By Scott Tibbs, January 3, 2008
I found a very interesting post on another forum that I re-posted at Multi-Level Political Debate. Before reading this post, read the thread at MLPD for context.
A good friend pointed out to me that in every interaction between a parent and child, someone is being trained. Either the parent is training the child or the child is training the parent. In this case, it was clearly the parent who was being trained by the child. The lesson learned was that if the child is stubborn enough, he will be able to do as he pleases and his mother will simply sit by and allow it.
First of all, the idea that an adult cannot restrain a toddler who is misbehaving is just insane. The mother is bigger and stronger. Pleading with a child that young is silly. A small child simply does not understand logic and common courtesy the same way that an adult does. What a child does understand is authority, limits on behavior, and consequences for bad behavior. You might be able to reason with a 15 year old, provided that the 15 year old in question has been raised with respect for authority and the boundaries of good behavior A toddler does not have the capability to understand reason.
The problem here obviously began well before the mother and child boarded the plane. This is a child who clearly does not respect his mother's authority and has not been given the discipline that would enable him to behave in that situation. I do not deny that some children are naturally more rambunctious and strong-willed than others. However, good discipline and instruction techniques will work on any child. Some children just require more work than others.
I'm sure some would criticize the concept of a "time out", and parents who use the "time out" as the primary form of discipline for a child. I believe that the most critical thing is not what form discipline takes, but that discipline is applied in a consistent and swift manner that reinforces the authority of the parent. If a child shows undesirable behavior and is told to change that behavior, the consequences for insubordination must be immediate and certain. A child who is given more than one chance is only learning that he is allowed to disobey his parent's authority, but only to a certain point. The question then becomes how far that child can push before he oversteps the bounds of his mother or father's patience.
I do believe in corporal punishment, and have seen that it can be very effective. I think it is foolish to completely rule it out as an option for disciplining a child, because of situations like the one described of a child kicking a seat on an airplane. The poster is correct in stating that a "time out" won't work in that scenario, which is why other options need to be on the table. Corporal punishment, administered with love and with the ultimate objective of correcting and instructing a child, is not child abuse. Not setting boundaries for one's child that will allow him to develop into an adult who can function within society, however, is child abuse.