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Madlyn Primoff: When Has It Become Wrong to Discipline Your Children?

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Recently, a mother of two daughters, ten and twelve, was arrested for allegedly abandoning her children in the business district of Scarsdale, three miles away from their home. After the two daughters were bickering in the back seat, Madlyn Primoff had enough. She pulled over and told the girls to get out of the car, and proceeded to drive away. The twelve year old caught up with the mother, but the ten-year-old was left alone. A successful attorney, Madlyn is now confronted with authorities and the public questioning her parenting skills.


Growing up, I remember hearing stories of friends of my parents who were left as kids … and I mean KIDS in and around the same age as these two children … on the side of a road, miles away from their home town, with no money, so that they could “find their way home.” These stories were described as a “growing and learning experience.” An experience to instill “self-confidence.” Many of these individuals turned out to be well-adjusted, happy, self-confident people.


Unfortunately, today, this idea seems especially disturbing because we have witnessed numerous child abductions, kidnappings, killings, and rapes. So, you could say, we are in different times. At the same time, however, part of me wants to say ‘What gives?’ I’m not a parent and if I were in the same position as Ms. Primoff, I am not sure how differently I would have handled the situation. But this story begs the question, when did disciplining children become a crime?


It is not surprising to me that so many children are disrespectful to their parents and to their elders. Parents are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. God for bid a child act out in public. If they don’t discipline the child, they risk embarrassment and judgment from surrounding observers who think they are weak and lack the ability to control their child. Further, the child learns that this behavior is okay, which can manifest itself as bigger problems down the line. If they do take action and swat the child on the backside or give the child a strong “talking to,” they risk being judged as abusive and inappropriate. Decades ago, it was perfectly acceptable for a parent to discipline their children (not violently, I’m talking a little hit on the rear end). But not today.


There is no judgment here, on either side. I feel for Ms. Primoff. I also feel for the ten-year-old girl. But I’d like to know your thoughts. Was Ms. Primoff so wrong? How would you handle the situation?

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