“In other words, you are training your child as if she were a puppy, and doing it in a fashion that would get you in trouble with animal cruelty laws.”
I made the mistake a few days ago of commenting on someone’s blog about disciplining children. One of the responses I received is above. And here’s another one:
“Hitting is hitting, isn’t it? Why is it ok for me to hit my child for hitting his brother but not ok for him to hit his brother?”
Apparently my views are unpopular.
But aren’t all views unpopular when it comes to this matter of discipline in the family? It’s a difficult subject to breach, because everyone’s got an opinion. We’ve all been on the receiving end of some type of discipline — and all who are parents have been on the giving end. Christie and I are currently trying to work all of this out. Here are the horrible things I said that made me such a very unpopular monster of a father:
“growing up i was spanked by my parents, and am glad that i was. it helped me to understand right and wrong — and that there were consequences to these actions. i was not beaten severely or injured, but it hurt. and i began to associate two things with pain: 1) direct disobedience toward my parents or other authority figures and 2) evil and sin (eg. lying, cheating, forging my mom’s signature on a report card in elementary school).
i don’t think spanking is the only way to go; i personally feel consistency is much more important than is the form of discipline. i have a 16-month old daughter, and she understands that some things are wrong for her to do. i pop the top of her hand with my palm if she does those things which she knows she shouldn’t. i feel i’m teaching her lessons that will benefit her greatly in the future.”
I don’t think that’s so bad. I don’t beat my daughter; I give her hand a little pop. And right now those pops are reserved almost only for those things which are dangerous (ovens, cleaning supplies, etc). But I’m certainly open to better parenting methods. And if what I’m doing won’t work — or will cause problems for my daughter — I certainly want to stop doing it and get with another program. One kind man offered me some insight:
“I will note that you have a completely wrong idea regarding the judgment capacity and impulse control ability of a 16 month old. You are not accomplishing anything beneficial and if you are relying on behavior control vs. controlling her environment, are perhaps adding unnecessary risk.”
Apparently he also wrote me up in his little book of bad parents. And probably put some checks next to my name.
But maybe he has a point. Have I misjudged my 16-month old’s ability to understand what she’s not to do? Is she literally incapable of refraining from doing such things? I want to know.
Because it seems to me to be working. Baylor very rarely now touches electrical outlets, the oven, cleaning supplies, and other dangerous things. She does occasionally play in toilet water, and she often places her toys in Christie’s drink glasses (but she doesn’t get her hand popped for those things). I want to protect her from some of those dangerous things which we can’t easily remove from her reach. [It’s difficult to baby-proof a house in Africa — or anything in Africa for that matter.*]
One of the difficulties with these conversations, though, is that nearly everyone’s advice is from anecdotal evidence only. “This happened to me…” or “Well, my experiences are…” And that’s fine; we’ve all got our opinions and are certainly entitled to them. But I’m struggling to know if there’s some truth out there. What do we actually know?
So… offer some advice if you will. Share your experiences — anecdotal as they may be. How do you deal with discipline? How early did you start with your children? What works and what doesn’t? [Those of you with gray hair are doubly expected to answer.] And I’ll thank all of you in advance for your help.
* I can’t tell you how many times Baylor’s picked up animal poop here. Dog poop we deal with in the U.S. But she’s wanting to play with cow poop, chicken poop, goat poop… all kinds of poop. It’s like she’s studying it. The other day she was chasing a goat, and it was pooping with every step. There was Baylor running behind hands out as if she was trying to catch it. Even in our house we have to deal with the poop of lizards. And of course when we run out of water, we can’t flush our toilets… It’s a hot mess, I tell ya’.