The little girls were eating breakfast when I arrived. "So have you guys had a fun morning?" They described excitedly how they had watched Dora, jumped on the couch, and worn their pink jammies. Then I asked, "What did you do last night?" Lucy rolled her eyes and pointed wordlessly to the top of the refrigerator. There was Annabelle (her doll) Duckie (her duck) and Blankie (her blankie) along with several other little stuffed friends. "What happened?" Chelsea showed me her cheek, and explained sadly, in 2-yr-old, that it had been bitten, by, of all people, her sister. Lucy was nodding solemnly. "So that's why they're on the fridge."
What's a parent to do? The whole discipline thing is a huge question mark. The little old lady spanked them all soundly and sent them to bed. I thought it was in the nursery rhyme book as instruction to mothers, so I usually resorted to that. My kids turned out well in spite of it. We also tried grounding which I soon realized was just a punishment for me. Dee would march in and say "You're grounded!" while I was waving my hands wildly, motioning "NO! NO! Anything but that!"
My mother was not above corporal punishment. We used to provide each other with books to put down our pants in case my mom looked angry. She was ready to spank my brother one day and he stepped aside so that her hand hit the door and she broke her finger! My dad's MO was the lecture. My history teacher drew a little circle on the wall, and the offender had to stand with his nose in the circle. Dee used to rattle the utensil drawer to remind the kids that the wooden spoon was available.
Time Out is the modern method. The parenting books make it sound so sensible and effective, but it is very difficult to carry out. My recent Oma-ing has provided opportunities to observe the kids punishing their mom with time out. When Lucy was crying, while in time out for punching Chelsea, Chelsea brought Lucy her doll to comfort her, saying "It's OK, Luc. I'm here."
Chelsea was in time out, required only to say "I'm sorry" but she defiantly refused to do it. Soon her mom was giving her every option she could think of, ("just nod if you feel sorry") when Chelsea finally asked "Can I say sorry in Spanish?" Unfortunately nobody knew how to say it in Spanish (where's Dora?) but that was good enough! Lucy cheered when Chelsea reappeared in triumph. It had all been a great dramatic success for the kids. They had taught mom a lesson, for sure!
By the time Dee and I got to our seventh kid we had tried everything. We conceded in defeat. The white flag was flying high, and when we heard our final toddler crying, we would call downstairs to the kids, "Just give her anything she wants!"
It will probably always be a question mark. I heard once that raising kids requires a safe, sturdy playpen. When they grow up, you can climb out. Bill Cosby said, "No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behaviour. I'm not talking about the kids. Their behaviour is always normal."
So, anyway, as an experienced mother and grandmother I would say to parents of little children everywhere, "Hey, good luck with that!"