So, I was in the grocery store this morning and something occurred to me, right there beside the bacon and boudain. As I watched a mother with her young son dance the Tango, it occurred to me that both were clearly out of step.
It dawned on me that many parents teach, what could be called, the “countdown to obedience.” A child is told to do something, and he declines to obey. The parent repeats the reprimand. The child just stands there. Then the parent says something like, “I’m going to count to three…” And so it begins, T-minus and counting. This is not teaching obedience; it is teaching math. And then if the parent is really a pushover, he moves into teaching fractions. “Two and a half…” But what has changed between the command and three? Nothing.
The child knows exactly when the point of enforcement will (or will not) come. Sometimes it is when the parent actually gets to three. Sometimes it is when a certain tone or decibel level get’s into Mom’s voice. Sometimes it is when the parent uses the child’s full name, middle name and all. But the thing that teaches is the discipline in association with a particular tone or shriek. The word by itself is hollow.