There is nothing more certain than a two year old who wants something you will not let her have. I mean, really. Any wobbly new parent--and what new parent is not
wobbly? The responsibility for this new human thing you have to take home, keep alive, and raise up to be a law-abiding and loving person is a terrifying thing--will tell you: when you have to face down a toddler who is utterly certain of what she wants, when you yourself are not totally resolute on the topic of, say, another cookie, it's tough. All my "am I worthy" buttons and "question authority" buttons get pushed. Me, I learned to sound
more resolute than I felt, and my kids mostly buy it. Not only that, but parenting is a learned behavior, and each time I hold the line I feel a little better about holding the line next
time. And watching friends, family and strangers with their kids has convinced me that telling a child not to do something in a wishy-washy voice doesn't get you very far. So I have the Mom voice, and while I may have to say a thing twice (or three times), it works.
At our house we do not spank. We talk a lot, and listen a lot. My kids are talkative, enthusiastic, creative, goony girls. You'd like them, really. When they go someplace without us we get "they're so polite" feedback from people who have to reason to lie. So I can't help but feel that our system works for us.
I mention all this because I have lately been following some blog-conversations about physical discipline, and one of the questions that comes up is why anyone would choose to follow advice in books that counsel parents to "break the will" of their children. For their own good. The only rationale I can come up with, in my auctorial way, is that there are people who are just as uncertain as I am when faced with the terrible certainty of a small child, who feel that if they cannot, through force of Parental Authority, cow the child into obedience, they are failures. This is how a guy like James Dobson
becomes an authority, I think: because parents feel there's some lack in themselves and will take the strongest sounding
advice they can find.
But Dobson, I'm here to tell you, is a piker. Via Echidne of the Snakes
, I have been introduced to Ronald E. Williams, who, God help us, runs a "rehabilitation ministry for troubled teenage girls." Williams wants you to use a rod
, see. A good strong one that won't break in an hour or two session of "correction," while you break the will of the child. The rod "is not a pencil, or a ruler , or a pillow. It is far more severe than any of these objects. Nor is the rod a rubber hose or a length of barbed wire! A rod in most cases is probably a wooden paddle used for spanking the buttock." Causing serious pain over that 1-2 hour "session". Pain "delivers, in some mysterious way, the heart of that child from its rebellion, stubbornness, and willfulness." I'll bet it does.
And you should start 'em young. In Williams's household the object has been to break the children's wills before their first birthday.
In Williams's mind, of course, the stakes are no less than saving the child from Hell. And the parent, too, since he provides abundant (and to my mind, entirely wrong-headed) readings of the Bible to support his theories, and a parent who doesn't pummel his child into submission is failing in his duty to God and the child. I cannot, honestly, believe that any child who is raised this way, with God and the Bible used as justification to beat her into submission, will grow up willing to submit herself to the authority of that God and that Bible. When I consider a paddling--probably, from Williams's salacious tone an enthusiastic paddling--going on for an hour
my mind reels. It begins to make the floggings in the British Navy of Nelson's day sound positively wholesome.