"Oscar The Orange":
A Nonpunitive Approach To Toddler Street Safety
By Chris Dugan


    Including spanking in one's parental toolbox effectively crowds out other useful tools.    The more you spank, and control children by force, the less effective these methods become. Punishment, especially physical punishment, transforms the parent child relationship in miriad ways which undermine alternate methods based on listening, empathy, compromise, and mutual respect.  All too often, parents will continue spanking while attempting to use these sorts of approaches only to conclude that they "don't work."  What these parents fail to realize is that "alternative discipline" requires a complete rethinking of all the old assumptions about the parent/child relationship.

    In the early 90's on Prodigy, I had the privilege of watching over a period of months as a mother who first appeared on the board as a gung-ho prospanker then began listening to the nonspankers and decided to give their methods a try.  At first it didn't seem to be working.  But to her credit, she didn't give up, and proceeded to make a decisive break with the past.  She reported that she got her three young children together and apologized to them for all the times she had spanked them in the past and explained that she now realized she had been wrong and that she was very, very sorry.  She said everyone cried and hugged each other.  Apparently, the general atmosphere in the family changed very rapidly.  Mom had in effect declared a clean slate, and the kids seemed to be reciprocating by wiping her slate clean as well.

    This is the mother who came up with the "Oscar The Orange" method of succesfully training her youngest not to run into the street. She and her daughter took a moldy old orange from the back of the fridge, painted a face on it and her daughter named it Oscar.  Then they put Oscar in the middle of the street and waited for the inevitable to happen.  When it did, they both took Oscar's remains into the back yard and had a little funeral, with Mom giving the eulogy, frequently referring to Oscar's unfortunate habit of playing in the street instead of the sidewalk.  She reported that this completely succeeded in getting the idea across to her daughter in a single afternoon, while repeated spankings had not worked as well with her two older children when they had been that age.