In the Driver's Seat

Honesty is the crucial part of the whole ball of wax. Cliche aside, honesty is the engine that drives the journey of not only reaching our potential, but going beyond. The honesty provides the tools of evaluation and discrimination, the ability to acknowledge and work around limitations, and the vision of reality that keeps energies focused on the growth of the true self. Honesty is the key to balance and the foundation of acting instead of reacting.

Yesterday, while sitting at a stoplight, I glance over to my right. There is a doctor's office there with a parking lot in front. I see a man and woman with a small, blond haired little girl walking between them. Suddenly, the woman lunges at the little girl and grabs her hand. The man grabs the other hand, lifts the girl off her feet, and using a motion like sending a bowling ball down a lane, swats the little girl's butt. The girl's body arches, her feet land back on the ground, and both the woman and man let go of her hands to continue walking toward their car. I am in the middle lane, blocked in with cars all around me.

This little drama played out in less than three seconds, yet my mind was furiously attempting to assess the situation and plan a course of action. As a parent, I know the incredible feeling of panic as my little child threatens to dart off into the middle of a busy parking lot. That did not happen with this little girl who obediently walked between the woman and man in an empty parking lot. I saw no infraction of any sort, but still tried to find a reason to warrant such a swat. Maybe the little girl was a terror in the doctor's office. Considering the girl was not in school, she was probably 4 or 5 years old and I find it questionable that delayed punishment would be effective. Consider also that a swat delivered so spontaneously may just well be the preferred method of discipline, which I find questionable as well.

So far, I see the girl getting a swat, become frustrated that my path to the girl is blocked, and I look for intent and a possible pattern. Looking hard at the man and woman again, the woman is getting into the driver's seat of the car, and the man is putting the little girl in the back seat. The girl had not changed her demeanor. She walked between the two as though the swat was just a hitch in her stride. She raised her arms up to be picked up and put in the car with no hesitation. There was no sign that she was upset or crying. Though far from happy about it, I concluded that the girl was OK and in no immediate danger. The light turns green and I drive off stewing in thoughts of yanking that woman's hand and giving that man a good swat on the butt. I repeated again, 'the girl is safe' and with a heavy sigh, went on to think about something else as I continued down the road.

There is nothing that sets me off more than abuse of a child or animal. The fury and anger are incredible. And, once I start to feel that heat, I kick into what I call my "mode". My mind goes blank and focused to a pinpoint, scanning and assessing like an ultra-fast computer. Some sort of switch is flipped on. This switch is immediate in a crisis situation, an ability I came to consciously realize I had while doing preventive casework. My emotions are there, but my thinking is in control. I am able to act on what I'm feeling instead of reacting.

The honesty comes to play when thinking has evaluated the situation logically, which soothes the emotions. It reveals the reality over and above the discomfort of the emotions. It takes the energy away from the idealized shoulds and coulds and subjectivity. The honesty prevents taking the easy way out by escaping or ignoring or indignant self-righteousness. This same honesty is not only a fundamental key to effective assessment of crises, but of self evaluation as well.

Find your switch and pick up those reins. Your driver's seat is waiting.

(Photo courtesy of the Princess's Carriage.)


  1. Seeing that kind of thing is disturbing indeed. Its sad how many people dont understand disipline vs being abusive. Ive thought about writing a book about that believe it or not.
    That said...Im not against spanking, spanking works when nothing else will. Even animals spank their young. A dog will nip a pup that is being overly obnoxious, and a mare will nip or gently cow kick at a foal that is nursing too vigorously.
    The big problem with people is that too many dont seem to know the right way to spank so its effective. Or that like the dog or the mare knows that no real serious force is needed to accomplish disipline. Or...what works for one, might not work at all for the next one.
    Im happy that having horses and dogs has taught me "obedience training" and how to be effective with it. My horses win at shows and my dogs won thier obedience trails the first time we tried that. Is it any surprise that my children are well behaved and respectful both at homa and at school? Think Im kidding asking that? I assure you Im not.
    I bet you know someone who has a spoiled obnoxious pet. The kind of "pet" ( the very word "pet" says it all) that has the attitude that the human in their life is there to meet the animals every want. Im sure you know someone like this, ( dont we all?)
    Think about that person for a minute, and dont be surprised that in that retrospect you realize their children expect the same of them, and are equally obnoxious and bad mannered.
    The key here is how to remain "top dog" in your herd of how ever many and still be a benevolent ruler.

  2. You give much to ponder here!

    I have always believed that education is the key to effective parenting. Effective discipline does not include anger! But, from what you've said, what should be included is identifying and allowing what is 'natural' (instinctual?) to come through as well. That makes a lot of sense!

    I once heard this saying, oh what was it... Something like "Your horse/dog can tell no lies and will show me what you are". Or, "show me your horse and I'll know who you are."

    When I was learning about developmental theories, I had some confusion over 'authoritarian' vs 'authoritative'. It's the same root word, but one is very bad and one is very good. Relating your examples helps with understanding this. 'Authoritative' describes a parent with good coping skills and emotional maturity, while an 'authoritarian' is more like a shoot-now-ask-questions-later prison guard (I'm thinking Hollywood here).

    Yes, much to think about... Thanks for your insight!