Published on April 10, 2007 By greywar In Current Events

You don’t have to beat your kids, but you do have to do something


Sierra Vista Safeway Register 3

21:30 08 April, 2007


            “Mommy, buy this!” as a child of 8 or 9 years grabs a candy bar and puts it with Mom’s groceries.


            “No, put that back or you’ll get in trouble!” says Mom immediately returning to her conversation with her friend who also has a child present of roughly the same age.


     The first child looks at her for about 1/10th of a second, determines that she won’t do a thing to him and leaves the candy on the belt. The second child sees this and promptly does the exact same thing: ”Mommy, buy this!” grabs and puts candy into his Mom’s basket. He gets the same verbal warning followed by the same lack of follow-up.


     End result? Both kids got their candy and learned that both of their Mothers are irrelevant. They followed this up with an accelerating array of bad behaviors which grew in scope and volume for the next 5 minutes. By the time both moms were leaving the store they had drawn the disgusted stares of most of the rest of the customers and clerks as their 2 kids were orbiting them, screaming, bumping into other people, and knocking impulse items from racks and displays. Neither Mom did a thing. Nice… I bet that will work out really well for all involved.


     Of course this is far from being an uncommon occurrence today or even 20 years ago whether in Sierra Vista, Az or back home in Lincoln, MN when my nieces and nephews came to visit. Just seeing the to boys misbehaving brought me right back to the only one of my sister’s kids that I actually like: Bomber.


      Bomber is not his given name naturally (that would be Christopher), but it is the name that he earned by being loud, obnoxious, and misbehaving from the moment he woke up (like a Bomb) and continues to use to this day even when corresponding. He signed his latest card to me with “Bomber” written at the bottom using his personal and beautiful style of penmanship (truly it is a thing of calligraphic art). Where did this latest missive originate from? Prison.


     Chris has spent most of his adult life in prison and that trend is unlikely to ever change. He knows it and I know it. He knows why too. He has absolutely no respect for authority figures. None at all.


     He and I discussed this at some length when I came back after 4 years in Korea. On the way down to Ft. Hood I stopped at his home in Minneapolis where he lived with his girlfriend and their child. His girlfriend had stayed with him throughout his recent incarceration for dealing Methamphetamines and they were going to try and make a go of it in the “straight life” (Chris was and is extensively involved with gang activity).


     “You remember how my mom never did anything to me?” he asked over a beer.


     “Are you fucking kidding me? I hated it every time you guys would come and visit! It was like living with animals. Animals on drugs more like.”


      “Yeah, I’m sorry about that man but I was just a kid. Anyways, I always thought that no one would ever do anything to me no matter what as long as I pushed ‘em around. Mom never did anything, the school never did anything, the cops always just made mom come get me until I was 18… I thought it would go on forever.”


      In point of fact it went on for a long time. Chris lived the “Thug life” and lived it pretty well for a couple of years. He didn’t finish high school and was selling drugs full-time before he was 17. This ended up giving him a good apartment, lots of girls, and many nice vehicles. Cash flowed and he had lots of “friends”.


      It didn’t last forever though and once he started using Meth in addition to selling it the end came swiftly. He was caught with huge amounts of it in his truck and went to prison. He opted for one of Minnesota’s many progressive rehab programs along with a “boot camp” that shaved more than a year off of his first prison term.


     Less than 18 months after release he was busted again. Frankly by this point I stopped paying the situation much attention because it pained me to see his life being wasted. It still does. I need to write the guy in prison but I put it off every day because it makes me angry.


     I am angry with Chris because as an adult he had choices and chose his lifestyle. I am just as angry with my sister because I knew Chris would end up in prison when I was about 10 or 11. It was obvious to anyone who saw her children that they were largely ruined by her utter refusal to discipline any of them. Her life was all about her and the kids only distracted her from that.


     By the time she had matured to some degree it was too late. Her oldest daughter is basically “shell-shocked” from trying to be the parent to her 2 younger siblings since she was old enough to know that Mom wouldn’t do it. Bomber is in prison and my youngest niece had her first child at 14 and is heavily into drugs.


      The real irony? My sister works in a re-hab clinic.


     Well done sis. I sure hope the loser biker was worth ignoring your kids for 20 years.


      The sidebar for this would be that before I had a daughter I was convinced that I would not be a spanking parent. My mom didn’t spank me and she forbade my father from doing so either. The difference between my mother and me or my sister is that mom is and educator and has about 8 million ways to get and hold the attention of even a toddler. It is a gift that I do not possess.


      Let me make this clear for the hard of thinking: I know you do not have to spank your kids to discipline them. I am just not good enough to risk not using spanking as a tool. Your mileage may vary.


