Friday, September 5, 2008


I discipline my children because I love them. I understand that the boundaries we set and the behaviors we reward at home will prepare my children for any variety of social interaction they are likely to encounter. I would like for them to grow up well adjusted and to act like civilized human beings instead of throwing feces, coloring on the furniture, and torturing the family cat as is their primal nature. Actually, this is why my wife disciplines our children, as she is the primary caretaker of our beautiful twins, and a fine job she has done thus far. I go along with whatever she says mostly out of instinct and fear.

There are several methods of discipline from which to chose, and each one can be effective if used properly. Apparently the favored technique most often brandished by my lovely wife is the raising of the voice. Most mornings after working late at the restaurant I am awakened by my true love's voice at a thousand or so decibels shouting "NO, NO!" or "HEY!" or "THAT'S ENOUGH". This is invariably followed by a brief period of soft sobbing as I shuffle through the living room toward my first cup of coffee.

Another option is the Time Out. This usually occurs about halfway through the fifteen minute loop of Headline News, when the children resume whatever behavior sparked the raising of the voice that woke me up in the first place. Now the wife places them into two small chairs in the corner of the room, facing the wall. This produces a sustained period of sharp, shrill, staccato shrieking of a rhythmic nature which reverberates throughout the room and sends me for my second cup of coffee.

The last resort in my house is the swatting of the butt. Now, before you go accusing us of beating our kids, let me just comfort you with the fact that the swatting of the butt is almost always buffered by a soggy diaper. The soggy diaper acts as a sponge that absorbs most of the blunt force of the swatting of the butt, redirecting it outwardly in a radial pattern away from the toddler's tushy. This is an attention getter of the greatest magnitude; an act so shocking to the toddler brain, it's only response is what I call "the windup and the pitch". This response begins with complete silence as the toddler's mouth opens wide, the eyes go all squinty, the bottom lip protrudes, and the lungs fill slowly with air to about 110% capacity. This is the windup. Then comes the pitch... a cry so loud and so high pitched that it actually shatters the coffee mug and leaves me with first degree burns, ensuring that I'm painfully awake and prepared to face the rest of my day.

So it should come as no surprise that one recent afternoon I was proud to let my wife take a much needed nap as I watched our little angels, confidently prepared for whatever behavioral issues might arise. I knew the routine, the protocol. I had witnessed it countless times. What could possibly go wrong? And so it began that my son should test his boundaries by climbing up onto the TV stand, stretching up on his tippy toes to reach the newly replaced DVD/VCR combo which is now perched high above the realm of toddlers and their crayons, or so I thought.

"NO, NO, JACK!" came the raising of the voice. "GET DOWN!" it thundered. This was completely ineffective. There was no sobbing, no remorse, no guilt, just bare knuckled determination on behalf of the toddler to push those shiny blue buttons on the DVD player while simultaneously pushing Daddy's buttons, too. I knew what I had to do. "Let's go to Time Out." I rallied as I scooped him up into my arms. And then I made my fatal mistake. Unwilling to listen to the shrill, staccato screaming at full volume, I decided the best course of action would be to place him into his crib to serve out his sentence of solitude.

Feeling triumphant, I returned to the couch thinking that this discipline stuff might actually work, and turned my attention back to my daughter who was behaving quite well, indeed. I tuned out the crying coming from the twin's bedroom (an ability that both amazes and angers my wife) and hadn't even noticed the quiet set in until I saw him... the boy... Jack... come bouncing back into the living room as if nothing had happened and go right back to climbing on the TV stand.

A million thoughts raced through my head at that exact moment. So many things I wanted to say, but my tongue would not move. My brain could not process a single word into audible existence. The shock of it all left me confused, stunned, unsure what to do or think. How did he get out of that crib? Should I put him back and see if he can do it again? Is this a milestone? Should I be concerned for his safety? Should I be proud? No. I should recognize that he is blatantly disobeying me and continue to my last course of action, the dreaded swatting of the butt.

I gave him one swift swat as I pulled him off the TV stand and waited for the windup and the pitch. But to my surprise, there was only soft sobbing and he was headed back up to the summit of the TV stand once again. Inconcievable! It was at this point that my wife came out of the bedroom to diffuse the situation. It was a good thing, too, because I was in over my head in uncharted territory. I was actually contemplating waterboarding...

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