There is practically no end to the compliments I receive whenever the child is allowed to spend time with the families of her friends. It happens, without fail. People marvel at how polite, well-behaved, respectful, and helpful she is. I am pleased that she takes her manners with her wherever she goes, but I am always a little stymied at how they seem to consider this to be rare, or an accident of fate, rather than a firmly executed plan. Otherwise known as discipline.

Just last weekend I agreed to let her spend the night with a friend who’s mother had already once failed to be sure the child was returned at an appropriate time. It was as much my fault as hers, but more so the child’s, so I was willing to give things another chance to go well. After letting this woman set the time and place of child return, I arrived promptly and was prepared to be polite and genial. This was until I texted the child for an ETA and received a frantic call telling me they were just setting out and it would be nearly a half an hour before arrival. Aria knows how I feel about punctuality (I see it as a failure of planning, intellect, and manners on the order of intentionally dribbling spittle into a person’s eye, to be late) and was duly upset on account of it. When they finally arrived, I was in the middle of a phone call, and delayed from the plans I had made based on the meeting time SHE had suggested, so I was in no mood to be further delayed by this woman. When they arrived and Aria said her friend’s mother wanted to meet me, I was in no mood whatever to be polite anymore. I told the child as much, and she attempted to relay this information, but instead of taking the hint, this person came over to my car and rapped on my car window to get my attention even though I was clearly  on the phone. Imagine, me thinking she didn’t have the manners to be on time…

When I rolled down the window, the mother proceeded to apologize by blaming the children for making her late. My first internal response was “Wait, I was under the impression you were the adult in this scenario, and thus, in charge of your own destiny?” Instead of saying this aloud (though I was sorely tempted) I made non-committal noises of sympathy for her bad decision making which resulted in her having possession of six adolescent children at once. She then proceeded to tell me how wonderful Aria was to have. I smiled and nodded,

“Yes, I expect her to behave when she is a guest. I’m pleased to hear she did.”

“I just don’t know how you do it!”

“Oh, I beat her. You should try it some time!”


This had the intended effect of communicating my scorn for her lax parenting, as well as the bonus feature of ending the conversation forthwith.

Ultimately, a more accurate way of putting it is that I will beat her, rather than that I do. It is absolutely the fact that pushed far enough, she will be faced with the physical consequence of corporal punishment for disobedience or disrespect. Aria is well aware that this is not an idle threat, and because I have always been consistent on this subject, the last time she was actually punished in this fashion, she was 8. She remembers it vividly, and is the first to admit she deserved it.*

I believe people who do not teach their children to abide by rules, respect authority, think for themselves, and be self-sufficient are failing in their most paramount duty as a parent and ultimately leaving their child ill-equipped for life.

  • It is not important to give your child everything they want: it is important to teach them how to work for what they want and to cope with disappointment.
  • It is not important to be your child’s friend: it is important to be a trustworthy support system and arbiter of boundaries and guidelines.
  • It is not important to make everything easy for your child: it is important to help them realize how to face opposition.
  • It is not important to keep your child from feeling bad: it is important to instill empathy

Many of my daughter’s cohorts have been emotionally and intellectually crippled by the way their parents have allowed them a license they are not mature enough to manage. They are unable to understand what it might be like to struggle for anything they desire, to be responsible for their behavior, to respect something other than their own wishes. Aria has more than once expressed horror at the way these children address their parents and treat them with an utter lack of regard. While I find the behavior offensive, I feel that a parent who does not insist upon respect from their child probably isn’t worthy of it.

My child is happy and well-adjusted, in spite of a greater than conventional amount of upheaval in her upbringing, mostly because despite the many changes she has faced, there has remained within our relationship a consistency with regard to boundaries and expectations. She can rely on me to be both supportive and strict, and this frees her from worry over what might happen, should she transgress. She claims to prefer it this way. It’s possible she’s suffering from Stockholm Syndrome at this point…

The vast majority of my interventions involve asking Aria to reflect on her actions, and to draw attention to how she might choose differently in the future. Sometimes it is difficult to get her to attend to how important a given subject is, and the intervention escalates. As she gets older, I resort to that kind of escalation less and less, but I believe that the judicious use of corporal punishment is an indispensable element of sound discipline. In pursuit of that most precious of all parental feelings, child obedience, use your words, by all means. Should more be required, I have a wooden spoon that doesn’t see much use anymore… **



*The offense for which she was beaten (5 hard swats on her bare rear-end) after a multitude of verbal warnings, was an epic screaming fit she threw over my unwillingness to buy her new shoes, 20 minutes before I was about to sing. At my grandmother’s funeral.

**I have never actually used an implement to strike my child, and never would. If I am going to dish out a spanking, I deserve to feel it.