The Coffee House Philosopher
The basics of disciplining children – Part 1
August 20, 2017
There is nothing so appreciated by the general public as a well-behaved child. But things become less than peachy when nearby Junior begins to test appropriate limits. Or more to the point, we have trouble putting up with someone else’s “lovely child” throwing a tantrum in public, and we expect the child’s parents to correct any misbehavior post haste. In analyzing the disciplinary issue, allow me to recount some of my own (admittedly dated) experiences with the subject.
During the 100th anniversary all school reunion in Hugoton, Kansas, in 2015 (the 54th anniversary for my class), I traced the route where as a pre-teen, I daily used to deliver 75 evening papers on the west side of town. I easily identified the Stegman residence because of the immaculate Ferrari parked on the street out front (evidently Tony still likes exotic things). But I could only pick out five or six other houses to which I used to throw papers.
However, one residence on the northwest side easily came to mind, despite the fact that the house is no longer there. At that house, about 60 years ago, while delivering papers after school, the relative calm of the gathering evening was shattered by a loud KERBANG! of a screen door being thrown open, hitting the end of its retaining spring, and then crashing shut. A little blond-headed boy, about six years old, burst out of the house, running just as fast as his little legs could possibly take him. In an instant, there was a louder KERBANG!!! of the door, and his mother flashed through it in hot pursuit of the boy, with a broom held tightly in one hand.
I braked my bike to a stop, and instantly became an IO (Interested Observer) of one of nature’s timeless dramas, which was about to play out again. The boy’s mother called out as she ran, “Don’t you run from me Charles Howard ...” (The names of all participants have, of course, been changed to protect the less innocent.)
Next, the two began to engage in evasive broken field running, rapidly changing directions back and forth. The chase quickly moved to an area around a large lilac bush, where the small boy tried to keep his mother diametrically separated by the bush, going first one way and then the other. Then using a trick made famous in western movies, the mother feinted one way, and quickly reversed in the opposite way, trying to cut the fleet little buckaroo off at the pass. In a last ditch effort to escape from the clutches of maternal retribution and destruction, the tiny sprinter made a desperate dash for open ground, counting on raw speed alone to save himself.
But the mother had clearly anticipated this move, was after him in a flash, and as she ran, she raised the broom into the overhead two-handed position of a big league pitcher going into his stretch before delivery. But even as she attained her top speed, she was unable to close the five foot pursuit gap to her son. So in a move of final desperation, she launched the broom at the boy, and her aim had all the unerring accuracy of a heat-seeking missile. It struck the boy in the back of the head, sending him crashing to the ground in a crumpled heap.
In a fraction of a second, the mother had her son by one ear, lifting the howling youngster to his feet, and began that oft-repeated lecture mothers use to rein in their misbehaving children. As the pair had run some distance from my (admittedly nosy) vantage point, I couldn’t pick up all of the mother’s words. But I knew from first-hand experience what the key missing words must be. “When I tell you not to do something, Charles Howard, you’d better ...” and “Don’t you ever run from me, or I’ll ...”
The reader is reminded that these (and the following) are disciplinary episodes from the 1940s and 1950s. Current disciplinary protocol is much less reliant on corporal punishment.
(To be continued)