Discipline is about teaching, not about punishment


March 12, 2000|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Q. Would you address the issue of teachers policing pupils and looking for signs of what they think is child abuse?

My daughter was reported to the Office of Children's Services after her daughter's teacher questioned her about looking sad one morning and she explained that she was bad and had been spanked. (The spanking left a small red mark on her hand and leg.)

My daughter is a wonderful mother, completely devoted to this beautiful, strong-willed 6-year-old, and spanked her when all else failed.

My daughter is active and well-known in the school and is devastated over this rush to judgment.

What is to become of young people if families need to fear the authorities when disciplining a child? Where is good judgment and common sense?

A. I can't agree with your daughter spanking her child and using physical force. Every time you strike a child, you are passing on the message that violence is the way to settle things.

Discipline is about teaching, not punishment. Your daughter had better reconsider her approach.

Meanwhile, if she and the schoolteacher truly had a good working relationship, they probably would have been able to talk this out without involving the Office of Children's Services. Perhaps your daughter could try to develop better communication with her child's teacher. She may also need to talk with someone about how to handle her "strong-willed 6-year-old" without using force.

Not all parents have good judgment and common sense.

Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Dr. Brazelton regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

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