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Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Raising an Atheist or Disciplining in Purgatory
This may surprise you, but I am an Atheist. I know you're surprised... astonished even.
The thing is a person may look me and say, "Hmmmm now, Andy is an Atheist, he votes Democrat a lot (though not always), and he lives in Massachusetts. Andy must be one of those permissive, liberal parents whose kids are always screaming in the grocery store and restaurant."
You would be wrong. I run my house like a Gulag. Maybe not that bad, but my children know that there are consequences to their actions. Bad behavior means punishment. The word punishment is out of vogue. It's too punishy and not enough loving cuddles. When I'm talking punishment I'm not getting out my switch and taking the child to the back of the shed. No. But something unpleasant is going to happen and the aim of that unpleasantness is to stop that bad behavior.
What brings up this topic you may wonder.
Allow me to answer your query.
I got a phone call from the vice-principal today from Will's school. She informed me that my wunderkind has been applying the dreaded, "Wet Willie" to a younger kid on the bus. The victim doesn't want to go on the bus due to my boy's moist finger in his ear canal and who can blame him. I have been victim of the Wet Willie before and it is icky.
I waited for my boy to get off the bus. He was happy. He's all like, "Hi Dad! It's just us two today." Yes. Just us two. His sister was at the Children's Museum with the in-laws but I digress.
"We need to talk."
"Is it bad?" Everyone knows that talking is code for upcoming unpleasantness.
We sat down at the kitchen table and I went down the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure).
First Step: Allow the Defendant to Come Clean.
"This is your one chance to tell me the truth. What happened on the bus today?" I gave him my "serious" look.
"Well," he began, "I was bored on the bus and did this." Will stuck his finger in his mouth and pretended to stick it in someone's ear.
Second Step: Categorize the Behavior
"That is considered bullying. The kid you did it to doesn't want to get on the bus because of you. I am not happy."
No response from Will.
Third Step: Punishment
"This is what's going to happen: no snack, no trip to the comic book store tonight," it was a special trip because his sister was doing something special, "and you get to write the kid a note saying you are sorry. Understand?"
At this point Will started to tear up, but he took his punishment like a man.
"OK, I'll go do my homework." He went upstairs.
Not every behavior problem is going to be solved this easily but all you can do is take it one day at a time.