Archived Story

Spare the rod and spoil the child

Published 1:00pm Thursday, August 16, 2012

Though these words might be controversial for some of you, the phrase became an absolute law of nature in my mind this week after I spent about an hour in a doctor’s waiting room with my daughter, son and mother.

Amelia, my daughter, had a doctor’s appointment in Birmingham that I needed to attend. Since both of my children had spent the previous week with their grandparents in Cullman, my mom graciously offered to meet at the office with the kids in tow.

After fighting my way through Birmingham traffic, I arrived about five minutes late. Amelia was already signed in and everything was in order. My children seemed generally pleased to see me and everyone was in a great mood.

Now, considering how this column started with a pro-corporeal punishment statement, you might be thinking my tale of tranquility is fixing to take a turn for the worse. Well, you would be right. However, my kids weren’t the culprits.

As we were sitting and chatting, I began to notice a girl, probably about 12-years old, lying prostrate across several chairs. Even though she seemed to be sleeping rather peacefully, it still seemed odd that a person would simply crash on several chairs at 9:30 in the morning.

At this moment a very young boy, probably 4-years old, strolled up to the sleeping girl and yelled “get up!” about 2 inches from her ear. She responded with an ear-piercing shriek of horror. Now, it wasn’t any words or any statement like “stop it!” It was a high-pitched shriek that permeated the entire office.

The little boy, who was obviously her brother, ran off with a laugh, delighted he had tormented his sister. Unfortunately for her (and us), he soon returned with reinforcements – his older brother.

These two devils began to wreak havoc in the waiting room. They turned over chairs, jumped on tables and started throwing pens and pencils.

Their father, hearing the ruckus, soon appeared and tried to calm the situation. As he left to continue filling out paperwork at the front desk, he looked at me and said in a sarcastic tone, “Yes, these are my kids and I’m so proud of them.”

Within two minutes, they were at it again, this time overturning a plastic picnic table and several more chairs. At one point, they dumped an entire basket of pens and pencils on their poor sister, who shrieked again at the top of her lungs.

They responded by throwing the pens and pencils at her face.  She produced yet another ear piercing shriek.

On cue, the father appeared again and tried to calm the situation, this time saying, “This is what happens when you don’t spank your children.”

I nodded my head in agreement, instantly thinking about spared rods and spoiled children.

The final straw came moments later when the older boy decided to make a paper airplane. He took his time to meticulously fold his creation so that it would have a very sharp point. Once done, he promptly threw it at his sister’s head with a certain amount of glee.

As you might guess by now, she responded with her fourth and most animated shriek of the morning.

As the father finally corralled his unruly brood by the exit, he looked at me and said, “Go home and enjoy your nice and normal family.”

I did so, thinking all the while how our society needs a little more rod and a little less “time out chair.”

Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Outlook.