Dare We Discipline?

The Sports Mama over at You Don't Have to Like Me has tagged me with this meme. It's deep. My first thought was "darn you for involving me in this." (And I mean that in the most loving way, really.) It's just such a personal issue, and in a politically correct world one just doesn't know what one can say or do, even with their own children. We're talking about discipline. As in disciplining the children.

My children have challenged me in so many ways over the years. It's the public incidences that I remember most vividly. Like the time my daughter was seriously misbehaving and I trotted her into the mall's nearest restroom to give her a good talking to. And a firm shouler squeeze just to let her know that she was to look at me and not the lady in hot pink polka dots wagging her fanny as she was washing her hands at the sink. Thankfully my point got across to her and she saw the error of her ways. In fact, she was so remorseful that she cried real tears. We calmly strode out of the ladies facilities, hand in hand, ready to continue shopping. An elderly lady looked at her tear stained face, then at me, and said something that I don't remember. I do, however, remember that it was a direct inference that I had no business to lay a hand on my child in the fashion that I obviously did to reduce the little dear to the state she was in. I was just furious over this, although through nothing short of a Herculean effort I managed to keep my mouth closed and keep walking. What right did she have to tell me how to discipline my own children? It's not like she heard screaming, or saw red marks. That I could understand.

And there was my son, who still to this day gets The Attitude when he's ticked off. Shopping ticks him off. He's learned to deal with shopping in a very mature way and I'm ever so proud of him for this, but there were years when this wasn't the case. He was old enough to know better, and would still grump, whine, try to run off... Being in public, I am ever so conscious of those around me after the mall incident. I would talk to him before going into the store and line out my expectations. I threatened to take him to the van to administer whatever punishment I felt was needed, then continue shopping as part of his punishment. Some days this worked and some it didn't. Although I would always try another method first. I would lay my hand over his and apply pressure to get his attention (and let him know that I meant business), then give him the eye. (Anything to avoid leaving a cart full of stuff, and drag several kids out and back into the store.) But my son pulled The Attitude on me when I'd touch him. He'd scream quite loudly "ouch, ouch, you hurt me! My hand! My hand!" Yeh. If that didn't get glares from the crowd my name isn't Mom.

So how do we discipline our children? What's right and what's wrong? Is there an industry standard for this kind of thing? Sadly, once you figure out parenting with your first and you think you're next thing to a pro at this, your second comes along and the rules all change. And it's different with each and every one of them. Hey, nobody ever said this was an easy job. So, as parents, we're always learning. (You hear that, kids? Never stop learning!) We've tried just about everything a parent can. We've used the rod, we've used time outs, we've had heart-to-hearts, we've taken toys and privileges. And yet I cannot tell you that any one method works better than any other method. Here is what we have found out, though.

It all depends on the child you're talking to at the moment, the mood of the child, the situation at hand, and your surroundings at present.

See all the factors that you've gotta consider? Because each child reacts differently to discipline, some need paddled and others only need gently spoken to. But their mood factors into this. Are they tired? Then reasoning is usually out of the question. So is discipline, and all you can do is get that child to bed as quickly as you can before you end up killing him. (Just kidding.) And each situation is different as well. I would not treat disrespectful backtalk the same way I would, say, refusing to eat their peas. And of course you can deal with insubordination much more effectively at home than you can in public.

And yet I have not really answered the question. But I don't really think there is an answer. Have we spanked our children? Yes. Do we wish we hadn't? Sometimes. Will we continue to do so? When the need arises. But they get to an age where this is not appropriate anymore. And I think the majority of our children are there. In fact, all of our children are there. The older 3 are just a bit old to be bent over the knee, and Micah is a whole new ballgame going on. We never know if he understands what we're asking of him or if he's simply ignoring us. We cannot discipline for disobedience if he truly doesn't understand. And we fear we're raising a little monster because we have suspicions that he knows and is incredibly good at keeping us in the dark. (That no-speech thing is a real drag.)

I think the most effective form of discipline is simply being a parent. I know too many people lack this quality, but it simply involves being the bigger person and making the child realize that there are boundaries and rules that aren't negotiable. And this has to happen every single hour of every single day. Being consistent with your boundaries, and rienforcing them is what it's all about. And whatever works for your family is the best form of discpline there is.

Miche does not spare the rod.

Jo-N wants to be her children's best friend.

Tot's Mom spares the rod and believes in patience.

Huckdoll spares the rod and believes there are more effective yet gentle ways to discipline than spanking.

Kelly at Ordinary Art has a three-step approach that does not always work but leaves tiny tushes mark free.

OhMommy has spanked and never will again.

Amy spanks when necessary.

The Sports Mama found it depended on the individual child and the situation.

Karen thinks that each situation needs dealt with differently.

I would love to hear what Deb over at Three Weddings has to say about discipline.

And I'd hang equally on every word that Maria says over at Mommy of Four.

I'd love Melissa's take at Hope for the Hopeless.

And for my last, Kellan at On The Upside. I very much respect her opinions. (Okay, so I cheated, what are you going to do about it?!)


