Flannery Correspondence

May 1, 2010

Men Are From Mars: Discipline

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:24

November 12, 2009

In the good old days, loving parents corrected their children’s behavior with immediate and thorough whoopings. The grateful children smiled up through their tears of learning and thanked their benevolent, strong and generous fathers for caring so much about their moral development.

But somehow, between now and those rose-colored days of who-knows-how-long ago, two ideas ruined this utopia of corrective corporal feedback. I don’t know which happened first but (1) a few people started beating children dangerously and out of spite rather than love — and (2) a few people started making rules against the brutal mistreatment of children.

Now you can hardly frown sideways at a mischievous child without one type of person clicking their tongue and complaining about what the new psychology fad has to say about “negative feedback.” The other type shrugs and says, “Is that all, you wimp? I love my children enough to spank them like the Bible says to.” Spanking is the last permissible physical punishment available to modern parents — and even its legal status may come into question depending on the local interpretation of child abuse laws and the zeal of social services.

As fathers, it’s easy to say we love our kids when they are sweet and quiet and prematurely brilliant. But when they fight and fuss and bite and mess and kick you during diaper changes or harm their younger siblings — then, as men, the impulse is to devour the offending family member and hope for better conduct from the witnesses.

We may choose to love our offspring whether or not they provoke our rage. Then we must decide how to reinforce the good behavior and correct the bad. We want them to grow up healthy and confident rather than whiny and spoiled or timid and traumatized.

It’s not easy and it’s never free from controversy but we must man up to the challenge. The answer is probably somewhere between savage beatings and letting them walk all over you.

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