April Fool’s Day…

…was four days ago – I know.  And it’s never really been a big deal deal in my family, or, I suspect, most families.  It’s kind of a B-movie type of holiday:  while ignored by most, a few folks go crazy over April Fool’s Day even though it’s campy, offbeat, and doesn’t have much of a marketing budget.

My kids live for holidays – they are continually asking when the next one is and get excited even though the next “holiday” may not mean much of a change in day to day activities for them.   When the 7 year old heard about April Fool’s Day he was enraptured and spent weeks designing pranks that had absolutely no hope of fooling anyone.

I decided to make it memorable for them.

When they opened their lunch boxes at school, instead of their normal fare, they each found this:

Sealed 16oz Can of Organic Beans

Unpopped Bag of Microwave Popcorn

Plastic Fruit

A Spoon

The kicker was this:  I was there – at both lunch periods, so I got to see the fun.  Kindergarten has lunch at 10:30 (!!!) in the morning and first grade at 11:00, so I hustled over to the school and from a hidden location witnessed them each open their lunches, take each item out, stare at it – puzzled, rotate it, stare at it some more and wonder if they were really supposed to eat it with the provided spoon somehow and if so how?

And then, of course, I popped out, said “April Fool’s!” and gave them a big hug and their real lunch – slices of hot pizza I had brought from home.  I was declared the “Best Mommy Ever!!!*”

In any event, I think that’s something they will remember for a good long while – hopefully it will overshadow some of my lesser parenting moments….of which there are many.  Now I just need to plan something even better for next year!



*Tonight I was declared the “Worst Mommy Ever!!!”  You can’t win ’em all.


Parenting Lesson No. 342

The kids and I went grocery shopping at Kroger last night, because there’s nothing I like better than shopping with 4 tired kids.  When we got home, the 5 year old said something odd and had his hand in his shorts pocket…long story short (he’s a terrible liar) he had a packet of Skittles candies that we did not pay for. He immediately narked on the 7 year old who was up in his room.

I asked the 7 year old what he had taken and he lied repeatedly until I got an empty packet of M&Ms from him.   In desperation he told me that his 2 year old sister had told him to take it or she would kill him, but up until that point he was VERY convincing and I would never have known had it not been for his brother.

I sent them to take a shower. Afterward, the older one went up to his room to get some clothes and he came back looking rather suspicious – and sure enough he smelled like chocolate.  Knowing that I would take them away earlier, he had dumped out the candies and brought me only the empty packet claiming that he had already eaten them.

While he was brushing his teeth in my bathroom, I went up to look around his room. I found (well hidden) the corner of the M&Ms wrapper and a small empty baggie of fancy jellybeans which he had not brought me when I asked earlier.

So I had the following to deal with:  a) the fact that both boys ripped off the store and b) the older one lied through his teeth repeatedly and about several different facts.

I told them that we are going back to the store right after school the next day (today) to speak with the manager, to apologize, and to pay for the stuff with their own money which is already out on the counter.  I also told them to hope that the manager does not call the police.   They both told me that they did NOT want to go back to the store and please don’t make them.  Too late for that, little boys.  They went to bed dreading the trip, which was absolutely fine by me.

While they were at school I called the store and spoke to a manager.  She said it was absolutely no problem and that they have to give “The Speech” fairly regularly (phew – I guess this is more normal than it feels!).

When they got home from school. I marched them to the kitchen table and had them each write a note of apology to the store.

The manager (different one than I had spoke with) at the store was very understanding and spoke to them very sternly, but also thanked them for coming back in to pay for their ill-gotten goods because that was the right thing to do.  I could tell he had done this before.  They cried….first the sniffles and then the red eyes and then the out and out bawling.   I may have cried a little – it was hard to watch.

The 5 year old's apology

The 7 year old's apology

We then paid for the candies and left.  On the way home I told them that if this ever happened again, we would return the merchandise to the store, apologize to the manager, pay for the items, and then drive straight to the police station where they could tell their story to the police.

