Overheard this weekend:
A mom who I know only in passing only was talking about her daughter's problem with lying. She tells many lies and she's about 6 or 7 years old. As a punishment, the mother has begun to cut her hair each time she gets caught lying. The girl has long black hair. She loses an inch with each lie. She continues to lie.
I don't know how I feel about this. I believe in spankings, but the strong whop on the butt kind that when you do it once or twice the threat of a spanking is effective enough for all future behavior modification. I believe in grounding, removing privileges, and of course natural consequence. (i.e. "You didn't eat dinner and now you're hungry at 10:00 p.m? I bet you'll eat a LOT at breakfast!") But altering a child's appearance in a way that does not directly relate to the offense? I'm not sure.
I've always been vain about my own hair so this punishment would be construed abusive by ME. And I feel children should be allowed some control over how they dress and look. It's healthy and appropriate. I have sons and not daughters--cutting their hair or letting it grow is totally up to them. But would this rule apply to girls? If my kids lied, I'd take away TV or computer time, make them miss a fun family outing or hopefully devise disciplinary action that related to the lie they told.
Notice, I say discipline--the Latin root of that word means "to train or to teach" which I prefer to punishment when doing the dirty work of parenting. When Mr. B stole a candy bar at the grocery store and handed it to me in the parking lot two years ago, I walked him back to the check out and asked him to return the candy bar to the lady and apologize for taking it without paying. He never did that again--however I wonder how much he understood about his crime when he committed it. Nevertheless, Mr. B does not steal now--so the lesson stuck. Would it have stuck if I'd spanked him? Slapped his hand or yelled? I don't know that he would have learned anything in that moment. On occasion one of my sons will lie--to get out of trouble. I make it a point to stress the discipline for the lying than for the other offense--honesty is that important. And when they are honest about doing something wrong, I make it a point to praise their honesty while still dealing with the wrong.
I also do NOT punish like my parents did--my mother only had a hammer in her toolbox--I endured the silent treatment, spankings, shakings and months of groundings in addition to excessive removal of privileges. I grew up resenting all of it and only learning that I should walk on eggshells because I never knew what might set my parents off at me. I was not necessarily taught any difference between right and wrong, good and bad so much as I was taught never to cross their paths. Unhelpful to be sure. Consequently, Team Testosterone ALWAYS knows why mommy is mad and what will come of it. They also know that Mr. D and I act as one because we keep any debate private from them. They know interrogations, a lecture, an apology, and righting a wrong comes after they mess up. There's a security in knowing what to expect and a justice in knowing the boundaries. Sure, I mess up sometimes in how I react to their behavior--but I own it and appreciate their protests of "that's not fair!" But I'm still the boss, the one in charge. It's my job to redirect them and make sure they step on the straight path.
And at the end of anything, there's always forgiveness. Could I forgive my mother if she cut off my hair that would take a month or more to regrow? I don't know. This punishment leaves me conflicted--weigh in readers. Would you cut your child's hair to punish them? Is this an appropriate course of discipline? I'm curious to know.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a shocking and related post.