Childhood Incivility

Tantrumby Jerry Richardson   8/22/14
Have you recently been in a nice restaurant, hoping for a quiet dinner, only to be subjected to a temper tantrum thrown by an undisciplined child at a nearby table? It is all too common.

Facilitating this assault on your hoped-for dining enjoyment is your observation of the non-action and all-is-ok demeanor of the child’s parent or parents who seem to believe that it is perfectly acceptable for their child to disturb the peace of everyone in the restaurant—they apparently believe they have no obligation to even try and stop it.

Very often, ditto the above, for a child’s tantrum in a grocery store or other public place.

My parents, and I as a parent, had a very simple rule for a child’s public, uncivil behavior: Immediate removal from the direct-scene of misbehavior to privacy if possible, followed by a stern explanation of non-tolerance for public, uncivil behavior.

This instruction was backed-up, if necessary, with non-abusive corporeal punishment—this was very seldom necessary; yet necessary, for the simple reason that a parent must have the WILL to enforce the rules; the child has to believe and know that the will is there, and sometimes it takes a demonstration of a parent’s WILL to enforce to convince an unruly child.

What was the result upon my behavior of such treatment?  It was a very predictable rapid-adjustment in my behavior and attitude (I clearly recognized that I couldn’t get away with disobeying my parents).

Why are so many parents today derelict in teaching and enforcing public, civil behavior?

Answer: The political correctness of progressive thought has embedded, into many modern minds, a bogus child-rearing philosophy first foisted upon the American parenting public by Dr. Benjamin Spock:

“In 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock first published his infamous book “Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care,” which was unlike any that came before it. Instead of stressing the importance of teaching self-denial and respect for authority, Spock discouraged directive training and emphasized accommodating children’s feelings and catering to their preferences
“Using Spock’s approach, parents began to feed self-indulgence instead of instilling self-control – homes were becoming child-centered. As parents elevated children’s “freedom of expression” and natural cravings, children became more outspoken, defiant and demanding of gratification. In fact, they came to view gratification as a right.”  —Dr. Spock

It would be difficult to adopt a child-rearing approach that is more non-biblical and more societally-disastrous than Dr. Spock’s prescription.

What has been the result?

America has been building an undisciplined, self-indulgent society.

We have been witnessing, since August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri a riot; a result of public, uncivil behavior rapidly exploding into its worst end-result: Unjustified, indiscriminate violence.

Where does this sort of behavior begin?

It begins with undisciplined children who are not taught to respect authority; they learn disrespect, and in the process they learn self-indulgence.  As children they learn to expect that their parents will give-in to their demands; they grow-up expecting that other adults (society) will give-in to their demands.

And then, one day when their unrealistic expectations cause them to run afoul of the law, a predictable outcome, they naturally expect to continue to have their way—what else can they expect?—they have been effectively trained.  They have been trained, from birth, to expect that everyone around them will step-aside and give-in to their I-can-do-as-I-please ego.

The sad and tragic individual result of an undisciplined childhood is often death or a prison cell.

How has society gone wrong here?

American society has gone wrong, in part, by discarding the biblical-practice of appropriate corporeal punishment.

Many of the critics of corporeal punishment (mischaracterized as child abuse) do not wish for a parent to be allowed to discipline their own children in this time-honored, Bible-recommended manner.

Worse, many parents have lost, or have never embraced, the critically important notion of what corporeal punishment represents.  The importance of corporeal punishment is not the physical punishment per se.  That is one (only one) of the important reasons why it should never be abused (overused or misapplied).

The important dynamic that corporeal punishment highlights is a battle of wills between the child and the parent.  If a child is to develop proper self-discipline, the parent simply must demonstrate, to the child’s ability to understand, that the parent has the WILL to enforce behavioral rules.  A demonstration will likely need, at least once or twice in the child’s life, to be backed-up with actions, not just with words.

How often have you witnessed the embarrassing behavior of a parent, in a public place, telling a child to stop doing something. The child pauses then proceeds to ignore the parent and returns to doing that something.  Then the parent tells the child “I’m not going to tell you again, don’t do that.”

The child does the something anyway.  This is followed by more bluffing threats from the parent; threats—the parent does nothing but talk.  There is a battle of wills taking place; and the child intuitively grasps the situation: The parent does not have the WILL to enforce the rules.  The child wins the battle of wills.  The parent, the child, and society all lose.

“He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”  —Proverbs 13:24 NASB

“Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.”    —Proverbs 23:13 NASB

Of course to many moderns, biblical truths are non-sense: “Hey, this is 2014, we can’t have people ‘beating’ their children.”

This is a typical discarding of an important biblical concept by ideological mischaracterization.  “Corporeal punishment,” gets redefined as “child abuse.”  All “corporeal punishment” gets redefined; not simply “excessive corporeal punishment.”

