Thank you for your remarks and insight. It is encouraging to hear the voice of a father who is actively parenting his children. I want to take the opportunity to reply to your thread because I think it raises a couple of interesting and thought provoking concepts.
First, I’d like to address your concluding remarks on the effectiveness of embarrassment as punishment, and the long and far reaching effects it has on children, and adults. I’m going to site a few articles and tie together a couple thoughts on the subject; I welcome responses.
Please review the following posts/articles:
Corporal Punishment, Psychological Effects
Obtaining Obedience at What Cost
The Long Fingers that Dig Deep
“Children should not be the scapegoats of adults’ painful experiences. The claim that mild punishments (slaps or smacks) have no detrimental effects is still widespread because we got this message very early from our parents who had taken it over from their own parents. This conviction helped the child to minimize his suffering and to endure it. Unfortunately, the main damage it causes is precisely our numbness as well as the lack of sensitivity for our children’s pain. The result of the broad dissemination of this damage is that each successive generation is subjected to the tragic effects of seemingly harmless “correction”. Many parents still think: What didn’t hurt me can’t hurt my child. They don’t realize that their conclusion is wrong because they never challenged their assumption.” S O U R C E
Next, I’d like to draw a connection for some of you that perhaps you’ve not yet considered. The act of punishing our children’s deeds by use of spanking, grounding, or time out is something that doesn’t make sense to me because the consequence has nothing to do with the offense. Let me paint a picture for you that addresses this concept from one angle.
Our judicial system is full of people who have done something that the community views as wrong. They’re stuck in a cell, and our taxes basically keep them out of our way because of what they have done. Most of them will never have to confront the victim of their wrong doing, nor will they be expected to make reparation. And if reparation is ordered it is very unlikely it will have any direct correlation to the actual crime they committed, and even less chance that the offender will be expected to make any personal reparation to their victim. This lack of expectation of one to take personal responsibility has a lot to do with a given individual’s propensity to continue to commit crimes throughout his or her life.
There is a movement among some judicial systems to pave a path of justice and reparation, instead of simply trapping the offender. In Colorado, there is a group called Restorative Justice and their goal is to cause offenders to take personal responsibility, make personal reparation, and ultimately reintegrate into the community a whole person who is then capable of not continuing in their ways of difficulty because they wholly understand what harm it does. In the few cases where the individual is unable to rehabilitate and reintegrate satisfactorily, the typical judicial recourses are employed and basically, the system gives up on them.
My contention is that spanking, grounding, and other forms of punishment (this is not discipline, these are punishments) are ineffective in the long run because they are in essence no better than sticking the offender in a box and saying, “You did something bad, now sit here and think about it until the judge thinks you’ve thought long enough.” And how will that judge know? Recommendations from those who control this individual’s every move. They see how the individual responds and chooses to behave in this controlled environment with instant psychological and sometimes physical consequences that sometimes fit their actions. Further, the judge asks the person what he’s been thinking about while stuck in this box and told to think, which if he had done in the first place, he wouldn’t have been stuck in the box in the first place… so if he’d been able to figure things out properly on his own then, or after his incarceration, we wouldn’t have repeat offenders.
This, alas, is not how it works most of the time. In my opinion, we treat offenders much in the same way parents who use certain forms of punishment do. Natural consequences don’t apply, authority derived and determined punishments are instead delivered. And the only connection the offender is allowed to conclude is the authority figure decided I did something wrong, so they’re going to punish me in a way that satisfies them, but doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whatever I did, oh and it will humiliate me, which is the only thing I will remember (unless there is physical pain), but chances are I’ll forget what that humiliation was really for… just that on that day, I lost another piece of me and my self-confidence.
That said, I want to just throw out a couple of alternative ideas regarding the two incidents you described where you felt it appropriate to spank your son:
For the offense of playing with fireworks after having been warned against it, AND after (your son) having been informed of the reasons for the warning (i.e., dangers to self, to others, to property – not just because mom/dad said so), I submit the child be taken for a session of volunteering at the Burn Unit at Children’s hospital. Such an event will offer the offending child a very real world and tangible experience to call upon when decided whether to involve himself with the play of fireworks in the future. And if you can get the other child’s parents to agree, have them both go at least twice. (Note: Discussing the situation with the adult coordinators in advance of arriving to volunteer, and in the absence of your child, will allow you to censor appropriately for your child’s age and sensabilities.)
This sort of experience gives the kids the chance to make the very real connection what fire and like items can do to a human child, and they won’t forget what they learn. They will have the opportunity to turn the experience into good for the community as well. Instead of humiliation they will gain wisdom and a sense of pride for their contribution and new found knowledge. This is something useful for your future and theirs, and in ways that may not be immediately obvious.
Responding with this sort of discpline allows you, the parent, to gain the same end result you’re after – the kids stop being careless with really dangerous stuff. They, the children, grow in maturity, wisdom, compassion, and self control, instead of learning how to play the game better and just not get caught the next time.
It is then the continued responsibility of the parent to enforce the experience by discussing any concerns or thoughts the child might have, perhaps facilitating a friendship between your child and one that has suffered a burn (if there is a need for an ongoing reminder of real world consequences).
