Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Kids got it easy nowadays....

You know, I'm not a proponent of spanking kids for misbehaving. And before I had kids of my own, I wasn't so sure of using the "timeout" technique of discipline either. I used to think to myself, "can't the parents just talk to the child and straighten it out?" Naive, I know.

My first experience at disciplining a child came 6 or 7 years ago. My girlfriend (now wife), her sister, her sister's two kids (ages 3 and 8), and I were out shopping. It was getting late and my girlfriend asked me if I would take the kids back to her place and feed them dinner while she and her sister finished up. I agreed, a bit apprehensively.

So, I took them back to her place and made a sumptuous meal of hotdogs and (hmmm... I guess it was just hotdogs... oh, and milk... we did have milk). The 3-year old was misbehaving (I don't recall exactly what she was doing) and the 8-year old was obviously looking to me to handle her. What to do? What to do?

I thought of just ignoring her. But then it suddenly occurred to me that puppies were kind of like little kids. And, though I had no experience (at all!) with children, I did have some experience with dogs. I recalled that when my family wanted a puppy to stop a particular behavior, we would startle it with a loud noise (like banging pots and pans together) whenever it exhibited that behavior (I don't know if that's the best way, but that's what we did).

So, when the 3-year old continued to misbehave, I slammed my hand down on the table with tremendous force and yelled, "No! Stop it!"

She did look startled for an instant (as did the 8-year old). Then she smiled a shifty little smile and started banging on the table as I had just done. She continued to bang on the table for some time. I took some satisfaction in knowing that she had actually stopped the original behavior, even though the banging was admittedly worse, and I decided it was best just to wait for the experts to arrive. Kids are definitely not puppies!

Anyway, now, having been a stay-at-home dad for 3+ years, I know a little better. I still don't spank, but I have started using timeouts when the kids misbehave. At first I felt really bad making them go sit in a chair or something. You know, they'd hang their head and then look up at me with those big sad eyes (actually, that is kind of like the puppy!). Timeouts aren't always the answer either, but they do seem to be effective most of the time. And after seeing this item on Daddy Types, I don't feel nearly as bad.

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