No sensible person denies that “corporeal punishment” can and has been misused; no sensible person denies that any form of discipline can be misused, but that is hardly a sufficient reason for discontinuing discipline. In fact, almost any needed thing in life can sometimes be corrupted.  But, we should define and condemn the corruption; not indiscriminately toss out the needed.

Undisciplined children have a far-reaching detrimental effect on society. Fathers in the home are generally the enforcers of discipline.  If fathers are absent, discipline suffers.  Statistically, undisciplined children and adults come from fatherless homes:

“The single greatest factor contributing to the exploding rate of deviant behavior in our country is that of children being raised in fatherless homes.
“Stephen Baskerville, a professor of political science at Howard University, has stated that, ‘Virtually every major personal and social pathology can be traced to fatherlessness more than to any other single factor.’  He continues, ‘fatherlessness far surpasses both poverty and race as a predictor of social deviance.’ The great misconception today is that poverty is the main incubator of the criminal class. This is a widely embraced distortion of the truth. The criminal element in America is predominately a direct consequence of the fatherless home, not poverty.
“The repercussions of a Fatherless America are staggering: Statistics reveal that 80% of rapists come from a fatherless home; 85% of youths sitting in prison come from fatherless homes; and 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from homes absent a father.”
  —Fatherless homes

What does the Bible tell us about this?

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”    —Galatians 6:7 NASB

If a society sows undisciplined children, that society will reap undisciplined adults.

© 2014, Jerry Richardson • (1645 views)

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12 Responses to Childhood Incivility

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    That’s “corporal” not “corporeal” punishment. I recall a few years ago some parent corporally corrected a child who was acting up in a store, and some busybody called in the police. My friends and I were less than pleased about the incident. As for Dr. Spock, MAD may have put it best over 40 years ago:

    Spock, Spock, the baby doc,
    Leads a peace march down the block.
    Around him everywhere you look
    Are kids he messed up with his book.

  2. Tom Riehl TRiehl says:

    It’s actually a shame that this piece needed publication. Common wisdom of the ages is assaulted by the left, and for what purpose? It has nothing to do with child rearing or prevention of abuse, but everything to do with fomenting moral decay. Why do I feel so alone in my divination of the communist pogrom on our fruitful society?

  3. Anniel says:

    Jerry, I thought a lot about this last night and remembered that our oldest daughter often had tantrums, even though even she behaved well at restaurants. If I said to the kids, “Let’s go to the zoo today,” our daughter would be on the floor kicking and screaming while her brothers were running to the car. I just could not understand why she was such a brat. Then a few days after her fourth birthday we went to catch a plane and she was hysterical. I grabbed her to face me and asked what her problem was, through her tears she blubbered, “I don’t know what to say when the pilot talks to me.”
    I was shocked but realized that she was terrified when she didn’t understand new places or what was expected of her. Thereafter we began to always carefully explain where we were going and what she should do. She was as good as gold when we did that. Today I think she would march into the lion’s den without a whimper.

  4. Anniel says:

    I do know that corporal punishment is sometimes the only answer. And I would add that the “self esteem” movement has made parents afraid of their own children. Not only might they damage their child’s psyche, but the busybody at the next table might call the cops. And the child is the loser.

  5. Jerry Richardson says:


    Thank you for your very pertinent comments. I have to believe, from what you have said, that you are a Godly mom. Bless you.

  6. Libertymark says:

    Not in a restaurant, but recently on a plane. With a well-to-do mother of two screamers and her attendant au pair. I had the aisle seat and she had the two inner seats and the next aisle seat. It.Was.Miserable. LA to Seattle. Good God, I wanted to take her and her brats to task. She and the au pair plied the both with the latest iPads and tablets, and smart phones. The au pair walked the younger one to the back of the plane where he wailed for a good 90 minutes. One was 5 and the younger boy was 3-ish. At least he tortured those in the rear of the plane during that time. I was in the front, in priority seats I paid for .

    At no time in a person’s life can one rage out of control like these children did. Why let them start as toddlers? Break their evil nature early. Today it is impossible without having Child Services put you in jail and take your children to foster homes. Thank God I have grandchildren and not like the 40 something mother on the plane. If I had to raise a child today, I’d end up in prison as a “child abuser”. The civil society is in for a rough ride, thanks to the parents of today.

    Spare the rod and spoil the child is a direct path to prison. God help us. We are raising a generation of homicidal maniacs, whose rage is out of control and permitted. Beat their little behinds before it is too late.

  7. John Paul says:

    Great article. As a follow-up, Ann Barnhardt has written a very good blog post about shame–and the lack of it at:

    that goes to the heart of the matter about where all this leads: “The world is going to hell IN A HANDBASKET because shame is considered a psychological defect to be overcome, and a hate crime when recommended to others.”

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