The Spider Room vs. Hugs & Kisses

At the Rose Garden with 三朵金花, or “Three Petals Golden Flowers”

Nai-nai teaching Ava & Gia watercolors


This summer has been busy, busy, busy. Family in town, side projects, and the usual kid drama. As they grow older my wife and I are learning, by a form of trial & error and conventional wisdom, about discipline. As usual, the male and female clash. Dad would rather use a hammer, and mom wields a feather.

Kaya, Ava, & Cousin Gemma

My friend Layne on his birthday w/Ava & Leann

CRIME & REWARD: The modern parent lives in an age where punishment is seen as “mean.” Drug crimes get the offender more time than rape, murderers help sell sh*tty clothing, posing as martyrs in moronic ad campaigns ala United Colors of Benetton, and society blames crime on society, not the individual. How can the parent discipline? Corporal punishment? No chance. Thus we are left with timeouts and deprivations of treats and privileges.

Dad & his girls

Grandpa, Tra-C, San-J & Ava in the Kitchen

EFFECTIVE? It depends on how willing the parent is to be “mean.” Enter: The Spider Room. We have three spooky corners, a closet, storage space under the stairs, and the “wine cellar”, dank and dark formers stairs that lead to our backyard from the basement, until our remodel covered it up. It’s grungy, it’s dirty, and appropriately terrifying to a kid. Put them in (closet “spider room” for mild offense, egregious merits the “wine cellar spider room”), turn the lights out, and they learn quickly what happens to varmints that throw food, take crayon to sofa, bite each other (they’ve lefty nasty teethmarks on skin), or lie about leaving a “present” in the toilet (happens all the time, it’s the lie not the no-flush that’s the problem).

At Lake Chelan

DETERRENT? Our daughters, 6, 5, & 2 1/2, and nephew Elliot, have all done hard time, and the mere mention of “spider room” gets them to behave. Yet my wife (and sister-in-law Tracy) have different methods. When the kids are naughty my wife gives a hug, kiss, and explanation of right and wrong. Eeeeek! That’s not deterrent…that’s incentive. Let’s look at a hypothetical situation:

Gia graduates from WIS

WHAT MOM SAYS: “Ava and Gia, you know you are not supposed to play with peanut butter and milk in the backyard. That wastes food. Look at all these dishes and this mess. So now we have to clean it up. Okay? Mommy loves you, but mommy doesn’t like it when you girls are naughty. What should you do? That’s right, you have to put the food back in the refrigerator. And the dishes, where do they go? In the sink. Do you want to make mommy happy? Or do you want to make mommy sad? Good. Now you girls don’t be naughty, and mommy will show you how to clean it up.”

My dad takes pictures of his grandchildren

WHAT KIDS HEAR: Ava and Gia, blah-biddy blah blah neeter natter peanut butter and milk. natter natter chatter chatter hubba wubba lova wubba food gibbledy gloo biffity bop. Dishity messity food deener dorf differ dibbledy biddle gorf Mommy loves you hoinchy hoinchy hoinchy mommy will clean it up.

Mom at the Coupeville Festival

WHAT DAD SAYS: I see you girls are making a mess with food and dishes again! Spider room! Five minutes!

WHAT KIDS HEAR: Roarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!! Spider room! Aaaargh!!!!!

As to deprivations, or the “No cookie for you!” schtick, who relents? Mom can’t bear the thought of kids not getting the cookie. Dad sadistically eats, in their face, the cookies of naughty kids. I think my way produces tangible results, however, funny thing is, our kids behave under the tutelage of mom. Perhaps better. Hmmmm?

PHOTO and ART of the WEEK: A vase my mother did for me when I was in high school – the Judas Priest!


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2 responses to “The Spider Room vs. Hugs & Kisses

  1. It’s the standard divide. Your spider room illustrates the point very nicely. In our household, I am the one who gets angry, draws firm boundaries, and tries to enforce the rules. Daiga talks to Dain the way Tracy talks to your girls. If the mood is right, it gets results. But the behavior returns almost immediately because, really, there are no consequences, and the kids know that better than the parents. We don’t have a spider room but we have a very willful boy and many is the time I wish I had a spider room to threaten him with. (Of course, Mom would simply let out her precious and accuse Dad of overreacting.) Hey, on another note, don’t forget our backyard party Saturday, September 10, come any time after 5-ish. Scott

  2. Dottie

    Of course parental discipline matters are always controversial and no two people do it the same especially in a marriage. I think both ways have their merits. I won’t tell you what I think works better. Sneaky kids will continue to be sneaky until they find out that behavior doesn’t get them what they want or need anymore. If they never have to clean up because mom will always do it for them, they will continue to be messy. Even within a family, siblings need different approaches to discipline but usually parents get worn down when dealing with children, especially more than one. Love is definitely a valued commodity and kids should know that they are loved, but to love them and not discipline isn’t showing love in my view because they need to learn courtesy, manners, and restraint so they can function in society and not drive everyone around them nuts. Children learn to be manipulative at an early age which only adds to the confusion. They don’t want to take the blame but they usually don’t mind if a sibling does, no matter that they love each other. The spider room sounds like a scary place to me….all those cobwebs, yuk! Your blogs are always humorous and I love that you talk about everyday happenings with your family. You have a lovely family. It is apparent that you and Terry love your children very much. Hang in there…it is mostly a great ride to share your life with kids.

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