Published on January 14th, 2015 | by Richard Black0
Discipline or Masochism? Walking the Fine Line When Correcting Your Child’s Behavior
Over the past few years I’ve discovered that there’s a fine line between disciplining a child and masochism. Now before anyone gets too upset I’m not using the term “masochism” to imply that I derive pleasure by disciplining my daughter and the ensuing fallout.
That’s just gross. The very idea turns my stomach. In fact I hadn’t even thought about those implications until you brought it up. Thanks a lot you fucking perverts.
Disciplining a child in any form is about as fun as stepping on a rusty nail. The ramifications of not doing so are potentially far more dire. For most well meaning parents setting limits on a child’s behavior is essentially a matter of when and to what degree you’d like your pain. You can try to nip an undesirable behavior in the bud when it’s manageable and your four year old won’t eat dinner or later in life when she’s 14 and humping a college drop out in the bucket seat of a 1987 Trans Am.
Of course whether or not our efforts as parents have any measurable impact remains to be seen. Studies regarding proving the various influences of nature and nurture are published on a regular basis and the fact that such studies continue to be published is some indication of how well the issue has been settled. A recentish one, written by Steven Pinker in the tome How the Mind Works, concluded that personality was evenly influenced by both environment and genetics which seems like a bit of a cop out. The interesting bit however was that, with regard to environment, parents had no more than a five percent influence on their children’s behavior. The rest of our children’s environmental influences are, apparently, based on how they feel their peers perceive them.
I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a great sense of relief about my obligations as a parent in light of these statistics but the feeling didn’t last long. My father pointed out that my daughter is four and that I have more than a little control over whom (note grammar) she spends her time with (note lack of grammar). It also occurred to me that as a stay at home parent Darcy spends quite a lot of time around me which, historically, hasn’t been all that good for anyone and will most likely be a mixed blessing for my daughter at best.
And so it was with these thoughts that I turned off the battery, removed the alligator clips from my nipples and reflected upon how to best influence my daughter for the better. I’m kidding of course I don’t spend the few precious moments I have to myself hooked up to a set of alligator clips. I smoke opium.
Now where was I?
Ohh yes. Darcy and I spend quite a bit of time together and I’ve come to realize that, on occasion, she’s much brighter than me. No one wants to have a child with the IQ of a retarded squirrel but raising smart offspring has its complications. To make matters worse small children also have the ability to zone in on any particular want like a laser and focus on nothing else for hours and sometimes days at a stretch.
“Daddy I want a treat,” is one of Darcy’s favorite requests, or more correctly, demands these days. Instead of a “Hi Daddy” I get a demand for treats. It’s the first thing she says when I pick her up from school, the last thing I hear before she goes to bed and a statement I hear approximately 458 times in between.
I’ve tried reasoning with her. I’ve threatened “time outs”. I’ve even followed through my with my threats for “time outs” but I’ve found no consequence I can impose that will convey to Darcy that she doesn’t get to eat a Hershey’s kiss every time she completes an activity i.e came home from school, had two bites of dinner, didn’t eat her dinner altogether or sat through nine episodes of “The Walking Dead”.
No matter what approach I take, no matter how upset I get, no matter how remorseful my daughter may seem when I finally blow up and scream “you can’t have a friggin piece of chocolate” I know that my daughter will ask me the very same question inside a half an hour and probably within 15 minutes.
Today I took a different approach.
“Daddy I want a treat,” Darcy said for the 89th time in as many seconds when I picked her up from school.
“No I want a treat,” I responded prompting Darcy to give me a strange look and then giggle. It became a game for a few minutes which really seemed like an hour or two. I want a treat! No I want a treat! Before my daughter told me I was not being nice.
“It’s also not nice for you to keep asking for a treat when I’ve told you that you can’t have one.” I said which, to give Darcy some credit, caused her to pause.
“Can I have a treat?” she asked thirty seconds later.
“But I waaaant a treeeeat,” she whined.
“And I waaaannnnnt a full head of hair.”
“Can I have a treat?”
I responded by asking, as I had earlier, if I could have a treat and we bounced back and forth again for the rest of the drive which probably took about ten minutes but felt more like approximately forever.
It takes a lot of will to to match wits with a four year on her turf but no one said parenting was easy. Three minutes in my will began to flag. Five minutes later I noted with some small amount of satisfaction that my daughter’s complexion resembled mine in that both of us looked like a beet about to have a stroke.
By the time we arrived home Darcy was in tears, I was exhausted and giving serious thought to devoting my life to alcohol. I fixed her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as a peace offering and just before she conked out on the couch my daughter looked at me with the most innocent, most sincere set of big brown eyes I have ever seen.
“Daddy,” she said softly, “can I ask you something?”
“Of course you can sweetie,” I said, “you can always ask me anything.”
“Can I have a treat?”