A.C. Snow

Snow: The many ways to discipline a child

I rarely read John Rosemond’s parenting column in our newspaper.

Why should I? With the aid of my wife and the fact that they were born good children, I helped parent two wonderful daughters.

However, my wife on a recent morning called my attention to a column in which he recommended delayed punishment of children over the age of 3.

Postponed punishment, he stated, is more effective than penalizing misbehavior at the time it happens.

Furthermore, Rosemond wrote that parents aren’t even obligated to tell the child what the punishment will be or when it will be inflicted.

I say such a philosophy qualifies as cruel and inhumane. Inflicting the punishment days or weeks later without explaining the reason for the punishment is even wackier.

My mother, the disciplinarian in our large family of mostly males, believed in striking when the crime was fresh.

I remember only one exception. On that occasion, my 18-year-old brother, already dating girls and considering himself a man, “sassed” my mother. When she, hickory switch in hand, ordered him to “Come here!” he walked away.

She said nothing and returned to her indoor duties. Early next morning, she stole into his bedroom, quietly pulled down the bed covers except for the top sheet, and applied a whipping that he never forgot.

According to news reports and parenting research, corporal punishment is on the wane, even in the South, which has been most reluctant to cast aside the axiom “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Reader Andy Book recalls the time when, as a sixth-grade teacher in Gallup, N.M., he paddled Larry Wilson.

“His Dad, Bobcat Wilson, came to see me the next day wearing a side arm,” Andy said. “The principal told us to go to a nearby bar and talk it over.

“Larry came with us. Bobcat ordered three beers. When I explained why I paddled Larry, Bobcat knocked his son off the stool and said he would come to the class himself and whip him if he ever misbehaved again. I had no more problems from Larry.”

Withholding things

As the paddle and the switch decline in use, parents turn to other forms of discipline, some rather ingenious.

Removing the door to a misbehaving child’s room is one. For a teenager especially, privacy is a precious product. This discipline form is recommended only for parents with some degree of mechanical ability.

Withholding car keys, banning TV, reducing allowances and temporarily taking the offender’s cell phone, iPad or other electronic marvels are said to be effective forms of punishment.

There is also the gentler approach.

In an e-mail, Dr. Assad Meymandi, Raleigh psychiatrist and well-known philanthropist, described how his father disciplined him and his sister.

“My father would sit patiently and dispassionately listen to us carefully, one at a time,” he wrote. “My sister and I would anxiously await a judgment and a disposition. My father would hold both of us in his arms and say something like, “I see you two have a disagreement, and I have faith in both your abilities to resolve the disagreement by understanding and talking without fighting.’

“He would then kiss us and let us go.”

Switching legs

Sometimes merely the threat of discipline works.

A friend of ours, the late Mrs. Mary Ruth, was once driving with two squabbling grandchildren in the back seat.

“If you two don’t stop that fussing I’m going to stop this car and switch your legs!” the grandmother threatened.

In the ensuing silence, she heard one of the children whisper in awe, “She means she’s gonna switch your legs with mine!”

Order prevailed thereafter.