I drove my children home from naked. Once.
Allow me to explain. They were taking swimming lessons that summer. Every morning, I packed their beach bags with dry clothes and a fresh towel and set the bags by the garage door. They wore their suits to the lesson, then changed into dry clothes for the ride home. Despite being reminded, they continually forgot their bags so I made sure the bags made it to the car along with the kids.
One day, I decided I had too much on my plate and made the kids responsible for getting their bags to the car. The first day, they forgot. I refused to let them ride home with wet suits and wet towels. Luckily, I had a blanket and a ratty old towel in the trunk. They went home wrapped in those. The second day, they forgot their bags again. This time, I had no blanket and no ratty old towel, which were now at home. The kids went to get in the car, wet suits and all. “No way!” I said. They refused to believe I would drive them home nude until I drove them home nude. They never forgot their beach bags again.
Some call this style of parenting “logical consequences.” You forget your beach bag? You go home naked. I call it “guerilla parenting” because it takes creativity and a willingness to use extreme methods to drive a lesson home.
One parenting method I’ve never used is spanking. My parents were spankers. I had my bottom bruised and my face slapped. Not frequently, but often enough. That was a long time ago, but there are still families where spanking and slapping occur regularly.
In fact, nearly half of American parents use physical discipline. And it may be making children sick. According to a study published last week in the journal Pediatrics, harsh physical discipline may lead to adult mental illness in children spanked, slapped, shoved and otherwise physically disciplined.
The study of a nationally representative sample found adults who were physically punished as children are 2 percent to 7 pecent more likely than others to suffer some mental illness. Among the disorders more prevalent in those who were spanked as children are depression, mania, anxiety, drug and alcohol dependence, and personality disorders.
I’ve heard others defend those who strike their children, noting it is an accepted practice among many cultures. But I’ve also heard from children who say their parents spank or slap them; many teachers have heard such stories. Though their cultures may accept spanking, I’ve yet to meet a child who does.
How we discipline our children makes a real difference. The American Academy of Pediatricians already strongly opposes using any form of physical discipline. Apparently, not enough of us are listening if half of our families still use it. Physical discipline doesn’t just leave spank marks on a tender bottom; it has permanent effects as well. In this light, driving my kids home naked hardly seems extreme at all.