When I was your age, timeouts were for football

Dear Chip and Bobo,

You kids don’t know how good you’ve got it.

When I was your age, we did not talk back.

Okay, so that’s a lie.  Occasionally we did.  But when that happened, we knew what was coming.  We’d find ourselves picking soap out of our teeth.

Yep.  Things were different when we grew up.  Sometimes, we got our mouths washed out with soap.  And, sometimes, we were spanked.  Not often but, frankly, when we deserved it.  Usually with a hand.  Sometimes, if we were acting really hellaciously, with a wooden spoon (Which my mom once broke over my brother’s butt.  Which we laughed about.  Which made her really mad.)

I also remember once or twice someone getting spanked or having their hand slapped at school.  Not me, of course, because I was a perfect child.  Other kids, though.  And your auntie recalls in elementary school how the principal actually had a butt paddle hanging in his office, that he did indeed use on occasion.

Oh, how times have changed.

When I talk with your grandparents about this, they explain that’s just what people did back then.  There was no education for parents on alternative ways of disciplining your kids.  Timeouts were a term they used in sports.  And things like positive discipline, reward charts, bribery (okay, maybe they used that once or twice), or redirection weren’t exactly on the forefront of parenting methods.

The thing is, though, I never once doubted our parent’s love for us.  And honestly?  Our butts may have stung for a minute, but the disappointment in their eyes sometimes hurt a lot more.

It was also effective.  We feared… not our parents themselves… but the repercussions of what would happen should we act up.  When one of them got that look in their eye, we knew what would come next.  And it probably wasn’t going to be fun.

And that is the key point.  I want you to know there will be consequences, both positive and negative, for your actions.  I want you to have a respect for your elders, and that, when they say something, it goes.  I want you to be wary… not of me, but of making sure you’re doing the right thing.

That is what I want for you.

But how to achieve those wants?  Ah, that’s where it gets tricky.

When you were born, I had a preconceived notion of how we would discipline you.  We were spanked… and we turned out okay.  I guess I figured it would be the same for you.

But five years later, I’ve found that it’s not that black and white.   So instead we’re trial-and-erring our way through different ways of discipline.  And am I constantly questioning myself.

Every time a timeout is given.

Every time a privilege, a toy or the iPad (Gah!  A sign of the times) is revoked.

Every time you scream “NO!” and glare back at me defiantly.  Or, worse yet, run away giggling.

Every time I encounter that pregnant pause, and silently ask myself:  “To spank, or not to spank?”

Every time a temper tantrum is thrown.

Every time I ponder which battles I will choose to fight that day.  Or which ones I will let slide.

Every time I wonder if we’re being to strict.  Or not strict enough.

Every time I raise my voice.

Every time I get so angry that I feel the need to keep myself in check.  Or when I realize I might be the one who needs a timeout.

Every time I have to break out the proverbial beat down on one of you, I question myself.  And I just hope that whatever we’re doing is the right thing to do.

What I don’t have are the answers.  Your father and I are figuring it out as we go along.

What I do know for sure is this:  no matter what decisions we make as parents, we both love you with all of our hearts.  So we’ll continue to plug along.  Even when you call us the meanest parents on the planet.

Love you to pieces,
Your Momma (Who thinks discipline is the suckiest part of being a parent)

(Also?  Thanks, mom and dad. I now understand what you meant when you said “It hurts us more than it hurts you.” And one of these days, we’ll buy you a new wooden spoon.)


Yep.  I’m reviving the “When I was your age” letters to my children.  If you missed the other posts in this series, you can check them out here.

9 thoughts on “When I was your age, timeouts were for football”

  1. Disciplining is one of the toughest things for my wife and I. We had a plan before we needed to discipline D1 and she pretty much destroyed that plan. In fact, the invasion of Irag seems insanely well thought out in comparison – though my wife and I never displayed a Mission Accomplished banner.

    But seriously?! Positive discipline for me when I was a kid was when my mom used a less painful implement to spank me with or when I had enough time to put on an extra pair of pants.

  2. I am right there with you! Parenting is such a balancing act. As the Mom of 4 littles, I have spanked before. Sometimes they deserved it, sometimes I was just mad and over my limit. I admit it. It doesn’t happen too often. The hardest discipline to dish out lately has been keeping my 12 year old from his friends when he does something wrong. It literally hurts my heart. I can only hope that someday he’ll think of me the way you think of your parents…. :)

    1. I really appreciate your sincere note.

      The discipline part of parenting just sucks, plain and simple. It IS a balancing act. And with 4 kidlets, I can only imagine having twice the discipline to dole out. :)

  3. You talking about breaking a wooden spoon reminds me of the stories my dad would tell about the nuns and their rulers. Oooooh, the nuns! They are infamous!

  4. We struggle with this as well. And as my children got older and we started becoming more aware of other parenting styles we were astonished to discover that we were what you would consider “strict” parents. We thought we were pretty middle of the road.
    We believe in respect, kindness, being socially appropriate, and doing things the first (or at least the 2nd time we tell them).
    I think that being strict works for us. I would rather be able to back down a little when something is important to my children than trying to enforce rules later on with my children who don’t have respect for me.

    1. We share similar philosophies. I loved what you said about respect, kindness, being socially appropriate, and doing things the first time. I just wish there was a magic pill for getting the kidlets to listen the first time around! :)

  5. Just be glad you don’t have to deal with this while also dealing with menopause. I was a teenager when my mom…changed…and it was brutal.

  6. Discipline is the worst part! Right there with getting everybody out the door for school in the morning.
    I do think the higher they think I’ve set my expectations, the less I have to discipline. We’re big on kindness, honesty and respect. Manners are huge for me too.
    It’s starting to get a lot easier. So far, the hardest stuff to deal with went down when they were between two and four! Though, my twelve year old is rapidly approaching the teen years, so my tune may change soon!

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