Writing in Salon.com on Wednesday, Lawrence Diller, M.D., a 23-year practicing pediatrician, said that parents today want to rely too much on drugs and “self-help” psychobabble to control children who are sometimes unruly.

In fact, Diller says, many parents make drugs their first choice of treatment.

First choice over what, you ask? Discipline, rewards for good behavior and – perhaps most important of all – spending time with their kids.

Isn’t it nice to see a medical professional reminding us that traditional family values – and not some new-age, guru-inspired psychobabble – still works best when it comes to raising children? And just when you thought the entire country had gone off the deep end and you were the only parent who still believed in all of the above.

What Diller is saying is simply a reiteration of what common-sense folks have known for eons – that our children need a combination of discipline, rewards and some of our precious time in order to grow into well-rounded, responsible adults who themselves will someday become parents.

If swatting a behind is needed to get the “attention” of our child, so be it. I’ve always thought, ’tis better to turn the bottoms of my babes red from a swat with a hand or belt for trying to wander into the street than to pick up their dead bodies from that same street.

I apply the same principle to school behavior. If little Johnny (or Suzie, for that matter) can’t help interrupting the class, then perhaps by the second or third trip to the principal’s office for the same offense, little Johnny or Suzie should be introduced to what my high-school principal referred to as the “Board of Education” – a two-foot, oak-and-varnish paddle with that phrase engraved in it.

Once paddled, most kids were not repeat offenders. In fact, it really wasn’t the paddling that was the issue – principals didn’t paddle to hurt, they paddled to embarrass. What the issue was about was respect – respect for the teacher, respect for the other students who are trying to learn something and even self-respect.

The same is true for home life. As parents, we are entitled to a certain amount of respect from our children just for being their providers (provided we are actually providing for them). And as our children, they owe us that.

At the same time, parents should be willing to spend their time actually raising their kids – teaching them about life’s little pitfalls and secrets while instructing them in the life-sustaining arts of cooking, minor auto repair, how to start a lawnmower, keeping a house clean, and the responsibility of daily chores that must be done regardless of how “tired” you are.

And when our children fulfill their end of the bargain, as Dr. Diller suggests, we parents ought to be just as willing to reward our kids with extra privileges, verbal praise, and maybe a few bucks here and there.

As Dr. Diller points out, not much in the realm of successful childrearing has changed in the past several hundred years. What used to work back then still works today, even though our society has undergone several cultural convulsions.

So, the moral of the story is this: New-age childrearing “solutions” don’t work in our “new age,” but age-old techniques do. A sort of “back to the future” approach to raising our kids.


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