I feel like I have dealt sufficiently with the stealing and am still formulating a proper punishment for the 7 year old’s lying, which is a major offense in this household.

Child development sites (and my friends with lots of kiddos) tell me this is a pretty normal event for this age and nothing that guarantees a life of crime ahead, but after seeing their reactions, I have a feeling I don’t have to worry about it happening again.

My kid’s been watching too much 24 hour news

Yesterday the kids* and I were at Target** and we had a look at the toys.***  The boys gravitated immediately to the Legos; they have a new line of Lego ninja collectible toys.  And frankly, they look pretty lame – something to compete with other little boy collectibles like Bakugan and so forth from what I can see.

The seven year old started begging for a package of them which I told him I had no intention of buying.  He asked how much it cost and suggested that maybe he could pay me back out of his piggy bank.  It was about $20 and he only has about $10 in his bank, so I said no.

He paced around, thought about other ways to get it, and then declared rather triumphantly in a line taken straight from Washington D.C., “Mommy – I can just write you a check!”  OK…..no.

So we had a little talk about budgeting and spending wisely:  not wasting money on things we don’t really need, and not spending money we don’t have.****  A timely topic, if there ever was one.

*And I’m going to have to get used to saying, “Yes, they are ALL mine.”

**Buying toothpaste.  Someone, whom I will not name, decided it would be better off squeezed into the sink.  Again.

***I confess – it was easier than the thought of letting them mess up the house before bedtime once we got home.

**** Too bad Governor Perry wasn’t there for the lesson.

Should You Have Kids?

When Paddling Doesn’t Get Us Anywhere

Proverbs 23:13-14:  “Do not withhold correction from a child,  For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.  You shall beat him with a rod,  And deliver his soul from hell.”

Spanking is a huge debate topic on the internet – you can get even the mildest of people whipped into quite an emotional frenzy when the issue comes up.  Some are concerned with the effectiveness of the discipline strategy and some argue in favor of parental rights.  Many folks who don’t spank believe that it’s not harmful for those who choose to use it, as long as it is not disproportional to the child’s age or size.  Some think it’s fine as long as not done with an object such as a belt or stick.  Some think it’s abusive under any circumstance at all.

This recent article from Time.com discusses the lack of effectiveness it has as well as the profound psychological harm done to the child from repeated spankings:

Now researchers at Tulane University provide the strongest evidence yet against the use of spanking: of the nearly 2,500 youngsters in the study, those who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were more likely to be aggressive by age 5. The research supports earlier work on the pitfalls of corporal punishment, including a study by Duke University researchers that revealed that infants who were spanked at 12 months scored lower on cognitive tests at age 3.

Led by Catherine Taylor, the Tulane study was the first to control simultaneously for variables that are most likely to confound the association between spanking and later aggressive behavior. The researchers accounted for factors such as acts of neglect by the mother, violence or aggression between the parents, maternal stress and depression, the mother’s use of alcohol and drugs, and even whether the mother considered abortion while pregnant with the child.

Compared with children who were not hit, those who were spanked were more likely to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, get frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against others.

Parental control is another issue.  Many parents want the ability to discipline their children as they feel is necessary.  After all, they know their child best and know what makes that child tick, so the argument goes.  I am sympathetic to the concern. 

I have, very infrequently, and after numerous warnings, given one of my sons a swat on the butt.  Do I think I harmed him?  No.  However at 4 and 6 years old, both boys can and usually will listen to reason, removing the need for spanking completely in our house.  Do I think there are more effective methods of discipline that I could have used?  Probably, yes.  Almost certainly.

Despite the admission that I have spanked a few times, I loathe the idea of anyone else touching my kids.  Their grandparents would never spank them and I would be horrified if either of their schools suggested it.    A 2008 ABC News article reports that:

The public by a 2-1 margin approves of spanking children in principle, and half of parents say they sometimes do it to their own kids, an ABCNEWS poll found. But an overwhelming majority disapproves of corporal punishment in schools.

