Friday, August 12, 2005


I’ve been thinking about something for a very long time and at the risk of ruffling a few feathers I think it should be discussed.

You all know what the new child-rearing persuasion is – some refer to it as ‘avoidance discipline’. No whacks with the wooden spoon. Just artful distraction or time out. But where is it leading? What are the long-term effects?

Now you know gentle persuasion or diversion or time out requires heavy demands and concentration on the part of parents. Especially parents with large families of children. But, if it works for you, that is great. For others, however, in their attempt to work out all the psychology behind it, the kids have surpassed the parents. Surpassed them enough to know that they can push buttons without fear of consequences. And in these situations, parents become so frustrated they start to mutter "I can’t wait till this child starts school and is out of my hair" or "What made me think I ever wanted children?"

But what is kindling in the mind at a deeper level is an unhealthy contempt between child and parent that is so-o-o not good. And it grows, smoldering underground. Destroying the relationships between children and parents until there are only charred remains of what once was, despite the purist of intentions. And eventually, though residing in the same household, parents and child withdraw into themselves. Preferring to avoid interaction with each other. "Avoiding problem-causing situations", as the experts would say.

This, of course, is only my personal theory but I do wonder why I see so few kids in shopping malls with their parents, or in vehicles with their parents, or even in parks and playgrounds with their parents. Have birth rates plummeted that much, or have parents found that these kinds of excursions are too much of a trial so the kids are at home with a sitter? Or are these excursions economized in order to increase their value as rewards for good behavior? Or is it because the gentle consequences of today’s disciplinary philosophy have insidiously bred little heathens that are out of control? Too out of control for parents to find any joy in sharing time with them beyond what is required. How many parents cringe with dismay when school is let out for the summer rather than counting off the days when they and their kids can work and play and laugh together?

And nothing is more disconcerting to me than the idea of rewarding ‘good behavior’ with as one expert suggested, "a trip to the park". Taking the kids to the park should be a spontaneous thing that is as rewarding to the taker as the receiver. And it is, if one truly enjoys the companionship of their children and the joy of seeing them have a good time.

Now, on the other hand, some of us were raised in the old school when parents knew they could count on their children to behave and mind their manners. Things learned through a quick and smarting reaction after two warnings. The physical hurt was short lived. The emotional hurt lasted a bit longer but not near as long as a household poisoned by children’s longing to be away from frustrated parents and frustrated parents’ desire to be free from the aggravation of annoying kids.

Do you understand what I am saying? The experts think that violence breeds violence. But if it is true, that violence breeds violence, then tell me, does a constant aura of contempt, disappointment, frustration, suppressed anger, over many weeks and months and years of raising and nurturing an active, curious, normal, yet all-too-often manipulating child create a healthy climate? Or will such a climate of unexpressed resentment cause that child to grow up feeling isolated, sad, pessimistic, and emotionally deficient? So artful at repressing their feelings that they never really know who they are?

Our initial mandate was very good. Where any kind of child abuse exists, it has to be stopped. And with this I heartily agree. But now I see children, nasty children through no fault of their own, being neglected in physical and emotional ways by not only parents, but neighbors and peers.

The new methods of disciplining of children are as challenging as a chess match. And for those without the ability to puzzle over each and every move, avoidance discipline becomes a dance of avoidance. Yes, these kids are still fed and clothed and kept from physical harm, but emotionally they have been abandoned.


Parenting is really a delicate balancing act. Consider this. Too much determination can become stubbornness. Too much ambition can become selfishness. Too much assertiveness can become aggressiveness. Too much self-reliance can negate any understanding of team spirit. Too much conciliation can become indecisiveness. And too much self-esteem can become arrogance.


Anonymous Clarence said...

My youngest child is now a 31 year old single woman with no children of her own. She has never been married.I spanked her with my hand when she needed it as a child. I never avoided physical discipline when it was called for. I didn't believe in it. It's not the way I was raised and I like the way I turned out.

I've spent the last eighteen years in a middle-class suburb in northern Kentucky. I had a modest home built here and at first, it was wonderful. The couples that came after us and had homes built here were young, had their children after they came and I believe they used the avoidance method to raise them.

Today bands of young people roam our streets at all hours unsupervised. I call them "bands." Actually, they are no less than Gangs.
I called them young people but actually they are hoodlums and criminals.

They hang around on certain street corners, displaying public sexual behavior, smoking cigarettes, doing drugs under the cover of darkness, plan their next crime, like breaking into houses or cars, ride their skateboards and in between, terrorize the general area.

Neighbors sell out and move...the new owners move in and stay for a couple of years, then sell and move out. The neighborhood continues in a downward spiral. Property values decline because of it. We have a reputation now.

Whatever the local Police are doing isn't working. I don't believe the modern methods for raising children is working very well. I'm glad I kept my guns for personal protection.

4:13 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Clarence, thanks for the comment. I appreciate that you support my theories, but at the same time I am saddened to think that we would see the product (the young adults) of avoidance discipline with the same contempt that these young people may have endured in their own homes. My mother used to say, “Hate the smoke”, not “the smoker”. Though we may not like the things we observe youth doing, it is important to separate the action from the performer. They are in a new situation without life experiences and maturity to help them avoid unwise decisions. I think back on my own youth and wonder how I could have been so bloody foolish. In the end, I think good parenting is far too delicate a balance for anyone of us to state we did it right. Bad kids do not necessarily spring from bad homes.

Perhaps I am truly naïve living where I do, but I really felt saddened by your last comment, although in your environment it might be an absolute rational way of thinking.

12:30 PM  
Blogger She Dances in Dragon said...

Wow. Roberta, I like your theory. It makes a lot of sense. As parents, my hubby and I have tried practically everything when it comes to discipline
- except avoidance. L got time out when he was a toddler, along with spanking for the occasional major blunder. Nowadays his punishment is noxious chores and/or grounding from technology. If he doesn't do his homework, he has to clean the cat litter (my chore) or scrub the trash cans (hubby's chore). He's 14 now, and still behaves like a human being. I'm very proud of him. :)
It works fairly well

10:48 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Hi she dances in dragon. Pleased to have you stop in. Nice to hear a success story. I share your pride -- You're proud of your son and I'm proud of both of you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and taking the time to read mine.

10:42 PM  
Blogger plumleigh said...

I'm not a parent, but I was spanked on two or three occasions as a child. And spanking has nothing to do with the childhood scars I'm working my way through as an adult. I've wondered what I would do if/when I am a parent. I agree with a lot of what you've said about avoidance. I think discipline is one of the ways in which we learn as children that there are consequences to our actions and that we ought to recognize and take responsibility for what we do.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Plumleigh, thanks for visiting. I can tell from your comments you have a kind and loving heart that understands that discipline without consequences is not always as effective as it needs to be.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

By the way the deleted comments were not comments by readers. They were comments I had written and because I wasn't sure how to do a deletion, I ended up with two deletions. Deleted only because I had mispelled and misplaced words. I have never deleted a reader comment and hesitate to ever do so unless the language is vulgar or the comment totally rude. Having said that, commenters are welcome to disagree with any of my wild and wooly theories.

6:37 PM  

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