These days, disciplining children is a touchy subject, sparking debates among parents, the community, and the media.
I, personally, have debated the issue with myself. I don’t necessarily agree with spanking, but I’ve been known to swat a few diapered butts in my time. I used time outs several times a day while the kids were younger. Now that they are older, I’ve surrendered to begging and/or playing to their softer sides by whining about how hard I work, and how I really need their help at home. When I am at my witts end, I remove the x-box until things are done the way I expect, and then they get it back. I’ve been very lucky with my kids, however. Overall, they are very well behaved and are not discipline problems at school or in society.
Disciplining other people’s children is even more controversial. Other than when I was teaching, I have to say I have never really disciplined other people’s children. Sometimes while other children are in my home, I may ask them to settle down, but most times the actions are directed at my children who I then expect to convey to their guests. But certainly out in public I would never say anything to someone else’s child, or especially to the parent of that child. (Which I’ve had done to me twice before – I still get mad when I think about those times. Maybe I’ll write another blog about that…)
But anyway, most times I feel like it is none of my business, so even though I may roll my eyes, or mumble under my breath, I don’t typically say anything….
but yesterday I couldn’t help myself. I was driving my daughter and her friend home from a fund-raiser in my treasured black, Mustang convertible. This is a car I have been dreaming about since high school, but with 4 children it doesn’t quite work well as a family car. So when my oldest started driving and we found ourselves in need of a new vehicle, I determined it was time for me to drive something fun. After months of looking for just the right Mustang, I finally decided to order what I wanted: a 5 speed stick shift, black (alloy metallic) convertible with black top and black leather interior. I received my 2009 model in August 2008, and it has been my baby ever since. I wash it almost continuously, and constantly tell my children to be careful around it, and not run their bikes into it, or open other car doors into it, or even fingerprint it (if it was just recently washed.)
So yesterday, we were passing by a couple of boys sitting on the side of the road. They were looking at us as we drove by, with big smiles on their faces. I had an inkling something was up, but I was still shocked to see the water balloon filled with dirty water hit the windshield of my car and splash along the whole side. It took a second to register what they had done, but as soon as it did, I slammed on the brakes, and threw it in reverse. I could hear the younger boy yelling and saw him run towards the house as I backed up quickly. The older boy (maybe 10) was standing behind the bush. During the few seconds it took to get back to them, I ran through my mind what I was going to do or say. I rolled down the window and this is what came out:
Me (with finger pointing and a firm voice): “It’s not right what you did.”
Him: “It wasn’t me! It was my brother!”
Me (still pointing): “Maybe, but you were involved, and it’s not right to throw things at people’s cars.”
Him (head down): “Okay”
Me (still firm): “So don’t do it to anyone else….”
Him (still with head down): “Okay”
I pulled away, worried I had embarrassed the girls, and surprised that I had actually said something. I think my daughter was slightly impressed. “Wow,” she said. “I can’t believe my mom was actually pointing at him. I mean, what were they thinking throwing a water balloon at such a nice car as this.” Her friend was in total agreement.
Of course I used the circumstance to “teach” the girls about respect. Sure it was only water, but that’s beside the point. They risked damaging something very important to me, and at the very least they, “messed up” something that I take great pride in keeping clean. Goodness knows she hears that quite often at home: “Maria! I just cleaned this kitchen! Get back in here and wipe up your mess, put away your dishes and close the cabinet doors!”
Perhaps someone learned a lesson… either way, I felt good about what I did… and don’t regret it. I doubt that I will turn into one of those parents who feel the need to speak up when other people’s children are being obnoxious – especially when their parents are around. But who knows… Those boys may have created a monster… 🙂