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Domestic CP - May 1997

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Munster Times, Indiana, 6 May 1997

Parents shouldn't strike while the ire is hot

By Burns Whitaker

The issue: Disciplining children

Whitaker's opinion: Wait until the anger is gone before punishing a child for doing wrong.

In a recent conversation with my nephew (who is 45), the talk got around to disciplining kids, and he told me of the punishment he had once meted out to his son for stealing and then lying to him.

Now this nephew deals in antiques, and he and his wife had gone to a large show in Indianapolis, taking his 13-year-old son and the son's cousin along.

While the adults were browsing inside, the two boys were more or less left to their own devices, so they decided to gather a collection of valve stem caps, and an hour or so later, when Chris and Barb came out, the kids had stolen 40 or 50 caps.

When Chris asked his son where he got the caps, the boy lied to him, and that so enraged him that he ordered the boy to drop his pants and bend over, then Chris took off his belt and applied it vigorously to the boys' bare bottom. Then he went with them and made them go around and replace all the caps.

When I asked Chris if there were people in the parking lot when he licked his kid, he said that there was no one standing around watching, but that after all it was a parking lot with people coming and going.

"Then you are very lucky that you didn't go to jail," I told him, and I am sure that there are plenty of people out there who will say he should have gone to jail. Personally, I thought the punishment was rather harsh, but my main objection to his action was the fact that it violated a precept that I have always preached, and in the main adhered to, and that precept is: never inflict a punishment on a child when you are angry, especially physical punishment such as spanking.

Time and again, I have seen parents let their kids push them to the limit of their patience, and then they would become so angry that they would thrash the kid soundly, some times much too severely, and afterward they were remorseful and catered to the child's every whim to make up for their harsh treatment, thus undoing any good the spanking might have accomplished.

I know that there are people who are against any kind of physical punishment for children, and I agree with them up to a point, for I believe that if handled properly, children rarely need spanking, and I speak as a parent.

I am sure others besides me have read of the great success that Boston has had in reducing juvenile crime by just changing tactics. The cops make sure they know each young person in their district by name and when they meet them on the street they (the cops) greet the youngster by name and if they haven't seen him (or her) for a few days they shake hands -- in other words, they treat the kids with dignity and respect and the kids are responding in kind.

Other cities should take a good, hard look at what Boston is doing (as I am sure they are) and see if Boston's system would work for them, for juvenile crime is an awful, awful problem in this country.

By the way, the young lad who got whacked with a belt is almost 18 now and a fine young man, and more than that, he is very fond of his father.

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