You know what the biggest difference between me and televangelist Creflo Dollar is (aside from millions of dollars and a name that sounds like a discount grocery store)?
Sounds trite, but 10 seconds can be the difference between a screaming match with your teenager and your mugshot posted on Facebook.
Sure, Creflo’s “triumphant” return to his church, days after being arrested for reportedly assaulting his 15-year-old daughter, was met with great fanfare by his flock, but applause is fleeting—Google is forever. But this isn’t a “holier than thou” screed. Look, I get it. I’ve wanted to strangle the life out of my children, too. And before you get all judgmental, I do NOT endorse choking out your daughters. What I am saying is that I know what (allegedly) happened to Creflo that night, because it’s happened to me.
The big secret of parenting that no one tells you about is the real, Christian Bale-grade rage you can have for your own flesh and blood. I’ll never forget watching my wife cock her hand back for an epic pimp slap as our infant daughter bit her during breast feeding. In the multiple-choice test that is life, “violence” feels like option C — when all else fails, choose it. But she took 10 seconds to calm the primal parts of her brain that were SCREAMING for physical retribution and listened to the angels of her better nature. Or maybe she was listening to the imaginary police sirens that would have really arrived had she followed through. Either way, my infant daughter remained un-slapped and my wife un-divorced.
Truth is, hitting children can be successful — depending on your definition of success. For most reading this article, success means you feared your parents the way one fears a pitbull. Sure, they love you and would die for you, but they also might rip your throat out if you looked at them wrong. And that can work, it’s just not my definition of successful parenting.
Look, unless you’re raising your child to become an MMA fighter, getting hit for doing something wrong doesn’t really prepare your child for life outside your house. Instead, she’ll probably be met with lack of access or a stinging denial. So, that’s what my wife and I do — when the kids act up, we take away that which they love most (there, that sentence doesn’t make us look too crazy does it?). Your child loves the computer — how about no computer for a week? He wants to chat on the cell — BAM! No more minutes for you! Of course, this tactic may not be the traditional route for African-American families (read: "Spare the rod. Spoil the child"). It may smack of the “time out” phenomenon which every comedian worth his salt ragged on. But you know what? It kind of works.
If “24” taught me anything, it’s that a suspect will say or do anything if you knee-cap them first, but it doesn’t stop them from trying to blow up another bus next episode — except maybe with a limp. The key is to train your little terrorist into someone who makes good decisions not based on fear but based on real-life consequences. The trick is finding your kid’s tell — what DO they want and does denying it change behavior? If so, go to town. If not, keep trying. At the end of the day, hitting your child is only discipline if you only have to do it once. Otherwise, you’re in a dangerously lopsided fight with a child whose only recourse is to call on someone bigger than you to help throw in the towel.
James Hill has been doing the whole married with kids thing since 2001 and pretty much has it all figured out. Passions include: writing, movies with superheroes and anything involving quiet.
Do you have kids? How do you discipline them? Does talking work? Do you believe in "Spare the rod and spoil the child"? Leave your comments below.