Balancing the parental scales of love and discipline, I sometimes find myself in a difficult position. The truth is, “I despise disciplining my children.” Not because I shy away from responsibility, but because the weight of making the majority of important decisions for our family and our daughters can feel overwhelming. After all, I am a parent who values guidance more than authority.
Nonetheless, there it is.
Disciplining my daughters is an area in which I have never been particularly strong. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I’ve had a string of good fortune. They have excellent behavior and rarely require any form of discipline. Not that I enjoy giving out time-outs when necessary, but there are times when it’s necessary.
My two daughters both appear to have an internalized form of shame that renders time-outs largely ineffective.
My younger daughter accidentally hit my sister-in-law on the head with a hard glass lampshade at a recent holiday party when she snatched it from a swaying floor lamp. The resounding “bonk” and subsequent scream exacerbated my daughter’s shame. Though I didn’t intend to punish her, I did suggest she apologize to her aunt. Just the thought of it made her cry herself to tears. She cried until she passed out, hiccupping through her sleep.
When I reprimand my older daughter, which happens maybe twice a year, she immediately starts crying. Despite my daughter’s outbursts of anger, putting her in her room seems like a waste of time. When she does something wrong, I have to reprimand her, and then I have to comfort her when she is upset that I reprimanded her.
Although my parents used spanking and other forms of corporal punishment on my siblings and me, I don’t think they ever felt particularly remorseful about it. Who am I to feel such a coward?
Since childhood, many things have changed. Once upon a time, corporal punishment was the norm. And now it’s legal for children to sue their parents over it. By the hands of their very own offspring!! And, I’m pretty sure I was doing worse things by the time I was 6 than my 7, and 9-year-old kids are even thinking about now. The time she drew enormous centipedes all over our new couch comes to mind. Usually I’m pretty chill, but that triggered a half-hour (non-violent) nervous breakdown from which I might tell an analyst someday.
In my opinion, it is not in the best interest of our society to impose severe punishment on our children. And while there are some who insist on hitting kids, I pray that practice goes the way of the cavemen as soon as possible.
My sister told me that reading to our children and never, ever hitting them are the two most effective ways we can help them succeed in school.
To me, that is logical.
Now, I could work up the nerve to give them time-outs when they merit them in spite of how it might make them feel.