Parenting and Disciplining the Spontaneous Child

Being a parent will teach you this powerful message:

Never say “never”.

I broke my cardinal rule of discipline – I smacked Hercules. I felt sick to my gut when I did it but I am at a loss as to how to deal with this boy…

You would think he would have learned after a visit to the hospital that putting small objects in his mouth are a bad idea but no. He learned for all of a couple of weeks and now he still continues to put toys and all manner of objects into his mouth. He’s 4 years old, but clearly the 0-3 rule still applies to him.

He runs off in shopping malls, in car parks – in fact, he runs off everywhere. If you hear a woman screaming and running after her son in the shopping mall, chances are, it’ll probably be me.

It doesn’t matter how many times I tell him that he can’t run along the top of the back of my couch, he still does it. I show him how to play nicely with his toys but he has a single-minded need to destroy everything he touches. These are some of the things he’s managed to break in my house…

  • my refrigerator door
  • my dining chairs
  • the paint on my walls
  • Aristotle’s wooden Thomas the Tank Engine train set
  • Aristotle’s motor road and rail Thomas the Tank Engine train set
  • the glider plane his uncle bought him for his birthday (which was 2 days old)
  • his colour pencils – in fact, all his stationery
  • his books – and Aristotle’s books

The amount of damage our iPad has sustained from this boy, I think Apple should hire my son as a test subject to see how much their products can endure before irreparable damage has been inflicted. I must say that having a screen protector and a case does wonders to enhance the device’s physical tolerance.

But I digress… I could seriously go on and on and fill up pages just listing all the things he’s broken in our house… Nothing is safe from this child.

I can do all the demonstrating, all the reasoning, all the explaining, all the warnings, all the threatening until I’m blue in the face and my voice is hoarse, but 5 minutes later he repeats the offense as if I’ve said nothing. Hubby jokes that this boy has a sieve for a memory. Sometimes, I have to wonder if he does…

I’ve done time in and time out and neither have made a difference in correcting behaviour. He ploughs right on as if I never even addressed his behavioural issues.

It’s not like he doesn’t get it. He does. He understands. There is no malicious intention when he breaks the rules. He’s just a boy that lives in the moment and I don’t know how to reach him for more than a moment. You can’t promise him treats, you can’t threaten the removal of privileges because anything he can’t feel “right now” means nothing to him.

So I did the only thing I can think of that I have not tried… I smacked him.

When Aristotle was little, it was clear what worked with him. I could talk to him, reason with him, explain things to him and he would just get it. He would do his utmost to cooperate if I approached him positively. I would be criticised for being too “soft” on him, but I figured that if my “soft” approach was working then why did I need to be harsh? I could always get his cooperation with the voice of reason. If anything, I found that the harsh approach had the opposite effect on Aristotle. He would just get more resolute and uncooperative.

With Hercules, the opposite seems almost to be true. He will cooperate with hubby and my SIL2, who have always been much more “fierce” with him when it comes to discipline than I have, but he’ll happily ignore me if it doesn’t suit him. Hercules defies all my understanding of the natural order of parenting and I’m left asking myself – what gives?

Does the description of Hercules remind you of your child? What disciplinary methods have you used that worked?

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

One thought on “Parenting and Disciplining the Spontaneous Child

  1. Hi Shen-Li, you are a very good mother, full of patience. How i wish i can be like you, can control your temper well. You know, i canned (and smacked) my daughter many times already! She is considered a good child actually, yet… : ( i hv this PMS problem, which causes me hard to control my temper sometimes.
    Do you know a book titled “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Dr Tripp? I don’t agree with that book where he said whenever the child is disobedient you should spank him or her. However, i think this is a good book to read.
    Hercules is a very curious boy. If you really run out of ideas, why not ask our Father who is full of wisdom? 🙂


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