever missed a house payment, a car payment and always managed to keep a secure roof over our heads and food on the table. While other parents where insisting their children go straight from highschool into full time jobs, my parents worked their asses off to give me the opportunity to go to College and University. Without their hard work, and wouldn't be nearly as well off as I am today.

Thanks, Mum and Dad.


Vada said...

And God Bless every parent out there who has the courage to do what your parents did.

My parents were the same as yours- very strict disciplinarians. I turned out okay too.

Unfortunately, though, some of those very children with strict parents just don't GET how their parents were actually doing a good thing. They are the ones with the tantrum-ing kids in the supermarkets. They are the exact opposite of their parents in methods of child-rearing. Their kids grow up NOT being disciplined and getting coddled and getting by with anything and everything. As a result, they end up in serious trouble in school or with the law, and it's only then, when it's too late,that their parents realize that maybe they should have handled things a bit differently.

Being raised as I was I can only say as you so elegantly put it-

Thanks Mum & Dad!!

serendipity said...

I had the same kind of upbringing as you, if I misbehanved my mum would smack my arse for me. Simple as that. I learnt to think very carefully before doing something i knwe was wrong.
There's nothing wrong with smacking your kids ass if he/she has misbehaved, it hasn't done me any harm, i'm a well adjusted adult, and I love my parents.
The whole 'go sit on the step for 6 mins and think about what you've done' thing wouldn't wash with me. If it were my child that had tipped condiments all over the floor, believe me they would have been cleaning it up or else having a very sore smacked arse!