I will never forget going to the grocery store with my oldest son (now 33 with 5 of his own) who at that time was 3. We were having a great time picking up a few things for Mom as we pretended we were driving in the Daytona 500. We had just turned the corner into the cereal aisle when we saw "him"; although he was only 3 or 4 Chad and I knew that he was definitely related to Mr. Hyde's side of the family (Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde). We stopped in the middle of the aisle as the following drama played out before our eyes. The young terrorist said "I want Captain Crunch" and his mother said "no honey we're going to get something else today." Raising his voice several decibels he again said, "I want Captain Crunch" and again his mother said "no". By this time my little guy had the look on his face that kids get just before they know something big is about to happen. The third time he spoke he yelled, "I said I want Captain Crunch" and then he proceeded to slap his mother in the face! Chad's mouth dropped open and finally he found his voice as he looked at me and said, "whoa he's gonna get a spankin'!" We were both surprised when his mother, holding her cheek said, "well all right, if that's what you want. Mommy's sorry." She then picked up a box of the Captain's finest and put it in the cart. As they passed us my little guy said "Dad are you gonna spank him? Dad, he needs to be spanked! Dad, please spank him!" I explained that he wasn't my little boy and that maybe his Mom (I hoped) would take care of him in the car. We were backing out of the parking lot when we again saw the pair getting into their car and Chad made one more comment, "somebody needs to spank him!"
My wife and I have observed over the last 37 years that more children than ever behave badly in public and what's worse more parents than we ever remember allow it to happen. I have wondered often if this is caused by parents who don't know how to discipline, or don't want to, afraid to discipline in public or have just fallen into the goofy idea that we must keep our children happy-- as we make them the center of our homes!? Whatever it is, bad behaving children, disrespectful teenagers and embarassed parents are definitely on the increase. It didn't used to be this way. There was a day when a parent, teacher or principal could strike fear into the heart of a child with a simple verbal warning and the child would obey and behave! I'm not making this up it really used to be that way.
When I was about 6 I backed the tractor out of the garage and almost went down the hill into the corn field. My Dad had repeatedly told me not to touch that old John Deere but I just couldn't help myself. The worst part was two of my friends were standing behind me holding onto the seat. When my mother said "you just wait until your father gets home," I immediately went to my little clubhouse and wrote out my last will and testament, lined up the toys I would give to my brother and waited under the tree.
Finally, I heard the car in the drive way. It didn't take long for my Dad to talk to my Mom, look at the tractor and call my name. As my life passed before my eyes I walked up to him and he handed me his Old Timer pocket knife that I still have and said, "go down in the woods and cut a willow switch!" In those days it was tough enough to get a whippin' but to have to cut your own switch was torture. Ten minutes later I returned and he looked at what I had cut down and said "it's not big enough, go back and get another!" I never forgot that or what happened when I brought the "log" back up the hill. It was a long time before I disobeyed either one of my parents again. Painful as it was it was a necessary lesson that has stuck with me through the years.
Rasing kids is hard work, but in this day and time with the prevailing culture, is it possible to raise well behaved, good kids who do right and turn into productive adults who live right? I believe that it is and in my next entry I'll share the secret. I will tell you that you can't do it in sixty seconds, it takes a life time but the rewards are richer than you can ever imagine!