DR. WALLACE: I'm a 14-year-old girl and still get spankings when my father feels I should be punished. I'm made to bend over our kitchen table, and then he swats my rear end with a wooden paddle — one swat for a minor infraction (forgetting to do my chores on time) and five swats for something "big," like talking back to my mother.
First of all, I want you to know that I'm not crying "child abuse." The swats do hurt (actually they sting), but I am not left with telltale black-and-blue marks. The pain goes away after a few hours, so it's really not that big a deal, but I just feel that I'm too old for this ridiculous form of punishment. I told my dad I was the only girl in my circle of friends who receives physical punishment. My girlfriends simply get grounded or put in a timeout when they get in trouble at home. Don't you agree that I am too old to be treated like this? I really find it humiliating to be told to "bend over" a few moments before I'm swatted. I feel this is inappropriate given my age. To make things worse, every time I am at the dinner table eating dinner, all I can think about is being made to bend over the table and being unceremoniously swatted on my behind. That's just gross.
It's bad enough that I have to go through this at all, and it's horrible to have it happen in the kitchen, right at our dinner table. — Humiliated Girl, via email
HUMILIATED GIRL: I'm aware some parents believe in the saying, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," and therefore use corporal punishment as the primary form of disciplining children, but I'm not one of them. In my opinion, inflicting pain to discipline a child is a weak method of deterring unacceptable behavior. No child should ever be physically punished, and I find your form of punishment barbaric as described. It seems to me that your father wants to inflict both physical and psychological punishment upon you when you've upset your parents via your actions.
Effective discipline must be a learning experience for a teen. Open and honest dialogue between the parent and teen is the first step, followed by the penalty that will be given if the unacceptable behavior should occur again. The goal should be to educate the teen on how to follow acceptable behavior within the family's standards and learn from each and every mistake. This takes time, patience and work to effectively implement. Sure, a few physical swats quickly delivered might make a parent feel good in the moment, but that punishment truly does more harm than good in the long run.
Every family is different, so wise parents must try many forms of discipline until they find the most effective nonviolent one. Open parent-teen communication sprinkled with love gets better results than harsh words, threats or physical punishment.
I suggest you show this column to your father, not to get you out of your punishments — either now or in the future — but rather to move the consequences you experience from the physical, psychological and emotional to the rational, logical and educational.
SUMMER JOB A GOOD IDEA
DR. WALLACE: I'm 16 and have never worked, but I'm thinking about getting a summer job now that school is out. My parents support this idea. What do I need to do to get a job? I don't have any experience! — Job Seeker, Minneapolis
JOB SEEKER: I agree with you and your parents that seeking a summer job at the age of 16 is a good idea. You're likely old enough and mature enough to do valuable work for a variety of employers.
My advice is to seek a job that matches your skills and/or interests. Many students make the mistake of focusing on why they want a certain job, which may include its flexible hours, workplace location near home or "social" work environment. However, in order to have a good chance of being hired, it makes much more sense to focus on what you can do for a potential employer that can add value to their business.
These days, the labor market is tight, and we have low overall unemployment nationally, so good, steady, part-time workers are needed for a variety of jobs. A good first step is to take stock of your skills, abilities and previous experiences, even if these experiences have not been achieved via a previous job. It can be helpful to use online resources to both seek compatible jobs and create a quick resume that lists your skills and aptitudes, in lieu of previous employment experience. Be politely aggressive in following up with every job opportunity you apply for until you find one that is a good fit for each party. Good luck!
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.