Disciplining a Child in Sweden: My dilemma

In some aspects of our upbringing, Swedie and I couldn't be more different.  We have spoken about this a lot during the years.  We find some things out about how we were raised and are completely surprised.  My mom didn't let us eat candy until well after we had our permanent teeth (WHAT?!).  Swedie's dad stuck a piece of candy in her mouth when she was around six months old (WHAT?!)  Upon discovering some of these revelations, one of us may say:

     - That's not happening with our kids.

That was all okay when we were talking about a hypothetical child.  But now we have an actual breathing human being that we have to raise and it's time to make those compromises.  We're at the stage now where we're just feeling each other out.  It's round one and both fighters are just throwing jabs.  He's still too young for any disciplinary actions to take place, but we are already trying to get on the same page - rather write a page together - on this subject.  There is no bigger difference between us than how we were disciplined, so this one is going to be a doozy.

My mother was the disciplinarian in my family.  She chose corporal punishment as her form of discipline (spankings).  I won't go too far into it, because this entry would get pretty dark, but I'll just say my mother went a bit overboard.  I attribute this to the fact that she was a single mother who was terrified that one of her kids would end up in the hospital trauma center where she worked.  She saw many young men/boys die on that operating table because they chose the wrong path.  I'm not angry at my mother.  We have a great relationship.  There was never a time when I didn't feel loved by her.  Though I understand her tactics, I know she would do it differently if she had the chance.  We were good kids.  But that's the thing.  You don't get a second chance at this.  So we have to get it as right as possible.

Despite my upbringing, I am not against corporal punishment.  Part of the reason I stayed out of trouble was fear of getting spanked when my mother found out.  I made sure to keep good grades in school because average grades or below and we got in trouble.  I think a small amount of fear of one's parents keeps one in check.  My dad wasn't around much after I turned 9, but I was terrified of letting him down.  He was never the "disciplinarian", but I never wanted him to be.  He did discipline me a handful of times and I was sure to avoid that happening.  I am against going overboard with it.  I always felt that you shouldn't spank your children when you're still angry.  That's when you could go overboard.  I explained my thoughts on this to Swedie and she did not agree.  She said/says you just shouldn't hit your kids.

Well Sweden went a bit further.  Spanking your child is illegal here.  That's right, illegal!  I couldn't believe it when I heard it.  It's one of those things that is non-negotiable here.  I can talk about things all along the political spectrum with Swedes.  They entertain my thoughts on legalization of marijuana, the monopoly on alcohol, legalizing prostitution, you name it.  Most of the time I'm on my own, but my views are heard and politely debated.  But try talking about letting a parent spank their child and you will be met with a stone face.

      - It's illegal.

No smile.  No entertaining of any alternative views.  You just have to find a different way to discipline your child.  The cynic in me thinks that speeding is illegal.  Everyone goes a bit over the speed limit a little bit, right?  The police won't pull you over if you're going a couple klicks over the speed limit.  Most people have experimented with some illegal drugs in their youth.  That's illegal.  And here SUICIDE is illegal!  That must mean some things aren't serious.  Right?  But then I think of how I look trying to fight for the right to spank my child.  I look like a real bloodthirsty jerk.  Ok.  I won't argue this with anyone anymore.  In all actuality it makes me be more creative and gives me an opportunity to flex my leadership/management muscles.  So that's good.

But then I see Swedes that go WAY in the other direction.  I've never seen so many temper tantrums in my life.  It's like the kids run the show here.  I've never thrown a temper tantrum.  That wasn't tolerated.  Whenever we were going somewhere, my mom would stop in the parking lot and give that briefing.

      - Don't touch nothing unless you can buy it.  Do any of you have money?
      - No.
      - Then don't touch nothing.  And don't embarrass me in there.  Cause I'll embarrass you right back!
      - Yes ma'am.

A lot of my American friends are familiar with this briefing.  A child acting out in public was insane to me as a kid.  It was seen as spoiled and an indication of no discipline at home.  But here in Sweden it seems to be the norm.  I also think the kids know that their parents don't want to discipline them in public so they take advantage of it.  That NEVER would have crossed my mind!  The parent seems embarrassed and in most instances that I've witnessed, they try and appease the child.  I see kids throwing things, screaming, falling to the ground all while the parent is… NEGOTIATING with the CHILD.  It's insane.  One time I saw a woman outside with her little girl.  The girl had to be between three and five.  The girl had taken a seat on the sidewalk and was refusing to go with her mother.  The woman was bent at the waist and asking her child to resume walking with her.  My mom would have snatched me up so fast… I once saw a mother walking around the store picking up things that her child was throwing to the ground.  Really, lady?  Get stern with that child.

That is not happening with Bash.  I'm sorry Sweden.  There has to be some sort of middle ground.  Of course I don't plan to spank him.  I don't want him to be scared of me physically harming him the way I was of my parents.  But I do want him to have a genuine fear of disappointing me.  Swedie says that's what she had.  She never wanted to let her parents down.  That kept her in line.

I asked my American friend with two kids what he does for discipline.  He said they take away "Fredags Mys" (Cozy Friday -  a tradition when you get together as a family on Fridays and eat snacks and watch TV/movies by candlelight) or "Lördags Godis" (Candy Saturday - self explanatory I hope).  He said his kids straighten up with the threat of taking that away because they know he will do it.  And that's the key.  We're going to have to stick to our words.  Fredags Mys can be just as fun for the parents, so you look forward to it.  That won't be a problem for this guy.  I don't even like candles that much!  And I went most of my childhood without candy, so missing Lördags Godis won't be hard at all if he acts up.  This idea is a keeper.

Of course this is all extremely premature.  Bash is still trying to figure out how to control his arms.  Any discipline will be far down the line.  Swedie and I are getting that page written.  We agree that we don't want a spoiled kid and temper tantrums won't be tolerated.  Physical discipline is off the table.  But I can't make any promises if he starts exhibiting serial killer traits.  I'm trying to protect everybody!  We're new to this.  There are so many mistakes to be made.  There's so much pressure to molding a productive member of society.  I have faith in this team though.  Bash is gonna be alright.  Until next time...


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