     When our daughter arrived it became apparent that as a toddler we were not capable of making her understand why she shouldn’t do things by any other means than a tap on the butt. The tap got the point through immediately and consistently. So we became spanking parents for a few years.


     Strangely after a few years the spanking had the strange effect of making spanking unnecessary. She became conditioned to the tone of voice we would use prior to a spanking and immediately stop what she was doing and look at us. Then we would explain why she shouldn’t. The explanations were accepted because the consequences of disregarding them had been demonstrated before and were applied consistently.


      Any misgivings we might have had about how we were doing as parents were blown away when we became friends with Stan and Tracy. They had 2 older boys and used the same discipline system that my sister did: none. They would threaten and yell and ultimately do nothing. Their kids were horrible.


     At age 8 they were still spreading newspaper under the kids chairs because they hadn’t even learned to eat without slopping food everywhere. The boys openly defied their parents and putting them to bed was a 4 hour ordeal every night that the kids always won until they met us.


      I had absolutely no problem spanking their kids too. Stan not only allowed this but encouraged it as it actually would restore peace to their house while we were there. Their kids adored us because they were dying for some sort of order and structure in their life. Stan and Tracy invited us over more and more as time went on to socialize but more importantly: to put their children to bed for them.


      I don’t know whatever became of Stan and Tracy’s kids but I doubt that it was good. While Stan and Tracy liked the effect we had on their children they never showed the slightest sign of doing any of it themselves. I could be wrong but I fear that I am not.


      If your control of your children doesn’t even extend to eating or bedtime it is unlikely that those kids will ever be able to succeed at anything to include staying out of prison.


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on Apr 10, 2007
This is sad, greywar.

I have found that one of the best discipline tools has nothing to do with punishment at all.

The more actual, attentive time I spend with my children, the more they respect what I have to say. There's a connection or a bond there where they care about obeying me because they see how invested I am in them and they want to please me.

Part of my problem with spanking is that I see many parents use it it as a sloppy, inconsistent form of personal anger therapy. They will do like the parents in your grocery store half the time and the other half they'll smack the kid and make him squeal. The kid doesn't know what the fuck to think and he certainly doesn't respect his parents or trust them to guide him. He just knows that if he's good at it or wears his parents down properly, he's going to get away with whatever he wants.

Involvement and personal attention are more important than anything, I think. Dr. Sears says a child who feels right, acts right, and I believe that and I believe it begins with making a child feel valued through daily interaction.

Nowadays, though, we're really big on telling parents that they need their own time. The thing is we're overcompensating for the "burden" of parenthood by rewarding ourselves with so much personal time for ourselves that our children are being ignored (like in your example).

The other thing you mentioned (empty threats and yelling) I think is also a big problem with many parents (and as you mentioned, spanking does not have to be the fulfillment of a threat...there are other ways to discipline that show that a parent is sincere and resolute in their rules for their children). Consistency is so important.

My kids are still young, so I could be way off, but I'll tell you this: they don't defy me, they don't strike me, they don't talk back to me. They may act like little monkeys at times and beat the snot out of each other every now and again, but they treat me with respect and if I tell them "no candybar" they wouldn't DARE put a candybar up on the belt.

If I could figure out how to get them to stop pestering each other so much, I'd feel like my parenting was spot-on.

Sorry to write a novel. Interesting article. I don't think I've ever read anything from you that was anything less than insightful even if you're the anti-ray-of-sunshine.

on Apr 10, 2007
If I could figure out how to get them to stop pestering each other so much, I'd feel like my parenting was spot-on.

I think your paranting IS spot on, Tex. If your kids didn't pester each other it would mean they didn't care about each other. it's the most natural thing in the world -testing boundaries and all that. One day when the chips are down they'll be there for each other when you can't be.

Trust me on this...
on Apr 10, 2007

I have found that one of the best discipline tools has nothing to do with punishment at all.

The more actual, attentive time I spend with my children, the more they respect what I have to say.

I agree although I think more important later on in the toddler years rather than earlier when the kid's own willfullness leads them to actively seek contests with their parents to see where the boundary is.

you're the anti-ray-of-sunshine

hmm I never considered thatbut you are spot-on. I tend not to write down things that are happy or that go well. I will try and work on it.

on Apr 10, 2007
What is it about sisters?  My nieces are almost as bad - why?  Same reason.  My sister loves them to death - and disciplines them none.  And they are wastes.  I love my sisters, but not my nieces.  I dont like the way they abuse her and take advantage of her.
on Apr 10, 2007

For full disclosure my sister is actually a step-sister (one of 2) who is considerably older than me. My oldest niece is actually a couple years odler than I am. Bomber a few years younger.

