Friday, October 20, 2017
I received several comments about disciplining my son. None were bad but I thought perhaps I would give my views about discipline for children. Keep in mind that I am not an expert on the subject.
I do have personal experience with being a mother and the oldest of seven children. Of course I did not discipline my brothers and sisters. They had parents for that. I watched my parents though and learned a lot. Usually we discipline our children in the same way our parents did us.
I was raised in the time that corporal punishment was considered to be the norm. Many believed that the way to make a child mind was to beat the tar out of them. Thank goodness my parents did not think that way.
I do remember being spanked three times but there may have been other times. Of the three I remember, the first time I was around 5 years old. My 3 year old brother and I snuck away from my mother planning to go to our grandparents' farm.
My mother had two other toddlers at home and no car. She managed to get word to my father at work. He drove from the town where he worked and went looking for us. He was scared out of his mind and so relieved to see us walking along the road less than a mile from where we lived. As he dragged us into the car he gave us each a couple of swats. I think they were more from fear than anything.
The second time was a misunderstanding. I had asked my parents if I could "go riding around" with some friends. I was 14 but one of the girls was 15 and her boyfriend was 16 and had a car.
Riding around meant just driving around town until we decided to go home. We all had curfews so it would not have been very late.
My parents thought it meant driving from our house at one end of town to the other end of town then turning around and coming back. Miscommunication.
The final time I disobeyed my parents and snuck out to hang out with friends. It was a stupid thing to do and I should not have been so foolish. When I returned home I was reminded how foolish.
Most of the time all my mother or father had to do was give us "that look" and we knew enough to behave ourselves.
I was also paddled in school once. A cousin of a cousin of mine lived across the street from the school. It was the middle of winter and we had a heavy snowfall the day before. We got to school well before time to go in so we wanted to play in the snow.
Snowball fights were not allowed on school grounds. Apparently someone had once put some rocks inside some of the snowballs and caused minor injuries.
Anyway we went across the street to my cousin's cousin's yard and had a proper snowball fight. We all had a good time and had expended a lot of energy. We all quietly went to our classroom when the time came.
Then someone from the principal's office came to take us to see him. It seems that a neighbor had seen the snowball fight and reported us.
We tried to explain that it was before school hours and that we were not on school property. It fell on deaf ears. We were all evil children who must be punished. Besides he had a brand new paddle he had been itching to try out.
The boys were paddled first. They each got 5 hard whacks. Some of them came out with tears in their eyes but they tried to look brave.
There were three of us girls. That fat little man was actually embarrassed at having to paddle us. But he did it anyway.
We each got 3 rather half-hearted whacks. We left his office trying really hard not to laugh out loud. The whole thing was ludicrous.
What I learned from that experience is that no one at any school was to spank my children. If you believe in corporal punishment it should be delivered with love. No one at any of the schools loved my children. I did.
That is not to say that discipline could not be administered. Children should be expected to behave. But there are methods of discipline that do not involve pain.
In the 5th grade my oldest son was in a class that was being punished because of misbehavior by several students. They were being made to stay after school and write some sentence a number of times.
My son took his blank paper to the teacher. He told her had done nothing wrong and he was not going to accept punishment. Then he left.
When he came home he told me what he had done. I had a few questions about what happened. When I was satisfied that he was not involved in the mischief I made plans to visit the teacher the next day.
When I told her why I was there she smiled. She told me that she had accepted my son's leaving with no further consequences because she knew him to be truthful. She said that if she gave him a punishment he deserved he always accepted it quietly.
Then she told me that he had caused her to re-think her policy of mass punishment. From that time forward she was going to punish only those involved and not the whole class.
My daughter had a teacher who had a strict rule about children speaking in class. If he asked a question no one was to answer unless he spoke their name. Until another student was called on that student would continue answering his questions.
One day he asked a question and called on my daughter to answer it. She did. He asked another question. My daughter waited a beat and then answered it. The teacher was furious. He had not called on her.
The teacher gave my daughter a topic and told her to write a paper of an assigned number of words to be turned in the following morning. She tried to explain that he had not called on anyone else and she thought she was supposed to answer his question. He was having none of it.
When my daughter came home she told me what happened. She was certain that he was not calling on another student when she answered the second question and she did not feel she should have to be punished. I agreed.
I sat down and wrote a note to the teacher explaining what my daughter told me. I told him I also felt the punishment was unjust and that I would not allow her to write the paper.
The following day my daughter had a note for me from the teacher. He tried to bully me into agreeing with him! And I had to agree that him maintaining discipline right? He was really forceful and overbearing.
But not so fast here. I do not bully well. I wrote him another very sweet letter. I agreed with him about discipline. It is necessary to maintain order. As long as it is fair. and his was not fair. And as far as teaching her a lesson was it not also a valuable lesson for her to be able to stand up for what she believes is right and just?
When my daughter delivered that note she said he heaved a heavy sigh and penned a quick note to me. He had asked other members of the class who also agreed that they were under the impression that my daughter was the correct person to answer his question. My daughter would not be required to write the paper.
Another son got into a fight at school. That is not a good thing. I was at work and received a call from the principal.
"I have your son in my office. He and another boy had a fight."
" Are they hurt?"
"No. I was going to spank each of them but your son told me I could not hit him? I said who said so? He said my mom."
"And he is right. You know that." I knew he knew because at the beginning of each school year I informed the principal of each school my children attended that I would back them up on any fair discipline but never was anyone to hit my children.
"Well the other boy took his whacks and is back in class. If you will not allow me to punish him I will have to exclude him from school for three days."
"I will be right there to pick him up." Now just to make it clear he was punished at home. I did not want any of my children to think that they were allowed to misbehave simply because I did not allow anyone to hit them.
So I had a few rules:
Never talk back.
When I ask you to do something do it. I would not ask a second time.
No fighting. I had trouble with that one.
Inside when the street lights come on. They still do that.
Do not steal, murder, hurt, or make someone feel bad about themselves.
My answer to why was because "I said so." I know some experts do not agree with me there. But if I said so that should be reason enough. We could discuss philosophy on it another time.
I tried to make any punishment appropriate for the age and the "crime". But usually a firm word would stop misbehavior before it began. At the same time they were kids. Kids have a knack for doing what they should not. That is why they have parents to help them learn to do what they should.