And Another Thing…

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Things that make me want to not have children

When I first left church youth ministry I took a job as a residential counselor (read: houseparent) at a church-affiliated home for “at-risk” youth. I will spare readers the gory details of this job, but suffice to say that it was a nightmare. Insufficient fiscal support, spotty relations with local churches, and inconsistent approaches to managing and disciplining the children in our care were among the many problems we faced.

Taking responsibility for a child who has experienced wide varieties of abuse and very little in the way of corrective discipline is always a massive undertaking. We had one twelve year old boy who I am convinced had either oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder. Once, when I used minimal physical intervention to prevent him from assaulting another resident (which was perfectly legal for me to do, by the way) he looked at me shouted “You can’t touch me!”

Several experiences like this, along with my general pessimism, caused me to conclude that I needed to save up and get a vasectomy. As the years passed (and after I had left the children’s home) and my mental health, general attitude, and life circumstances improved, I gradually backed off from the position of never wanting kids. Christine and I look forward to having some in the future. However, every so often I relapse. Such as when I read the story below:

Court overturns father’s grounding of 12-year-old

Wed Jun 18, 2:08 PM ET

A Canadian court has lifted a 12-year-old girl’s grounding, overturning her father’s punishment for disobeying his orders to stay off the Internet, his lawyer said Wednesday.

The girl had taken her father to Quebec Superior Court after he refused to allow her to go on a school trip for chatting on websites he tried to block, and then posting “inappropriate” pictures of herself online using a friend’s computer.

The father’s lawyer Kim Beaudoin said the disciplinary measures were for the girl’s “own protection” and is appealing the ruling.

“She’s a child,” Beaudoin told AFP. “At her age, children test their limits and it’s up to their parents to set boundaries.”

“I started an appeal of the decision today to reestablish parental authority, and to ensure that this case doesn’t set a precedent,” she said. Otherwise, said Beaudoin, “parents are going to be walking on egg shells from now on.”

“I think most children respect their parents and would never go so far as to take them to court, but it’s clear that some would and we have to ask ourselves how far this will go.”

According to court documents, the girl’s Internet transgression was just the latest in a string of broken house rules. Even so, Justice Suzanne Tessier found her punishment too severe.

Beaudoin noted the girl used a court-appointed lawyer in her parents’ 10-year custody dispute to launch her landmark case against dear old dad.

I hope that this is an anomaly rather than a trend, because you know it won’t take long for such nonsense to drift south to the U.S. While I am very much for the rights of children to be protected from any and all forms of abuse and/or neglect, what this dad did does not qualify as such. Sometimes I think that all of the chicken littles who run about screaming “nanny state!” may be more right than the rest of us want to admit.

And if the law is going to screw with my ability to discipline my kids, I don’t want any.

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9 Responses

  1. mattdabbs says:

    I once saw a little 5 year old girl in therapy who had ODD, CD, ADHD, trichotillomania, encopresis, and pica. 14 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy did the trick.

  2. odgie says:

    Matt,

    CBT is a wonderful thing. I am partial to dialectic behavior therapy for personality disorders. However, when I was at the children’s home I had no meaningful training in recognizing or treating disorders (beyond one course as an undergrad and one seminary course) and my direct supervisor was completely incompetent. Not an auspicious beginning to my career in human services.

  3. Kelli says:

    living in germany has given me a lot of limitations in terms of discipline. you cannot spank here. so, when rachel does something in public that would warrent a swat on the butt (and i mean a swat here, not a beating as some like to equate to spanking), i have to stop in my tracks. you get some interesting looks if you just verbally discipline your child here. it’s really quite interesting because i have run into many older germans who comment on how awful most german children are and how they lack discipline. i totally agree with your sentiment… the state should stay out of parents’ ability to discipline their children. abuse is one thing, of course. but general discipline of a child should be up to the parent.

  4. odgie says:

    Kelli – That is unfortunate. I am sure that spanking is not your default punishment (nor will it be mine when I have kids) but I am a firm believer that it needs to be on the table as an option (especially with smaller kids, who won’t necessarily understand the lecture on why they can’t stick the fork in the outlet).

    Of course, Germany also forbids men to urinate while standing up, so what do they know? 🙂

  5. David B says:

    Parenting ain’t for sissies, especially the way one can have SRS called on you the moment you do something that might be considered objectionable by a bystander. We’ve learned not to take our kids out in situations that might potentially call for a spanking (like going to restaurants) because we don’t even want the possibility of having know-it-alls (most likely those who were terrible parents themselves) judge the way we discipline our kids.

    Parenting is a great blessing though…for all of its headaches, the benefits far, far outweigh the negatives. At least so far (I’m only 2 1/2 years into it).

  6. Kelly says:

    Man, that judge is an idiot. Nothing else really to say. Parenting is hard, and making a parent afraid to discipline their child is insane. Discipline is not abuse.

  7. Andy says:

    I’ve got the solution. Should Ann & I ever have kids I’m seriously considering trotting off to Taiwan where parents still rule the world!!! (insert maniacal laughter)

  8. Micah says:

    I think of other reasons not to have children too.

    1. They are small.
    2. They need you to do stuff for them.

    Thats plenty.

    I know one day my outlook will change. Until then I do not want small dependent humans around me.

  9. becky reeves says:

    just move to Africa. Here you’re seen as strange for not running around beating your child with a stick if they do something you don’t like. 🙂

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