February 13, 2011: People -- stupid people -- often ask my advice on parenting issues. (Really stupid people ask me about fixing cars, but that's not too often.) Of course, having written a successful syndicated column on education and parenting issues for several years -- ("The Education Consumer." You may have missed it, but it's too late now!) -- I feel I'm ultimately as qualified as the next person to offer my opinions and insights on this topic (provided the next person is Harpo Marx).
To begin, I don't believe in hitting children, primarily because they can hit back. I find it's much better to do something sneaky and assault them when they're not looking. For example, my son was recently refusing to clean the cat's litter box, so rather than smack him outright, I waited until he was tying his shoe, then I threw the cat on his back. This got a reaction, you see, and he was able to make the connection that neglecting the cat can equate to pain. (At least I hope he made that connection; he can be so thick sometimes!)
I also find deprevation can serve a handy purpose, especially when it relates directly to the lesson a parent is trying to impart. For instance, my daughter was neglecting her violin practice in order to read some book. My clever solution -- in order to foster discipline and simultaneously spare us the resinous screech of horse hair on wire -- was to force her to watch television. She didn't want to watch, but after three or four shows, she got into the spirit, and I was able to get back to my nap time.
It's not easy being a parent, as most parents know, but the rewards are boundless. There are tax credits, for one thing, and if you like sweets, you can collect enough booty on one Halloween night to carry you through the winter months. Children also provide laughter, although this can be grating, especially when you're trying to read. I like to encourage my children to laugh, however, but mostly when they're at school or in the religious institution of one's choosing.
To summarize, there is no license needed to be a parent, but anyone who has a television screen in the back of their minivan should have theirs revoked. I like to consider my children my friends, and have even borrowed money from them on several occasions. A well-oiled house can be like a machine, provided there is discipline and cogs and wheels and, perhaps, a conveyor belt.
Remember, if you teach your children well, their parents' hell will be slow ... and sometimes painful.