“Okay, that DOES IT! You just wait ’till Miss Emily comes back from Kenya with a switch in her hand!”
I know that doesn’t have quite the threatening ring that “Wait ’till your father gets home!” does, but neither The Todd or I have ever laid a hand on anoy of our kids.
(Editor’s note: this does not mean that I haven’t wanted to. Oh, yes. Many times.) We just never felt that pain and shame were good disciplinary tactics.
I vividly remember the first and only time anyone struck Zachie. He was in Kindergarten and there were two beastly little boys in the class. I know that at the tender age of 5 I shouldn’t be labeling anyone as beastly, but they were. “You can’t be in our club!” they’d sneer to the other kids at crayon time. “Your hat looks dumb!” to a 4 year old sporting her new fall chapeau. So, it wasn’t a big shock when Miss Rachael called, very upset, to tell me that they’d ganged up on Zachie and hit him until pulled off. He seemed quiet but not too traumatized until later that afternoon, when he suddenly started sobbing in the back of the car. I, being the ideal role model, started crying too. “You’ve never been hit before. I’m so sorry, sweetie. It must feel pretty sad.”
Another wet sob, “Yes. It hurt my head and my heart.”
We’re lucky that Z&M&Z are not hitters. It makes not using corporal punishment on them easier. It also means that attempting to rule by fear is impossible. Like the time I shrieked at them to come back from the edge of the icy cliff. It was actually June, but we had some beautiful little visitors from Kenya, 6 adorable girls here to visit with their teacher, Miss Emily. Miss Emily was exquisite: tall, elegant, strong and proud in that way that only truly spectacular women can be. She had only to look at those little girls and all naughtiness ceased instantly. We took the tram to the tallest peak at Snowbird to show the girls snow for the first time ever. Which is where I was hollering at my cliff-leaning sons. They ignored me until I came pelting down the trail to drag them back. Miss Emily observed this thoughtfully.
“Do you beat them?” she asked.
“No!” I said, startled.
Miss Emily nodded wisely as if that explained everything.
“Do you…do you hit the kids?” I ventured. She looked at me pityingly. “Of course. With a switch.” I gasped. “Understand. I have 200 orphans under my charge.” she said. “If they leave the boundaires of the orphanage, they can be raped, sold, killed. They must behave.”
I still have a very hard time accepting that any child should be hit with a fist or belt. I understand that Miss Emily’s culture in Kenya is very different than the threats we face here, where a playground smack has been my biggest conflict challenge. I hope for all of us that we can teach our kids tactics to negotiate disagreements that don’t involve a slap or a punch. But it takes so much self-control.
Which is why when I came into my bedroom the other day to find my kids eating chicken and having a clean laundry fight with 18 neatly folded piles of clothing, I found myself screaming the title of this post. Sigh. I’ll be more mature tomorrow.