A great deal of this judging and this talk between parents and about parents naturally centres on these different rules and the discipline we use. We say “Oh, she’s too easy on him, that boy is going to be impossible,” or we say “Oh, that poor kid, did you hear the way his dad talks to him?” In the tragic event of a son or daughter going very bad and winding up on the streets, we hear,
“Well, they beat the Hell out of him, no wonder he wanted to get away, to anywhere!”
Or maybe the opposite hypothesis,
“Well, that’s what you get when you let them just do whatever they want. It was obvious things weren’t going to go well for that kid.”
When a kid goes bad, it’s natural to look at the parents and the parenting. It seems we all see the huge effect parents can have, it’s always probably been obvious or maybe psychology has also had its effect on our minds, but it’s a sure thing that those ruined kids weren’t raised in the exact manner that our successful kids were, so it’s judgement: too hard, too soft, too something.
If our own kid goes bad or if we lose one, it’s regret. Half of us will say,
“If only I’d been stricter, if only I had stopped her from . . . “
Half of us will say,
“I was so mean! If only I could have been nicer, more supportive . . . “
It seems with discipline, with punishment, Murphy’s Law applies; it’s somehow never the right amount. At least that is our natural assumption when things go wrong. It’s too much, it’s not enough, it’s too soon, or it’s too late. They shouldn’t be punished for that, or that should never go un-punished. Any of these opposites could be said about the very same situations by someone, and this state of affairs begs the question: if there is no good version of a thing, is it a good thing? If a thing can fail in every sort of instance, is the abstract of the thing to be relied upon?
That is the question I am posing here, and the subject is punishment; yes, all punishment.