1. Go to your blog.

2. Post about the topic.

3. Give me the hot, hard, and heavy linky love

4. Copy the last paragraph above and add your name and discipline style.

5. Post that paragraph onto your blog, including links. (Yeah, you will want to sharpen a pencil and stab it in your eye at this point. But, isn't that half the fun.)

6. Go to the five people you have tagged and leave them a comment to know they are now, it.

7. Sit back and let the comments roll in.


Burgh Baby's Mom said...

Thanks for the reminder that I still need to do this one. I'm pretty much in the same place as you, except that with one kid I only have to tailor things to her personality.

It drives me crazy when strangers make snide remarks about discipline. If there was a one-size-fits all answer to it, then parenting would be a breeze. Since there's not, I think you really have to know a kid to know what the right course of action is in a given situation. There's a line that should never be crossed, but that's probably the only steadfast rule.

Madame Queen said...

Oh, I'm so glad you didn't tag me for this one because I'm not sure I could have said it any better than you did.

This is one of the things we struggle with -- how do you tell your children "Don't hit" and then give them a spanking for something else down the road? Yet we HAVE spanked. Sometimes a swat on the bottom is appropriate.

And the other hard thing, which you mentioned, is that a stern word will reduce Bubba to tears but Punkin just laughs right in your face. Nobody ever told me that my children would be two completely different people!! ;)

Melissa said...

O man, I've been advoiding this topic like the plague ;)

I have to say there isn't to much else I can add to what you had to say. But I'll give it a try later today.

Flea said...

You did this very well. Individual children are so different! And how can that be, coming from the same set of parents every time?

One of my frustrations is children who do what your son did and adults like the woman responding to your daughter. Kids know which buttons to push, which one of us moms respond to peer pressure (I do). It seems nearly every time I go out there's some child screaming that they're being killed while strangers give the evil eye and parents blush scarlet while trying to hush the child. That kid usually knows exactly what they're doing and hasn't had more than a stern whisper or a shoulder squeeze. Okay, and I've seen a parent or two who're mean - but you can usually read the situation if you wait and watch.

My point is, we parents get a really bad rap for being evil and abusive (and some parents most definitely are), but kids are people too. Fully capable of sizing up situations. Selfish and willing to use whatever they can to get what they want.

This is the fun of parenting. Recognizing that our kids are people. Loving and teaching them. Knowing what to let them get away with. Not being selfish ourselves. Being the grown ups and letting them be kids.

The Sports Mama said...

Thank you for taking the challenge. You did a marvelous job! I was really interested to see how you handle this, because you have more kids than me (hehehe), and with Michah you can understand the necessity for unique approaches.

Thanks again. I know this is a difficult subject to post about. I'm finding it funny that everyone who's done it has at some point in their post made reference to the fact that they've said a lot but not really answered the question yet... lol

Cecily R said...

Well said, Karen! My kids are wildly different, so my discipline varies with the situation and the kid we're talking about. For me the better question is what do I do when I'm frantic and irrational versus when I am calm and smart. Then you'd get two different answers and I would really have to take stock of myself.

For the moment, though, Gracie and I are snuggling on the couch watching Christmas specials so I don't want to take stock. Not now.

But thanks for putting your thoughts in a wonderfully written, wonderfully stated post. :)

Kellan said...

Someone tagged me for this one already and I still would like to do it - I will mention that you also tagged me when I do it.

I pretty much agree with all you said and I think that it depends on each child as to how you go about diciplining them. I will get to this tag - thanks so much for thinking of me - I too love to hear your point of view on things. See you soon. Kellan

luckysevn said...

Well said! I'm suddenly feeling somewhat strangely relieved that my son is still at the stage where I can tell him, "NO!" and then simply ignore the tantrum that follows... I still get the understanding looks of, "yeah, Terrible Two's," at this point. Not that it make is any easier! And I have a feeling that I won't hesitate to swat his little toosh at some point in the future should the situation call for it... Hey - I had my toosh swatted and it hasn't seemed to ruin my life/self-esteem/relationship with my parents.

Thanks for stopping over!

KIDZMAMA said...

Great post Karen. This was one of the toughest memes to put into words. But you're right, each kid is different and must be dealt with differently.

In our house I'm constantly saying, "do you want someone to do that to you?". One kid will well up in tears, the other will shrug it off.

As parents we can't stop trying to make our kids the best they can be.

Maria said...

I actually enjoyed doing this one. Boy did it take me a long time. I hope I answered it the way you meant for me to!

Jennifer said...

I think you have said it best - each situation needs to be dealt with differently. With each child, I have realized more and more how true that is. I have had a run in though with a little old nosey lady at walmart when I was pregnant with Mickey. (so I just had two - ages 4 and 6). I was dealing with Andre, who was 6 at the time, and she jumped all over me, and as I said I was pregnant - 8 months I do believe, and I gave her what for too. I sort of feel bad about it, but not really because I wasn't hurting the child at all, so she could have kept her mouth shut, LOL.

Deb in OPKS said...

I will respond to this in my blog, but it has been a long hard day and I don't have the energy for it now. Thanks for including me and I hope to address the issue soon, when my brain is more functional. Peanut is sleeping now and I plan on getting some sleep too.