The biggest challenge most parents of young children face is how to effectively discipline in a way that stops bad behavior, encourages good behavior, and creates a conscience.
When I was a kid, my mother slapped me on my hand, arm, or tush. And I was a good kid! The worst thing I ever did was “be fresh” (aka talking back) or fighting with my younger sister. I distinctly remember putting a book in my underpants–I might have been good, but not too smart. My mother removed the book before potching (Yiddish, slapping) me.
My husband, by his own account, was pretty mischievous–he shot his sister’s canary to death with a water gun, tried to flush his friend’s snowsuit down the toilet so she wouldn’t leave the play date, got stuck on top of the garage, and frequently heard, “Wait ’til your father gets home!” His dad then took him into the den and slapped him with a belt! It is impossible for me to imagine my lovely and loving father-in-law doing that, but he did. So did a lot of dads in those days. (In my case, my father never hit any of us. He never even raised his voice to me.)
Long ago, our friends spent Shabbos with us. We each had two small kids at the time. Their young son (probably about 2 years old) was angry at his older sister and hit her. His father, a psychologist it should be noted, took the little boy across his lap and spanked him several times, all the while saying, “We do not hit!” This is a true story.
As a parent, I was absolutely philosophically opposed to any kind of corporal punishment. But I did slip up and recall giving a potch when daughter #2 broke a bottle of nail polish all over the bathroom after being warned repeatedly, and a slap on son #2’s tush when he broke an expensive doll after being similarly warned, and a big yell and zets (Yiddish, more than a potch) on son #1′s tush when he ran into the street–I was very pregnant and didn’t get to him fast enough to prevent his sprint. I think I must have hit daughter #1 at least once, but neither of us recall when. I regret these times when I was so out of control that I physically hurt my child. It was wrong in my scheme of things. Their provocative behavior was never repeated–partially, I think, because of the shock of my reaction. Read the rest of this entry →