Friday, May 23, 2008

Lay Down the Law

Swats, licks, the occasional cuff to the back of the head in a store, we’ve all experienced these I’m sure. Is this tough love? Some might think it so, but I don’t. It is merely a parenting tool to teach your children that every action has a consequence. When my son was younger, a swat to the diaper was the quickest way to get his attention. Mind you with the padding in place, it was the noise that carried the message, but he still seemed to get it.

As he grew older, swats were all but phased out. It has to be a rather severe offense to garner a “whuppin” out of me. Having said that, I still have other forms of punishment, but we’ll get to those in a moment. I’m sure every kid is different, but my son seemed to learn what offenses were worthy of a spanking and subsequently steered clear of them after the first infraction. He is ten years old and I’ve only had to spank him once in the last three years.

For minor offenses, I still use grounding, removal of favorites like TV and/or video games, but my favorite punishment is administered in the good ol’ front leaning rest position. Yep, he does push ups. From the time he was five up to nearly six, I thought I was going to have to turn him into a little clone of Sylvester Stallone, but I could tell were making great progress, so I kept at it. This is a punishment that is dished out anytime and anyplace, giving it a bit more power than the first two options. It also adds a certain psychological element that is an extra incentive not to mess up in itself. Can you imagine the horror of having to pump out twenty push ups in a crowded restaurant? My son can. He threw a fit over not getting desert even though he hardly touched his meal. The tantrum was loud enough to draw stares. Was I embarrassed a bit, but apparently not as embarrassed as he was while he was face down by the table. He never acted like that in a restaurant again.

Have you ever been in a store where a kid was throwing a hissy fit for not getting their way over something. I usually see it handled in two different ways, either the parent starts wailing on the kid, exasperating matters and just generally raising the ire of most parents around them or they let them carry on and pretend to ignore them as they finish their shopping. Neither one really appeals to me.

When my son was nearly five (he still had a couple of months if memory serves correctly) I took him to the grocery store with me to pick up a couple of things I needed for dinner that night. We walked through the sliding doors and he immediately took off at a sprint for the coin operated horse across from the registers. He wanted a ride, but I was in a hurry and explained to him as much. He wasn’t buying it. He could ride while I get the stuff. Well, there’s not a chance in hell, I’m leaving a four year old to their own devices. I promised to let him ride when we came in for our regular weekly shopping. Not good enough… the hissy fit ensued, but it was short lived.

“Give me twenty!” I told him in my sternest voice.
He stopped crying and just stared at me.
“Front leaning rest position now, or I’m taking you out to the car for swats.” (by this time he was well acquainted with what a FLRP was.)
He looked at me, looked at the crowded lines at the register, most of which were already looking at us do to his behavior and looked at the door. Sliding off the horse as if he were in pain, he dropped to the floor and starting his set. A nice elderly lady rushed up to me about that time and said, “That’s not right!”
I smiled at her and said, “Nicely done, ma’am. I almost forgot. Sound off, boy.”
She stormed away to the sound of my son counting out, “ten, eleven, twelve.”

Incidentally, my son is one of the most well behaved boys in public you’re likely to come across and has been for the better part of three years. Coincidence?

Some may say this is a form of psychological abuse. To them I say, “drop and give me twenty.” I’m quite happy with the end result. I have a wonderfully behaved ten year old boy and I don’t have to worry about my son cringing every time I raise my hand around him.

Now, if I could just figure out how to apply tough love to my elders when they ask too much of me…


  1. Oh, geez... I'd be doing good to do leg lifts in a chair! Excellent idea, James. Wish I had thought of it.

  2. excellent idea! i like it!

    i have to say my other favorite treatment for public temper tantrums was a friend of mine. when her 4 year old boy decided to lay down in the middle of the grocery store aisle and throw a fit she didn't spank him or reprimand him she gave him all the attention he wanted and then some. "hey, look! everyone come here! caleb's having a temper tantrum! it's a really good one! come see!" a little case of be careful what you ask for...

  3. O yes! Swats are the best! I hated them when I was a kid & I love them when I have a kid of my own :D
    ( see? how hate can change to love with the passage of time & it also proves that truths are relative & temporal ;) )

    The best way I found to discipline my hyper kinetic son when he was a small kid , was the " Dennis the Menace Treatment" : making him sit in a corner facing the wall for half an hour!

    I swear , my son must have been my worst enemy in my last life, & he is reborn as my son to take revenge upon my poor soul!

    I confessed to having spanked him when he threw my car keys in the gutter , just to see the horror on my face & would utterly enjoy my misery ( even when he was a toddler) after vomiting wherever & whenever ( at will) if I did not reach him within five minute of his calling me. He would keep the food in his mouth & neither chew & swallow, nor spit it out, & It would take me hours to feed him with coaxing & telling stories & Singing nursery rhymes & songs, To make him finish his meal. & then It would all be out in a two second vomit, If I 'failed to behave'.

    I got so miserable & fed up of cleaning vomits from floors & beds & practically every corner of my house; that one day I sat and Bawled so loud & for so long! That had him alarmed & after that he stopped vomiting!

    I don't know why, he always says NO to everything that I tell him to do, no matter however small the task might be, though eventually he does it anyway. He just likes to see me in consternation it seems!

    O My! It seems that reading all those articles from below up to here had made me "overflow" :D
    & I am actually whining!!!

  4. We're going through teenage angst at our house. Maybe push-ups will help cure the attitude?

  5. lol, Lime. It's one thing getting mom (or dad)'s attention, but to have everyone looking apparently crosses some invisible line with kids. :D

    Oh, wow Mona. Sounds like you have your hands full. It's not whining, it's venting, which is of course, very theraputic. :D

    It may, Molly. :D Though, since they are unacustomed to it, it may be really hard to enforce at the onset. You'll have to let us know if it works out. :D

  6. You sir, are brilliant. I love that plan and I love how you stayed composed around the woman who would be child rescuer. Pushups work for the military, so I'm sure they don't lose their effectiveness.

    I read this to my eleven year old, also a well behave child, and her eyes got huge. She doesn't act up in public. The one time she did at six or so I took her to the ladies room to warm her backside. Haven't had an issue since.

    Excellent tough love, James.

  7. Oh, I love this idea. Exercise isn't exactly corporal pushiment after all. Like you, when mine were little a swat on the diaper scared the crap out of them. And they were really good most of the time. On those rare times when they were BAD, taking away the computer, video games and later CARS really did the trick. Just wait till you have a car to hold over his head...snicker. It's like...okay buddy, hand over the keys. A huge weapon.

    Great post as always, James!

  8. Thanks, Kelly. I got the idea from my days in the Army. It worked for me, so I was sure it would work for mine. :D

    Oh, yeah... I can imagine the car being a huge motivator, Regina. But if it's all the same, I hope the time between now and then drags out forever. It already feels the last tens years sped by. :D


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