Coming To New Parenting Rules

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - August 24, 2005

I am still a parent-in-training. I don’t think the fact that PIT stands for parent-in-training is a mere coincidence. It can be the pits to try to figure out the right, wrong and gray area ways to successfully raise your kids. Zack and Zoe are 4 and 2, respectively, and are without a doubt the most beautiful and charismatic children in the world. Of course, I am not being biased. OK, maybe just a touch.

But I do find that some of my hard and fast, resolute and noncompromising positions have become tempered with time.

I admit I am struggling with issues like TV, specifically, just how much can they watch. At first, I thought absolutely no TV. No videos. No DVDs. How naive was I? I am here to say that I was off-base on this policy.

As with anything, moderation is the key. But one person’s moderation is another’s excess. So how much is too much? When I first contemplated TV for Zack, I had images of a bleary eyed and pasty-complected kid whose muscles had begun to atrophy. But then he started watching Barney.

Barney, the overstuffed, vocally challenged purple dinosaur, is a godsend to parents. Despite his cheery demeanor and lack of double entendre, adults (and some children) vilify and demean this ambassador of song and dance. His syrupy rendition of I Love You is the anthem of cheeseball-hating elitists who deign this ditty to be as irritating as centipedes in their BVDs. Only the more cynical can complain about lyrics which declare, “I love you, you love me. We’re best friends and friend can be.” Oh my, goodness! The h-o-r-r-o-r!

I may not be thrilled to sit through Barney’s Let’s Go to the Farm a million and 20 times, but my kids are. As far as I’m concerned, they can watch it as many times as they want. The familiar kid’s songs sung by a U.N. of multi-ethnic and borderline musically talented preteens is a pretty good thing for kids to enjoy. No harm, no foul.

I am also appreciative to Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney. Our kids love Toy Story, TS2, Finding Nemo, Lilo and Stitch, Pooh’s The Heffalump Movie and The Incredibles. There are others, but I don’t want to sound like a shill for all kid’s movie titles. Suffice it to say, I don’t have a problem watching any and all of these.

The Toy Story series talks about family and loyalty. Finding Nemo chronicles a father’s search for his lost son. Lilo and Stich coined the phrase, “Ohana means family and nobody gets left behind.” Amen! These are pretty good themes you would like to see instilled in children, right? I know I do.

As far as TV being the devil in disguise, I don’t buy it. I know of some parents who do not allow their children any television — at all! All things being fair, don’t you think you are being a little over the top? TV can be a very positive addition to your repertoire of tools in bringing up balanced children. Obviously, one must be prudent. Your involvement is essential to make this work.

I have also learned that a swat on the behind is not such a bad thing. I had been absolutely adamant in no corporal punishment under any circumstance. I have learned that is not a realistic policy, at least for us. Again, I know some of you are blanched at reading the admission of a swatting parent. You are clutching your chests and gasping for air. But I have learned that a spanking can be constructive. Case in point:

Our kids are experienced in traveling, going out to dinners and attending appropriate functions. At 4, Zack is in the phase of establishing independence. This is natural, but to a certain extent.

Upon leaving a restaurant, Zack became unreasonably agitated. Yes, you can expect reasonable conduct from a 4- year-old. While I was with Zoe taking care of our good nights, Berna tells me of his tantrum in the courtyard and his outlandish behavior. Now, we give great latitude for certain outbursts — he/she may be tired, hungry, ill, frightened, etc. None of this applied, so our conclusion was this was a test.

Cutting to the chase, I dropped off Berna and Zoe at home and explained to Zack we were going to take a ride together. I drove and explained to him his behavior was unacceptable. The root of the talk was he did not do what Mommy said and this simply would not do. I explained to him that he would be receiving a spanking when we got home. We went upstairs where I asked Berna and Zoe to leave and close the door. We rarely close doors in the house and Zack knows it.

I spoke to him about the evening and explained he was getting a spanking because of what happened. Three openhanded swats on a clothed bottom. It was over in seconds.

I held Zack and told him I loved him. We must have sat there for 20 minutes in a hug and both of us talking. I asked him to tell his mommy he was sorry and that he will do what Mommy says. He did and he has.

I used to think TV would be a negative and that spanking was not an option. I learned that both assumptions were wrong. We still stress reading before we go to bed, but a choice movie or two is not the end of the world. I thought a spanking was the last thing on earth I would ever do. I have found that it can be done in a select and loving way in establishing boundaries children understand. I haven’t spanked Zack since.

Our job as parents are to “teach our children well.” Clearly, we have a lot to learn, too.

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