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Dear Mrs. Web
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Dear Mrs. Web,
I was listening to the radio recently and heard a religious broadcast about physical punishment of children. The participants actually were talking about how to choose an appropriate device to use when spanking. The show chilled me to the bone and frankly, upset me. I do not hit my kids and I think it is wrong. What do you think?
This is a difficult subject to talk about for a number of reasons. I am going to try to address it because I am seeing more letters in my email box about the topic. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, it is a controversial and emotional topic. Nevertheless, here is my opinion.
First, studies show that currently in the United States over 90% of the parents use corporal punishment at least occasionally.
Those who occasionally swat a bottom to get their child's attention or make a point;
Those who have a well-thought-out disciplinary system which also includes physical punishment; Those who unthinkingly lash out physically; Those who beat and bludgeon helpless children, whether out of control or for their own sick twisted pleasure.
This encompasses a broad range of parent, motives, and behaviors. It is unproductive and unfair to group these different behaviors together. Parents who spank are not, for the greatest part, child abusers. Some people however, define any and all corporal punishment as abuse.
I have had a number of people tell me that no child should ever be hit, and that spanking a child is abusive. I no longer agree. In my opinion, there are many ways to abuse a child. The emotional abuse some children suffer with the unchecked and sharp tongues of their parents is large and pervasive. I am not talking about ignorant or dull parents who name-call, although they certainly guilty.
I am referring to the educated and intelligent parents who are verbally abusive and or emotional hostage-takers. Parents who wrestle control or beat their children's souls and break their wills with crafty logical arguments, pervasive nagging, and cruel chastisements. Families where a child never measures up, or is always expected to perform flawlessly. These parents may not have laid a hand on the young one, but have caused huge pain and damage.
I have seen children who are not able to permit their hearts to really like anything, because their parents have overused consequences and revocation of privileges. They have spent too much time in parenting classes learning techniques, and not enough looking into their child's eyes or at their spirits. Anything these children would hold dear would be held over their heads in exchange for compliance. Therefore, I am not an immediate admirer of parents who announce, "I never would hit my kids." There are many ways to "hit."
At this time, in our country, there is a great reluctance to discuss corporal punishment as a disciplinary tool. Many individuals are fearful of being labeled a "child abuser" or even losing their children to the whims of their state departments of welfare. Moreover, we have all heard of overzealous state welfare workers who have disrupted families based on erroneous information or personal prejudices.
It is unfortunate this discussion taboo is in place, given the large proportion of the parents who do use physical punishment. My opinion is that since many families do use physical punishment as part of their discipline choices, parents should learn how to use it effectively, kindly, with discernment, and appropriately. They need to learn not to react in anger. Parents need to learn how to discipline themselves when using physical consequences with their children.
Dear Mrs. Web,
My son is totally involved in Pokemon. Toys, cards, videos and everything in between. Is it ok?
Ok? I am not sure what you mean by ok. Children do what they are told. Today children are told by advertisers to like and buy Pokeman. Yesterday they liked and bought, oh, say Barney, and tomorrow they will be told to like something else. You have to choose how much of this manipulation you want your child to experience. You're the parent.
Dear Mrs. Web,
My 4 year old granddaughter is becoming difficult to discipline. She recently picked up a trinket at a department store. She has begun talking back. She also has hit her teacher at preschool. I need help in determining an approach for her.
Some of the behaviors you describe are normal for her age. They do shoplift, on occasion, and need to be watched and guided (They are still in the if-it-is-not-nailed-down-it's-mine phase, which some people never outgrow.). Fours do talk back, at times. It is practice for becoming five. I recommend reading Your Four-Year-Old for more information about expected behaviors at this age.
The one behavior that causes me concern is that she hit her teacher. This is something not usually seen in older preschoolers. Most of them hold teachers in awe or reverence. Is she spending too much time outside her family in daycare? She may be away from her parents for too long each day, feeling stress and unable to manage it.
I would approach the child in a kind, loving and firm way. If you give a child one-hour of unstructured and undivided attention each day it will give her a solid base to cope with the world. Let the child set the agenda. Just be with her. See if loving attention turns her heart around.
Dear Mrs. Web
I just found out that my sister gave up a baby for adoption about twenty-five years ago. I was thrilled to hear we would have another family member since there is just my sister, my daughter and me. Our brother died ten years ago. My sister's new daughter just contacted her and she wants to go meet her alone. I would like to go along to offer moral support and welcome her into our family. She seems to be a very successful young lady and I am hoping that she will be able to spend some time with my daughter. What a wonderful role model she could be for her. My sister doesn't want me to go. How can I change her mind?
I think you should step back to the wall raise your hands and drop all your expectations.
This is not yours, you can not go there. This belongs to your sister and her birth daughter. Let them find their own way.
Dear Mrs. Web,
My stepson is 11. I have been in his life for 7 years. He has begun to steal money from us, not a lot, but I am concerned. We have spoken to him about it. He is a loner, who enjoys television and computer games. No friends at home but mixes well at school. He has been a good child until recently.
He has a 6 year old sister who he "hates." He fights or hits her constantly. He is enormously jealous of her natural abilities and cheerful, attention-getting extroverted personality. I fear his stealing is a cry for attention. What should we do?
I think you are right. The stealing is a symptom of his emptiness and neediness. He is crying for attention and help. He should also be evaluated for depression.
This boy is at the edge of puberty. In your shoes, I would advise putting him into family counseling. His father, you, and his mother will all need to learn how to help, guide, and direct this child. He needs attention.
It is time for the adults in his life to clear their calendars and focus on this child. It will be important to work with the counselor to help this child find a niche and a way to shine in life. You will be surprised at how positive attention will change a child's heart. He is at a good age to catch this isolating, angry behavior and turn it around. However, it is going to take time, attention, and commitment.