I realize this sounds like a ton of work and time commitment for the parent, and how much easier would it be to get your way by spanking once, and assuming the humiliation will sit long enough that they’ll not commit the same offense ever again. But you and I both know that the moment your son is old enough to stare that humiliation in the face and turn it back on you in rebellion, and the moment he’s old enough to figure out how to control his time and resources (I wager, about 14 years of age), he will again do exactly what you have insisted he not. He will do it because of his curiosity that has been intensified by it being put off limits, and because he is strong enough to reject the humiliation you put on him. He may also be reluctant every year the country uses fireworks as a celebration, and may not understand why he has these feelings, but you will know that they stem from the humiliation that his mind unconsciously attaches to the objects.
Alternately, he will never challenge you and will follow in blind obedience, and our world will have another drone.
Forgive me for my bluntness, but if you’ve read any of my posts, you’re probably well aware of it already.
Concerning the spray paint incident… My gut reaction is that your son is acting in a pattern and if it were me, I’d be trying very hard to figure out what was behind/beneath his actions (say, perhaps any/all of the wrong doings over the last 5 years) and address the source before I did anything else (literally, before dinner, before tomorrow, whatever). However, as a response to the incident, instead of spanking him and telling him that I, the authority figure, disapproved of his choices, I’d again allow real world consequences to prevail, and real world lessons to be learned.
In the event that my child made the decision to be so disrespectful of another’s property, I would begin by asking him just that, “Why do you think it is you don’t have more respect for these people, and the things they have that matter to them?” Then, I would listen to his response. Very intently. I would continue to ask him questions that encouraged his thoughts and feelings, and at each response I would not respond with my own, but acknowledge his words and remember well what he is communicating (and what isn’t successfully being transmitted, but is there nonetheless).
Then, I would explain to my child that he must make reparation for the damage he chose to cause. Further, I would plainly inform my child, in the presence of the other child, that they have both made decisions that are now going to prevent them from spending unsupervised time together for the forseeable future. Then, I would inform him that his reparation would incude him either cleaning the marks off the house himself, or if that was not possible, he would join the professional and do whatever the professional would have him do to repair the damage. If new siding or something similar were necessary, he would offer whatever money he had to pay for it. He and I would take our time to help the home owner obtain whatever supplies they might need, and do any of the work they’d allow us to do to repair (us, yes us, meaning my offending child and me, the parent ultimately responsible). If my son’s funds were insufficient and mine had to be tapped, my son would be in my debt and he would commence working whatever was necessary to gain the real money necessary to repay me.
My son would be as present as the owners would allow, and if they wouldn’t allow it, he’d be at the next Habitat for Humanity opportunity, or something similar, doing the same physical work related to building/caring for a house. AND it would be his hands that would hurt because of a splinter, having to grip a hammer for a long time, or whatever other discomfort just comes along with that sort of work (hot sun, standing for a long time, carrying heavy stuff back and forth, tending to the needs of the grown ups who can do what he cannot, etc).
Additionally, for the second part of his offense, his room would be left open for strangers to come visit during a garage sale (this would be a surprise to him). If there were many valuable items that would cost me, I would prearrange a visit from some neighbors that he didn’t know, and ask them to take what they wish from a selection of items that will get the point across to him, but not hurt my pocket. And no, I would not then replace the items out of my own pocket.
Finally, I would address what was behind his choice of words. What satisfaction did he gain from the selection of words he chose? Does he perhaps harbor some resentment toward these people?? Has he made some sort of judgement of them and felt the need to passively tell them? Were these words specifically “taboo” according to his parents, and therefore if he managed to not get caught, would the resulting level of satisfaction and passive statement made be worth the risk?
When our children act out, whatever their age, we must take a moment to look inward. Chances are, there is something there we could improve, change, or cease that would make a difference in our children. However, the younger they are when we take this responsibility and awareness upon ourselves, the better chance for success and well developed children in their older years.
– I was three years old when my mother first spanked me, and I lost a considerable amount of respect for her intelligence and compassion that day. I had lied about taking some stickers off the refrigerator, and as a result I was forced to endure the humiliation of being bent over her knee. I complied, I complained, and I learned that next time either lie better or don’t get caught. Did I mention I was three?
The kicker was that I didn’t know ahead of taking the stickers that it would matter, but when my mom confronted me I sensed that she thought what I had done was wrong, so I responded because I didn’t want to feel her disapproval. Even though I hadn’t intentionally disobeyed an order or expectation, I knew I would suffer her disapproval anyway if I fessed up. So, my tiny 3 years of experience prevailed and in my effort to not have her disapprove of something I had done with no malicious or rebellious intent, I figured my best option was to pretend I didn’t know what she was talking about thereby preventing her disapproval of ME specifically. I hoped that she would just be sad that the stickers weren’t there anymore and leave it at that… and maybe give me a chance to return them since it had become apparent it mattered to her.
No such luck. She cornered me, I lied, she countered, I gave in, she spanked me, I was humiliated, she tried to reconcile, I rejected her, she left me alone, I drew my own conclusions and you know what, I don’t give a hoot about stickers anymore – they annoy me. Now, my two year old loves them and sticks them everywhere! My mother uses them as a reward and gift for her grand daughter. I think it’s great because it’s an activity they mutually enjoy and share untarnished between the two of them. But you will never find a single sticker or even a magnet that resembles one on my fridge, as it would serve as a reminder of a dark and brooding feeling inside of me that turned to resentment toward my mother. A small amount of resentment, perhaps, but there just the same.
That was the one and only time my mother ever spanked me. Maybe she was wiser than I thought she was.
3. a field of study
4. training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character