Discipline is a tricky thing. It is as much an expression of culture as it is a necessary tool for child rearing. The way we discipline our children is, usually, the way that we ourselves were raised. It is religious; who among us has not been warned about the consequences of “sparing the rod”? Most importantly, it is personal. An unruly, disrespectful child is a direct reflection of our parenting skills. Bad kid = Bad parent. We simply cannot have people thinking we are bad parents, now can we? So we go about discipling our children, using most of the tools that our parents gave us, hoping that we get it right.
But every now and then, old school bumps into the new school. Is the switch the bet way to get through to a kid? Can time outs really result in a well behaved kid? Is having an obedient child worth seeing my baby flinch every time I lift my hand? If you are like me, you have begun to wonder if old school is always right. People of color have long prided themselves on the use of strict discipline. But at the same time, I have listened to many stories of punishment gone too far and the physical – and emotional – scars it left behind. Additionally, I married a man who doesn’t believe in ever spanking his baby, no matter what. While I think I can count the number of spankings I received on two fingers, to not spank at all, I have to admit, was a foreign concept. So what to do? Hold fast to the old school rules? Abandon them all together in favor of the new? Or was there a second choice?
Like I said, discipline is many things. It is cultural, religous, and personal. For our family, what I realized is that we are carving out our own path in some uncharted territory. We are of different cultures and different faiths. We bring to each other different perspectives and those perspectives add to the fabric of who we are. One thread does not take precedent over the other. Much like our child is a mixture of the best parts of us, so too must our philosophy of discipline be. So we throw a little bit of old school in the pot, a little new school, and a little bit of what works for us. Because in the end, the the only rules that matter are the ones that help us raise a healthy, respectful child who makes us proud. And hopefully, should I get to watch my daughter raising her kids, I can look on her techniques with pride and think to myself, “maybe I had something to do with that”. Because I am realizing that I am not just trying to raise a respectful child; I am also trying to raise an (eventually) loving parent, which in and of itself, probably requires discipline. Hmm. Discipline. It is truly a tricky thing.