I grew up with parents that were not afraid to smack you if you were misbehaving. I survived with minimal deep, emotional scarring. Just ask my shrink that I visit seven days a week.
I thought my parents’ approach, although effective, was way too harsh. So I tried time-outs as punishment when my two boys misbehaved. It was an utter failure. The boys gladly went to their rooms and their bad behavior persisted.
I was making zero progress. It was time to try something new, a spanking. After my warning wasn’t taken seriously, I quickly followed up by lightly patting my son’s bottom twice. After his soft spanking, I told him to go to his room and he went without the usual resistance. In fact, he ran to his room. The result was amazing. After that point I only had to threaten a spanking and the boys would fall in line.
Whereas I moved to a warning followed by a soft spanking if necessary, my wife Michelle never gave up on the new school methods. She continued to have long conversations with the kids on why they should listen to her, followed by sending them to their rooms where they would continue their tantrums.
I would come home from work on many occasions to find my wife frustrated that the kids wouldn’t listen to her. There’s a spousal phenomenon known as the Transitive Property of Misery, which basically means if mom isn’t happy, nobody is happy. In an effort to help, I tactfully pointed out that the kids would listen to her if she did what I did and spanked them. She paused and put her hands on her hips. I usually retreat when the hands go on the hips, but I wasn’t going to be bullied on this topic as I held the higher ground… the kids listened to me. I resisted the urge to go into a fetal position and reiterated why she should try my method.
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to see things from your point of view,” my wife said. Finally she was listening to me. She continued on, “so, can you help me get my head way up my butt?”
I ignored her sarcasm and pushed no further. In marriage, sometimes it’s better to be happy than to be right.
It wasn’t long before she had an opportunity to apply her new school approach. Our five year old son, Jack Jr., was having a tantrum about going to a wedding. “I don’t want to go! It’s going to be so boring,” he whined as he rolled around on the floor in protest. Michelle knew what my response would be – I don’t negotiate with terrorists. She quickly said she would handle it. “Honey, it’s not going to be boring at all. There will be dancing and treats. Lots of your cousins will be there to play with and you get to dress up,” Michelle said trying to reason with the little terrorist.
Stop the record. Somehow she had gained little Jack’s undivided attention.
He stopped rolling around on the floor and sat up. “You get to dress up?”
“Yup,” my wife said sensing victory.
The little terrorist looked skeptical. “Really?”
“Absolutely,” my wife said reassuringly.
“Cool!” Jack said running to his bedroom to get ready. My wife looked at me and boasted about the effectiveness of her approach.
“Boy am I good! Looks like my parenting methods aren’t so bad after all.”
I let her have her rare moment of glory, which included her strutting around the living room like a peacock.
Ten minutes later Jack came waddling out of his room grinning from ear to ear. He was wearing a fluffy, yellow chicken suit, with an orange beak and floppy chicken shoes. It was his favorite Halloween costume of all time.
“I’m ready mommy, let’s go!”
My wife and I were both confused. My wife asked the obvious question. “Honey, why do you have your Halloween costume on?”
Jack gave her a duh look. “You said I could dress up. So I’m going as a chicken.”
I patted Michelle on the back. “Well done. I’ll let you explain the bad news to him.”