I believed I knew how to effectively discipline my child. I discovered that I was mistaken.
And, I used to think I was a text-book case of male pattern baldness. When I look back at my parenting experiences, I’m not so sure that was the cause of my hair loss.
On July 24, 1981, my wife, Marilyn, gave birth to our son, Ben. Shortly thereafter, the thinning process began.
During her pregnancy, I began contemplating how I would influence my child’s behavior. I decided to pattern my style after a man I much admired and, although never met, I felt I knew intimately – Ward Cleaver.
Ward was the patriarch of “Leave it to Beaver,” a show that entertained baby boomers from 1957 to 1963 and many years thereafter in reruns. The theme was consistent. Ward would come home from work – doing what, was never made clear – and be informed by his wife, June, that one of their boys, Wally or the Beaver, had gotten into some mischief. It was always something benign – like forgetting to take out the trash.
What impressed me was Ward’s effectively disciplinary method. At the end of an episode, the culprit would commit that he realized the error of his ways and would, henceforth, pursue the right path.
During my wife’s pregnancy, I began catching as many episodes as I could. I needed to find out what exactly it was about Ward that made him so good.
One day it hit me. He always took the boys into his “office” to have the talk. It was Ward’s domain that intimidated them into correcting their aberrant behavior. On watching closer, it was apparent that as soon as he said something like, “Beaver, you need to come into my OFFICE,” Beaver would wince and the behavioral change process would begin.
I was enlightened to one of the secrets of parenting.
I remember thinking when I first set eyes on Ben that this discipline thing would be a breeze. Three years later I received a sign that Ward’s move might not be the ultimate behavior modification tool I envisioned it. Ben was behaving like a three year old. And, while I can’t remember exactly what he did, I do remember being elated because it was my first opportunity to try out Ward’s method.
Marilyn described to me his deed and asked me what I though should be done. Leave it to me I said. I approached my son, feeling this overwhelming sense of confidence, and flawlessly delivered the line: “Ben, your mother has told of this act you’ve done and I think we should have a talk in my office.” Perfect, I thought. Ward would have been proud.
As I awaited the “wince,” Ben stared up at me and said, “Dad, you don’t have an office,” which, of course, was true. Dumbstruck, I quickly passed the baton back to Marilyn.
Shortly thereafter, my hair started to shed. This parenting thing was not going to be so simple.