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BEAT IT
Reading several people's blogs/journals about their childhood with angry fathers made me realize once again how lucky I was. My family wasn't spectacularly dysfunctional, and my dad didn't start drinking until I was a teenager. Or at least I didn't notice the effects until I was a teenager. My parents were spankers, within the limits of reasonableness, until I was about 5-6, then I don't remember being spanked except once, and I deserved it. Seems like everyone got spanked in the 70's :)

We were living in Nebraska so I would have been somewhere around 8-9 years old. We had new neighbors and they had a kid, and we were planning to go over there for dinner or just to hang out. However, my sister and I had been so totally obnoxious at some point during the day that my dad grounded us and we weren't allowed to go. It was summer and a beautiful evening and my sister and I were SO jealous and angry that we didn't get to go (probably because my brother did) and we wanted to meet the new kid. So, while my parents hung out with the new neighbors, right across the street, on the lawn, Sarah and I hung out by the back screen door, where we proceeded to howl and cry at the top of our lungs for about a half an hour, until we saw my father get up from his lawn chair and make his apologies, before turning to come back to the house. We scrambled for our bedrooms. Let me just say, we thought it would be an excellent way to revenge ourselves upon our uncaring and hardhearted parents for leaving us out of things. Bad idea.

The punishment was 50 smacks with a wooden spoon. Each. Nowadays, I think this was horrible, and even then it was like the end of the world, but I still think we deserved it. I don't remember who did the spanking and doubt it was done with any real power behind it, since neither of us was crippled or beaten senseless or anything. I'm pretty sure we didn't actually GET all 50 and I KNOW we never got another spanking. But it definitely made an impression.

After that, we got stood in corners as punishment. Talk about torture. You couldn't sit. You could only slump. Even 15 minutes standing in a corner feels like an hour. If there were two of us being punished for something, which was usually the case, we'd be put in opposite corners where we could occasionally, when dad's attention was elsewhere, sneak our heads around and make faces at each other.

In Sweden, you're not allowed to spank or hit a child. Somewhere, not so long ago, I read an article written by a child psychologist who compared various disciplinary styles to the animal world. Apparently, the majority of the world practices the CAT style of discipline: reaching out a paw and swatting a disbehaving offspring, and then returning to what you were doing without making a big deal out of it. However, in Sweden, she said, the DEER style of discipline is dominant now, because of the laws restricting physical discipline. When a young deer is misbehaving in some way, or engaging in inappropriate behavior, the mother turns her back and ignores her child. It might work for deer, but in humans, the typical response to be ignored is to double your efforts to get attention, and the quickest way to do so is by misbehaving.

I hear a lot of expats in Sweden complain about how rude some Swedish children are and how wild they can be, and why don't their parents DO anything about it? (and I'm guilty myself) There isn't much they CAN do. The kids are growing up knowing there is nothing their parents can do to stop them, essentially, no matter what the children do. I'm in agreement that hitting your children, even as a disciplinary measure, isn't the answer, but I'm not so sure the opposite extreme is, either.
 thoughtful
mood: thoughtful
music: Madonna—Live to Tell


Comments

I can't even imagine what you must have gone through. What's amazing to me is how many people I know who were abused as children and have turned out to be the most caring, wonderful, straightforward, intelligent adults (like you, for one).

>that punishment and abuse are two different things, but the problem with the Swedish system is that there is no line drawn.
I think it's actually more true of the American system, that there is no line drawn between punishment and abuse. The Swedish system actually does draw a line, if you think about it. The line says that ANY physical discipline IS abuse and not allowed.

Most parents I know here have swatted their children at some point, although they certainly don't do it frequently or in public. Discipline tends to take the form of withholding privileges, since that's pretty much all that's left to parents to use. We tend to use a combination of threats, withholding privileges, ignoring behavior, talks and reasoning (which doesn't always work with very young children), time outs, and repetition of statements concerning what is and isn't acceptable. So far, it's working for us. :) But I wouldn't call it easy. Although, I wouldn't think that parenting is easy NO MATTER WHAT.

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