Writing Prompts: Disciplining Children

For this prompt, I wish to draw inspiration from a post over at The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. This is nothing new; Bruce has some great material to draw upon! Today, I wish to discuss the disciplining of children.

I am a parent. I am rather fortunate in that my daughter has rarely acted up, though like any child, she has had her moments. This has sometimes required a firm word, and very occasionally, a rap on the knuckles, but never a hard whack, and neither my wife or I have spanked her, slapped her, or hit her.

It is difficult to tell other parents how to manage their kids. It is not my place to tell another father how to go about telling their child off. In my field of work, I do sometimes have to admonish a particularly unruly child if they are running amuck in the showroom, where they could potentially do themselves an injury, or damage a display (or both). I hate doing that, because I feel like I’m overstepping an unspoken mark, but at work, I have a responsibility to keep both staff and customers safe, which may mean keeping them safe from themselves! Usually, I’ll ask the parents to step in and warn their child not to do whatever unreasonable act it is they’re doing, and I hope to myself that this serves as as a pointed-enough gesture to both parents and child for said behaviour to change.

I appreciate that at school, teachers need to step in and confront difficult and disruptive behaviour. Teachers need to have certain powers to keep students in check, lest you end up with anarchy. I understand that. However, I would never sign off on a stranger striking my child, and if anyone did so, I’d erupt. If you read the story on Bruce’s site, you’ll read of a mother whose employer expected her to sign off on allowing strangers to spank her son. The consequence of not accepting this led her employer to firing her. To quote from the link:

One day while while I was waiting for my son outside of his classroom, I heard the “Big Room” teacher marching all the way down from the last classroom on my left. Clip-clop, clip-clop. When she appeared, a little boy around 3 or 4 was reluctantly but dreamily walking beside her. As she got closer, I could see that her jaw was clenched in frustration.

No more than 10 minutes later, the same teacher walked past me again, headed back to her classroom. The child was sobbing. I understood the whole story now. The teacher had taken him down to “Miss P,” the day care supervisor, for a spanking.

As she marched back with a whimpering child, I heard her repeat that ominous fundamentalist phrase: “Happy heart, Joshua! Happy heart!”

She just had taken a child to get hit by a complete stranger, and he wasn’t even allowed to own his own feelings.

I find this to be awful. What is the poor boy going to learn from this? The odds are, absolutely nothing. Corporal punishment is well-documented to do emotional and psychological harm. To quote:

As a result of corporal punishment, 10,000 to 20,000 students request/need medical treatment each year. Serious injuries and long-term damage have been documented as a result of hitting or spanking. Opponents of corporal punishment argue that it promotes acceptance of physical violence and force by persons in authority. Some researchers claim that using violence to discipline children encourages them to use violence in efforts to control peers.

The idea of subjecting young children to this is unthinkable to me, and to permit strangers to do it even more so. To lose one’s job for refusing to allow this is beyond ridiculous. It is no small wonder that Mrs Lewis found herself turning away from fundamentalism, for it showed its true colours in the unreasonable expectations of her employer.

I have to also wonder, when people refer to a ‘lack of discipline’ in today’s young people, is it really discipline they refer to, or are they merely upset that younger generations continue to move further and further away from their beliefs?

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