How Richard and Tracy’s views on parenting are wrong

The Bowersock Family episode of Supernanny demonstrates how violence and yelling does NOT make a better-behaved child, despite all the people who claim it does.  From Anonymous on IMDB:

Jo meets the Bowersock family where parents Jenniffer and Thad are having trouble with their three kids: 7-year-old Madeline “Maddie,” 6-year-old Hayden, and 4-year-old Lily Grace.

Jenniffer’s form of discipline is smacking, spanking, yelling, and even washing her kids’ mouth out with soap which shocks Jo.

Thad works as a juvenile corrections officer and when he gets off of work, he heads to the gym leaving Jenniffer with the kids.

The Bowersock kids disrespect their parents and show Jenniffer no respect whatsoever. Jo discovers Jenniffer’s abusive childhood and teaches her how to break the cycle with her own children. Can Jo help this family?

Yet Jennifer says in the intro, “I’ve never once felt bad for the way I discipline my kids.”  And herein lies the problem: abusers not feeling bad about what they do!

Richard and Tracy are an example I have seen firsthand of a family like the Bowersocks.  For all the screaming and grabbing and hitting I saw going on, those kids still wouldn’t do as they were told.  Richard would brag that they did, but I’d see different.

Children imitate their parents: If the parent is out of control, the children will be as well.  Richard said that boys who are not screamed at, grow up not respecting women.  But how can a boy respect women if his chief example is a screaming, hitting harpy?

In the early days, when I had trouble dealing with my little boy who liked hitting, I used Richard’s advice on how to discipline.  I had first tried no spanking, only to find it didn’t seem to work on him.  Richard advised three spanks.  This was before I knew what Richard’s own household was like, so I listened.

In person, he advised to spank harder, said I was doing it too lightly.  I thought with three children he knew what he was talking about, and he seemed like a decent, gentle person, so I listened.  Of course, I still couldn’t spank very hard because I just don’t have that kind of upper body strength.  Yet it wasn’t hard enough for Richard.

But when Tracy and the children moved in, weeks passed, and I began seeing how Tracy dealt with them–I began to distrust the advice he had given.  How could I have been so naïve as to take advice from someone I had never actually seen parent?

The more I saw of their ways of doing things, I took a few things that seemed to work, but the mother Tracy was out of control–and so were the kids.

She even said they wouldn’t praise the kids for doing their chores, seemed to think I was silly for suggesting such a thing, yet their kids weren’t doing their chores, while mine does his chores every day.  Screaming at the kids wasn’t working. 

My own son, who is not being raised in such an environment, is as well-behaved as you can expect from a little boy, listens to his teacher, does well in school. He does get naughty at times, but I now follow the advice of experts that one quick, light spank will not cause lasting damage.

But I avoid even that much, looking for other ways to discipline.  Jeff and I have not been perfect parents, but we try our best to recognize when we make mistakes and look for better ways.

But we got the strong impression that while Richard did recognize his mistakes as abuse once in a while, Tracy just kept justifying her harshness and thinking she’d done nothing wrong.

Once, Richard said Jeff was spoiling our son, that the problem was that Jeff didn’t want to make our son fear him.  He said maybe Jeff had been afraid of his dad and didn’t want the same thing to happen to his son.  Which was true–but the trouble was, Richard said Jeff should make our son fear him!  What is the point of that?  How is that good?

You’ll often find people saying that kids today don’t behave because they’re not whacked or yelled at.  But this isn’t true, because I’ve seen in Richard and Tracy’s household that kids were constantly yelled at and whacked, and yet the kids still kept acting up in various ways all the time.  

Don’t you see they’re imitating the parents?  That’s not being the adult and taking control, that’s acting like a child and losing control to punish the children. They pick up on that.

I remember being a child vividly: Kids want to behave for kind and gentle people, and want to misbehave for mean people.  They want boundaries, but they also want to be able to tell the difference between a kid and an adult.

You tell them don’t hit, but then beat them for not behaving.  You tell them to quiet down, but yell and scream at them.  You tell them to behave, but yell and scream at each other.  How is smacking them around going to get them to act like adults?  How is whacking the 3-year-old on the head going to teach her not to act aggressive?

Yet, especially while Richard and Tracy lived in our house, they kept complaining that my child was being spoiled, ruling the roost, not being properly disciplined–while he’s growing up to be a well-behaved boy.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing