Bagucci got me thinking about discipline. Do any of the following ring bells in your memory?
- kneeling in a corner with your eyes closed and your arms straight up in the air
- a good old knuckle to the head
- a hot slap (for talking back)
- the belt (reserved for telling lies)
I am the eldest child and a lot was expected of me. I was the example, after all, so any bad behaviour I exhibited had to be curbed so that my younger impressionable siblings didn’t follow my atrocious example. In my family you could count on my mom to deliver on her promises to discipline us for a misdeed. My dad, however, was often more merciful, and you knew if he said “when we get home you’re going to get it”, he’d conveniently forget and we’d be off the hook. My mom wasn’t a fan of telling us that we’d “get it” when we got home; she’d mete out discipline right away so she never forgot.
I think most children thinks their younger siblings received less discipline than they did. My sister definitely did, but she was an obedient, unmouthy child, and quiet as a mouse. I was less so. ;) One of my younger brothers definitely rivaled me for the amount of discipline he received (though I still don’t think he received enough). By the time my brothers arrived in the family, my parents were less creative when it came to discipline, and the boys received less variety of discipline as a result, maybe because North Americans are bigger fans of Time Outs or taking away a favourite toy or video game than some good hand-to-child contact. One thing that I appreciated (more as an adult than when I was a child) is the fact that neither parent ENJOYED meting out physical discipline, not before they administered it, and not after. My dad always made sure we knew that. No loving parent wants to cause their child pain, so their motivation was the hope that this would get through where words had not, in most cases.
While we were in Nigeria last year, we were waken up by some terrible screams (ok, I lied: they didn’t wake me up because I can sleep through anything, but my sister woke me up because the noise woke her up). The noise was truly disturbing: you’d hear some hard-to-decipher noises, then screams for mercy, someone literally begging for their life. We went to where our grandmother was sleeping, and we huddled there until the noise stopped. The next morning we found out that a boy who lives in the neighbourhood is regularly beaten by his father in the wee hours of the morning so that others in the neighbourhood can’t hear it because he (child) is apparently a thief in need of punishment. I was disturbed by the severity of the beating that must have taken place and his screams, and I’m glad I never saw the boy.
I haven’t thought much to how I will discipline my own children (why waste time on that when the father of my children is still missing in action), but they will be disciplined. In my personal experience, no method of discipline is consistently effective from the first time it’s used (though that probably depends on the “will” of the child being disciplined). I like to think I’m living proof that a message delivered with a little “emphasis” doesn’t damage a child, as long as the emphasis doesn’t turn into abuse. And I’m certainly not saying that physical discipline doesn’t hurt like heck, because it does. The whole matter is a definite point of contention though, so I’m in favour of leaving final decisions on the matter to the parents or persons charged with raising the child (and not strangers as Solomon Sydelle recounted), with the hope that any discipline decisions made by these individuals will be with a goal of making the child better, and not simply venting one’s anger. One thing I will say is that failing to raise a child in a way that will make him or her a well-adjusted, decent human being is a crime, and someone should punish parents who unleash their undisciplined children into the world for doing them a disservice.