Their own father may have gone too heavy on discipline during their childhoods but it is hard to know as the man rarely said anything to anyone. I recall spending 14-16 hour days with him and hearing less than 4 or 5 sentences uttered. None of that excuses my sisters failures with her kids though.

on Apr 10, 2007
I'd never let my kids do crap like that...I can whip them into shape using mind games...however, it might be a challenge since logic is lost on toddlers. Oh well, if I ever do spank a kid it's not going to be hard...if I really hauled off I'd probably kill it. I'd much rather have the kid listen and respect me...well...I've got quite some time before I worry about that. Not planning on kids anytime soon...hell, I don't even have a girlfriend.

on Apr 10, 2007
I agree with Shovel Tex, you're a good parent and you've found what works for your children and that's a good thing.

For Greywar, his way of disciplining is fine too, (a) it's not all out spanking to abuse his child. and ( he reinforces what he does with explanation.

With the parents he mentioned in his article, they did nothing at all, or they made threats and still did nothing at all. Children do know the boundaries they can push and how far they can go. They learn that what mommy says, she means or they learn that mom never does what she says and it's ok to keep doing what I'm doing.

Children do need someone in their lives who will be the adult and will guide them.
on Apr 10, 2007
For Greywar, his way of disciplining is fine too, (a) it's not all out spanking to abuse his child. and ( he reinforces what he does with explanation.

It's similar to the way he deals with soldiers (less physical contact, but you kind of feel like you've been mentally spanked, at least).
on Apr 10, 2007
I hope I didn't come across as trying to restart the whole spank v. no-spank debate. I wasn't meaning to be critical of greywar or anyone really, except those parents who half-ass their kids, alternately being overly aggressive (and I don't mean just spanking) and completely ignoring their children.

on Apr 13, 2007
My rule has always been and always will be:

If you are related to me by blood and you put a fork near an outlet with indicative gestures that imply pending electrocution, I will spank you.

on Apr 14, 2007
Could it be that proportion is as important as consistency when it comes to corporeal punishment?

Well, certainly the punishment should fit the crime. If that's what you're talking about I'm in complete agreement.
on Apr 15, 2007
Nice article! Brought back memories of some of the kids I worked with last year in TX. We had one who had over 140 office referrals by the end of the school year, and spent more time suspended than not. Every adult that came in to contact with the child had been attacked physically, and most of the children. Did I mention this was Pre-K?
on Apr 15, 2007
I agree with all that you wrote here. The love from the kids of your friends had for you seems to validate what you did. You did it for their best interest and they knew it. Kids know. Kids push against their parents and that's a given. They need to know their parents are steadfast and immoveable for their benefit. They need their parents to be well....parents. If not, chaos ensues and the roles get switched around.

I have an uncle who is only 5 years older than I that started having touble with the law when he was 15. Before that it was school. He spent the better part of his early adult years until his early 40's in prison. He is now finally away from his mother (my grandmother and the cause of his problems) and is doing well in his 50's and staying clean. Never was he spanked or disciplined growing up. Screamed at....harped at, but never consistently disciplined.

I saw a mom in the store the other day pleading with her 4 year old asking her if she'd eat a certain brand of food. I had to turn away because it was too painful to watch. If she has no control with her 4 year old, what about at 14?

We've all seen stories like what you've written of here. It seems to be getting more and more prevalent with spanking as being the latest no no. More and more kids are out of control. I think that's why the Nanny Show has become so popular. While she doesn't spank, at least her discipline is logical and consistent.
on Apr 22, 2007

I think that consistency is a BIG part of it. Kids have to know the consequenses for thier actions will be consistant. If you only sometimes punish a child, even if the consequense is severe, there is still a chance they will get away with bad behavior. So the spanking doesn't work.

But I have to admit, I have several friends who have monsters for kids. But get those kids in MY house, with MY rules and they behave. Few things are more frustrating that seeing someone tell me, "oh my girls are too little to sit still or....whatever" Watch how fast they sit quietly at church when mom is gone and I am in charge.....You don't have to be mean, but you have to be just forceful enough and consistant enough that they realize life is better when they are well mannered.

Good article.
on Apr 22, 2007
If you are related to me by blood and you put a fork near an outlet with indicative gestures that imply pending electrocution, I will spank you.

I was only spanked twice in my life... and it was enough. My parents had different forms of punishment, and learned that taking my radio and books away from me was even worse for me than a spanking. Thing is, they never employed empty threats. That is the one form of punishment that will fail 100% of the time.

Great article.