Monday, August 24, 2009

Public Displays of Discipline

I was feeling pretty smug. I thought I had everything covered when I learned at the last minute that I had to take my two year old daughter with me to the eye doctor. I needed to be fitted with contacts and she really needed to be quiet and entertain herself.

Extra toys and little cardboard books went into the diaper bag. A small baggie of cheerios should help. I carried a miniature folding chair just her size. As an extra measure I put in.... THE WOODEN SPOON.

Now I didn't think I would need it but it's presence in the diaper bag would set that tone -- the one that said, "mind Mommy!"

It was going well. My daughter sat in the exam room in her own little chair. The doctor gave the eye exam and the nurse was teaching me how to care for the contact lenses. My back was to my little charge but I was aware that she was "reading" books and then rummaging through the diaper bag for toys and new books.

Suddenly we heard a loud whacking sound. We turned to see a tiny version of a hunched over ogre with drawn eyebrows and narrow beady eyes beating a table unmercifully with the wooden spoon. Now, my daughter had never even seen Star Wars, but her voice sounded just like Darth Vader as she growled, "Obey MOMMY!" And then an octave lower, "Obey MOMMY!" She then came out of her stage character and grinned impishly at us.

I chuckled uneasily. The nurse was not smiling.

"Where do these kids get this stuff?" I attempted to inject a little humor.

The nurse snapped my chart closed and informed me that my visit was done. I needed to come back without my daughter. She then proceeded to lecture on the long term effects of harm inflicted by Tupperware utensils.

I packed up the toys, the books, the diaper bag and the little chair and slunk from the office. I felt pretty small. I would never be able to explain that I didn't talk like Darth Vader when I corrected my daughter and I never beat her with Tupperware utensils. My image of a loving disciplinarian was probably shot for the day.

I realized that most people's reaction to corporal punishment is negative. The nurse immediately jumped to conclusions and my daughter's dramatic monologue didn't help.

I have a theory that most people have rarely seen discipline handled lovingly. They can't equate spanking with love. Therefore, they determine to talk their kids into good behavior with reasoning alone and without firm boundaries.

My daughter is now 24 and she thinks the story of her acting debut in the doctor's office is funny. She did not go into the theater as a career and you will be happy to know that she did not suffer any long term damage from cooking utensils. She regularly uses Tupperware in her kitchen. In fact, she plans to discipline her kids pretty much the same way she was disciplined - lovingly and firmly.

If you have questions, there are great books and resources out there on the subject of disciplining children with love.

My favorite books on the subject are:

Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Ted Tripp
Dare to Discipline, by Dr. James Dobson

A great online source is:


  1. That's hilarious- how embarassing and funny at the same time! I actually just picked up Shepherding A Child's Heart recently to help with teaching my Sunday School kiddos- haven't read it yet but am looking forward to it. My mentor recommended it. I love your stories!

  2. That is actually my favorite book on disciplining kids. It points right at the parent's heart and motive. Good read!

  3. I'm catching up on your posts....sitting on the couch alone in my living room, laughing out loud. I loved this story! (And could probably share one or two similar ones myself.)

    Shepherding a Child's Heart really is a beautiful outlines exactly what you said, a LOVING form of discipline.


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