I have three boys who are actually not my stepsons yet. Their mother, who is widowed, and I are going to be married in about two weeks. We are maintaining a biblical relationship. However, I am a teacher, so I am free to handle childcare over the summer, where she is not. In order to start our life as a family freshly, we are moving into a new home. So the boys are currently living with me here and helping me get it opened, while she closes up their old home.
Today, I gave my first spanking to one of the boys. One of their mother's main complaints was that the eldest boy 'forgets' things he doesn't want to do. When we were making house rules, one of the changes we made was a 'chores poster' so the boys have no doubt as to who is supposed to do what, when. One of our summer rules is that you don't have to do chores as soon as you wake up, but you do have to do them before going out to play. When the eldest boy asked me if he could go to his friend's house, I asked if his chores were done. He told me, yes, and I told him to be home at noon for lunch. As I was preparing lunch, I noticed that one of his chores (cleaning the cat box) hadn't been done. When he got home at noon, I took him aside.
He swore that he'd forgot about it. I pointed out that he'd lied to me, as well as that his 'forgetfulness' was the reason for the chore board. I told him that I was going to take his word that he hadn't purposefully lied, but that he was going to be punished for not fulfilling his responsibility. I then preceded to give him a spanking.
In one place, I saw you answered a question about spanking on the bare bottom. In other places, you suggest having the child lower his pants only. Which is appropriate? At this point, I'm tending toward the idea of giving the boys their age as the number of strokes they receive for almost all offenses
My other two questions are less directly related to child discipline, but this seems a good time to ask them. I try to teach by example whenever possible. I feel that the boys deserve some privacy. Before entering their rooms, I knock. Their mother does not agree with this. It's especially a problem with the eldest boy who is approaching puberty. I've spoken to her about it. She thinks it is not a problem since she is their mother and had changed their diapers. I pointed out that the same could be said about her and her father, but I didn't think she'd appreciate him coming over and entering her room whenever he wanted. She saw the point but frequently walks in on the boys. Am I wrong for wanting to give the boys this private space?
Finally, the older boy will be starting middle school next fall, and he wants to change his briefs for boxers. I know there is no biblical quotation on this. I do not like boxers on children because of today's habit of sagging. At this point, I am considering allowing the boy boxers with the understanding that if I see them, he gets one warning, then a spanking, then he loses them for a year (or something). On the other hand, because I hate sagging, I'm afraid I might not be totally open in this regard. I think I know what you'll say, but would you mind sharing the appropriate verses on modesty with us - for his benefit and mine?
When people see a method that appears to work, they have a tendency to overuse it. We capture the concept in the cliche that when you have a hammer the whole world is a nail. If you're serious about being a good father to these boys, you are going to have to break your over-reliance on spanking. I only recommend spankings in three cases: violence, outright defiance, and extreme misbehaviors where no other punishment is appropriate. The reasons are simple:
- If you overuse a punishment, it becomes less effective.
- If you start with the severest punishment, there is no room for scaling up if misbehavior is added to misbehavior.
- Spanking punishes, but it does not teach correct behavior.
In the case of the missed chore, a better solution would be to point out that the chore was missed. He would then
- be required to do the chore before having lunch,
- he had to stay home for the rest of the day and the next,
- for the next week, he must show you (not just tell you) that the chores have been completed before he can go off to play.
It is an inconvenience on your own time, but it makes him aware of his responsibilities -- especially of keeping your respect by being truthful -- and it begins establishing a habit of getting his chores done.
When spanking is necessary, there is no need for a child to lower his pants unless the spanking over his pants has become ineffective. The need is fairly rare. For most children, it is never needed.
Since the boys are moving into the teenage years, you are going to need to monitor their behavior periodically. They should not always know when they are being monitored so that they have some reluctance for misbehavior.
In general, the doors to all rooms should remain open, except when they are sleeping or changing. The closed-door is a signal to the rest of the household not to barge in at the moment. But the door should not remain closed longer than necessary. If it's an emergency or the door stays closed a suspiciously long time, then knock and ask if you may enter. We had a firm rule in our home that the doors had to be open if someone was visiting and no one was allowed to have a person of the opposite sex in their room unless there were multiple people present.
The difficulty at the moment is caused by the doors always being closed and so you always need to open the door to converse with the person. If the doors are always open, then the habit is just to peek in and talk. A closed-door becomes the exception and the reminder to knock first.
Like most people, we "solve" problems with rules, but too often the rules deal with the specifics instead of what is the actual problem. The problem is not whether he wears boxers or briefs under his clothing; the problem is whether he dresses modestly. First, cover the lesson "Proper Attire" with the boy. He needs to understand the purpose of clothing and at his age, you will find that he will have no problem understanding the purpose and will fully agree with you. Explain that sagging is a form of rebellion by attempting to shock people. It exposes a part of the clothing that is normally not seen. Because the pants look as if they are almost going to fall down, it causes people to wonder when it is going to happen. The reason saggers wear shorts or boxers under their pants is to allow them to get their pants down further without fully exposing themselves.
Another thing you can do to stop even the consideration is to point out how silly the boys with sagging pants look having to have one or both hands always on their pants in order to run. Point out that obviously they cannot run very fast that way, nor can they catch a football during a game. They will quickly catch on that this fad is impractical (and it is already showing signs of fading for that very reason).
Once the purpose is understood, you can then state that you do not want to see their underwear peeping out over their pants. If he is eager for boxers because he sees it as being more adult-like, then the threat of losing the privilege for a period of time should be sufficient motivation. You don't need to lay out all the levels of escalation in advance.
I wanted to thank you for your recent advice. The boys' mother and I discussed it and implemented most of it. The thing I like best is, I had some private time with the older boy the other day and we stopped at the mall. While walking through the mall, there was a young man in front of us who wore the sagging style. When I noticed the fellow pulling his pants up repeatedly, I pointed it out to the boy and had him count while I timed - five times in one minute. I had a discussion with him similar to what you outlined, explained my thoughts on the modesty issue, as well; and we stopped and bought his boxers that day.
I think my problem is that I want to make, perhaps, too many rules. My parents didn't really bother with rules. I was just supposed to know how to behave and was often spanked for things that I really don't feel I deserved (for instance, coming home late, when Mom had told me not to be gone 'too long'). I guess I'm going too far the other way, in trying to spell out every little detail with my boys, now that I'm going to be a father. That's a tendency I'll try to watch for. Thanks for pointing it out.
You're welcome. Keep in mind when there are too many rules, it is impossible to keep them all in mind. The result is that the number of violations increases. For example, how many people have the tax code memorized? So how many are confident they filling their taxes with zero errors -- even when they try very hard to be accurate?
What is needed is broad rules that cover expectations in general. Take as an example these dress code rules from a school district in Oklahoma: http://www.tulsaschools.org/schools1/dresscode.shtm. It isn't that the rules are bad, but they are so specific they end up leaving unintended gaps. Students constantly find something that isn't specifically forbidden and then push the limits. Then the school board adds it to the list, increasing the length of the rules, and before you know it no one is reading the rules because they are too long, complex, and boring.
That is why I advocate teaching teens the goals desired. In regards to clothing, teach them what makes good clothing choices and why. Make sure they understand the purpose of clothing. Point out the purpose of bad clothing choices and why people choose to go that route. Then when fads change you are less likely to have a child following the fads. Thus more is covered with fewer rules and a greater likelihood of compliance.