Parenting: Don't Confuse Love and Discipline
When you're on holiday you see many intriguing creatures: lions, monkeys, zebras, dolphins, crabs, elephants and ill-mannered children. Regretfully, most of these animals are largely forgettable, but a brat of a child? 

That stays with you for many moons after. I’m a father to a six year old princess, so this is not a spiel from a man who has no idea about parenting. I know kids have to eat their vegetables. And they have to stand in the naughty corner, no matter how long their long somber face tugs at your heart. So when I see a child chin-deep in indiscipline, it breaks my heart. Like the child I saw while on holiday a year ago. A little ogre of about 5 years with deceptively sweet chubby face, but who had the heart of a Hitler.

Our paths wouldn’t have crossed if she hadn’t forced down my daughter’s head in the swimming pool. Spurred by my princess’s wails, I got to the scene of the crime immediately and found her. I saw lightly because all she said was. “Be a friendly girl, Jessie!” But Jessie looked like she heard that weakness all the time, because she just giggled and waddled away in the water, like a hippo. Over the sound of my crying of my baby, the mother offered me an apologetic shrug and mumbled, “kids!” like I was supposed to understand. 

I didn’t. I couldn’t.

Over the few days I saw Jessie; Jessie dragging a seat a cross the restaurant floor, pulling at another kid’s doll, Jessie screaming for soda, screaming at her dad, screaming to be let at the deep end of the swimming pool … in fact half the time her parents were constantly saying, “Don’t touch that Jessie!, share, don’t spit on the cat!...” 

It became apparent to me –and, I dare say, to other guests in the resort –that Jessie was what happens when parents replace discipline with love. Or confuse love with discipline. Jessie was more than just a spoilt child: she was the face of the broken modern parenting where children get to choose how they are punished at all.

Children have to get to understanding the concept of punishment. They have to know that you can’t walk up another table in a restaurant and help yourself to someone’s muffin, or hold another child’s head under water, especially if that child’s weight is the weight of your thigh.

I’m not saying flog the child like we were flogged by parents. But for crying out loud, pinch them. Deny them their toys or TV. Let them stand facing a wall or force them to sing the national anthem. Let them know that if they misbehave, if they are disrespectful, there will be repercussions. Better still, just hold their heads under water and let’s see how they will like that!

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