Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jessica Alba's Creative Discipline Is Better Than Spanking... Right?

My college roommate had a friend, we'll call him Z, who was football player at our school (one with a high-profile football program). He fit the college athlete stereotype perfectly. He thought he owned the school, always had girls throwing themselves at him, and had little regard for people and their property.

He was mildly amusing at times, so I wasn't always offended by his presence in small doses. But he would usually remind me quickly why I didn't like him very much. One night, after the three of us had dinner together, we all got frozen yogurt cones. On our way out of the dining hall, Z decided he was not going to finish his. There was still quite a bit of it remaining. I watched in shock as he opened the US Mailbox, which was positioned next to the garbage can, and dropped his drippy yogurt cone into it.

Without a thought about the mail person who would have to deal with the mess he made, or the important mail he probably just ruined, he laughed at himself. I asked him what the hell he was thinking, and his brilliant defense was:
What? It wasn't that bad. I could have dropped a firecracker in there. That would have been worse...
The ice cream cone had the same effects as the firecracker would have had. Some mail got ruined. A mess was made. The difference was only a matter of degree. So I responded to him:
Just because you can think of something worse you could have done, doesn't mean what you did was OK.
This same thought came to mind yesterday after reading about Jessica Alba's "creative" discipline with her three-year-old daughter.


She admits to locking her toddler in the bathroom with the lights off because "her previous methods weren't scary enough to keep the tot from behaving badly." But, she tries to justify the practice by saying:
I mean, we don't believe in, like, spankings. Or like when I was a kid I used to get hot sauce in my mouth when I had a smart mouth or something like that... But with my daughter, we don't obviously do any of that, we give her time-outs...

"I'm like, 'You're going to have time-out in the bathroom.' And then I'm like, 'With the lights off!' And she's like, 'Ahh!' She freaks out... because just time-out in the bathroom isn't bad enough... (because it) has big windows and it's a big bathroom. It (the dark) makes it seem that much worse."
So you don't spank your kid... that's good. So you don't put hot sauce in her mouth (yet)... also good. But locking her in a dark bathroom alone with the purpose of terrifying her? This reminded me too much of Z's defense above. So I'll say it here too:
Just because you can think of something worse you could have done, doesn't mean what you did was OK.
The purpose of giving the extreme time-out is the same as that of spanking and using hot sauce... to make a child afraid. To scare her into submission. Fear is not a good thing for relationships. Why do parents think this is a good idea?

Scaring the hell out of your children is not necessary, and it should be considered a violation of a child's rights as a human. There is no other situation in which it would be acceptable to lock a person in a dark room against her will. Why are parents allowed to do things like this to their children?

And some day this method won't be "scary enough" anymore. What happens then?

Dear Jessica Alba,
You don't need to be the bad guy. You don't need to make your child fear you. There are alternatives. You can choose love instead.