Sixty-five percent of Americans approve of spanking children, a rate that has been steady since 1990. But just 26 percent say grade-school teachers should be allowed to spank kids at school; 72 percent say it shouldn’t be permitted, including eight in 10 parents of grade-schoolers.

Indeed, even among adults who spank their own child, 67 percent say grade-school teachers should not be permitted to spank children at school.

Honestly, I was very surprised the numbers condoning the practice in schools was that high.  I would be concerned with the hurt being too much for the offense or that it was used without fair warning, but it’s possible some people just don’t think that far ahead.

As it turns out, it’s just not that effective.

Paddling in schools is perfectly legal in Texas (are you surprised?)  as well as many other states. I remember the threat in elementary school myself – I never saw the paddle, but I heard tales!  Most districts in this state, among them Houston and Dallas ISDs, however, have long banned the practice.

According to a 2008 CNN article, over 200,000 kids are paddled annually.  Here are a few more statistics:

Corporal punishment in schools remains legal in 21 U.S. states and is used frequently in 13: Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida

The highest percentage of students receiving corporal punishment was in Mississippi, with 7.5 percent of students. The highest number was in Texas, with 48,197 students.

The punishment is disproportionately applied to black students, according to the organizations. During the 2006-07 school year, for instance, black students made up 17.1 percent of the nationwide student population but 35.6 percent of those paddled at schools

Black girls were paddled at twice the rate of their white counterparts in the 13 states using corporal punishment most frequently.

In addition, special education students with mental or physical disabilities were more likely to receive corporal punishment

Some of the reasoning behind corporal punishment is based on religious thought.  I strongly encourage anyone interested in more information on different religions and their views on spanking to check out this link to The Center for Effective Discipline.

Somewhat disturbingly, despite the possibility of harm done to children psychologically, and the fact that it is applied often to special education and minorities disproportionately, one school district in Texas which formerly outlawed the practice recently put it back on the table by removing the ban:

…Temple is unusual in that after banning the practice, the school district revived it last May at the request of parents who were nostalgic for the orderly schools of yesteryear. Without it, there weren’t any consequences for students, according to Steve Wright, Temple’s school board president.

Although only one student has been paddled in the past year, officials say the change in student behavior in Temple’s 14 public schools has been dramatic and they note fewer discipline problems.

Many of the parents who pushed for the change paddle their children at home and wanted consistent discipline in the classroom, said John Hancock, Temple’s assistant superintendent of administration.

“We’re rural central Texas,” Hancock said. “We’re very well educated, but still there are those core values. Churches are full on Sundays. This is a tool we’d like in the toolbox for responding to discipline issues.”

I’m glad to see that it has been used very sparingly since its revival, but is “behave or we will hit you” really the best they can do? 

The article cites the district as stating, “Without it, there weren’t any consequences for students.” None? Can they think of no better discipline measures to take? 

Corporal punishment in schools harms children and damages their education. The practice almost always causes immediate pain, and can result in lasting physical injury. It humiliates and degrades students, and may leave them depressed or withdrawn. Corporal punishment teaches students that violence is acceptable: it can make students aggressive, angry, and more likely to lash out against their peers or educators, and it can teach them that domestic violence is permissible. Furthermore, as a result of being physically punished, students can become less engaged in school, less motivated to succeed, and may become more likely to drop out.

And perhaps most importantly, if a child is that unruly that we consider hitting them, perhaps the parents and school need to look into what is really going on with the child – unstable home life, psychological disorder, medical condition, other special needs, or something else? 

Corporal punishment is not permitted in either prisons or mental institutions. 

If corporal punishment is legal in your district, I suggest you contact the principal to opt out in writing – they may have a form to fill out as well, but most schools will allow you to refuse that form of discipline.

Paddling may work short-term on some children, and it’s certainly cheaper than many other options, but what are the long-term consequences?  Maybe we need to consider the overall damage before taking a shortcut in raising our kids?

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