Folks have a bunch of ways to guide their kids in directions to give them the best chances of success as adults.

Folks have a bunch of ways to guide their kids in directions to give them the best chances of success as adults. Those options are grouped under the appropriate heading of “parenting.”

One of the most common tools involves taking away something the kid wants. In my generation, that might involve turning off television. Today taking away cell phones inflicts excruciating social pain.

Another important tool our parents had back then was the paddle, hand, belt or switch. By whatever delivery system, that method cut through ambiguities and touchy-feely considerations and went right to the heart — or another anatomical part — of the matter.

Today, that particular tool has been pretty much removed from the box. The overriding assumption harbored by many “modern” folks assumes it’s simply never effective to use any form of physical punishment on a child.

I don’t agree at all. Even Mother Nature has instilled within many species training rituals that includes cuffing and biting as part of many animals’ lesson plans to raise and train their young. It’s called “avoidance conditioning,” and when used judiciously and intelligently, works when nothing else will and can save their lives.

I don’t intend to revisit corporal punishment. The general consensus I garnered from past columns was that there is no “general” consensus but widely varying positions.

Grudgingly, I recognize modern attitudes toward sanctions, although see little evidence of effectiveness. Well, just when I was settling into the idea that I’m essentially a parenting dinosaur, something hit the TV screen that jerked me from my Jurassic Age mentality into the present.

Could it be my opinions haven’t completely fossilized? In the midst of the the Baltimore riots and mayhem, out of the swirling smoke and dust came a mother demonstrating a very effective moment of parenting.

She found her son taking part in the destruction of “her” neighborhood and lit into him with the righteous ferocity that only a mother can produce. I don’t take any pleasure watching somebody pummeled but I dearly loved that this kid’s parent wasn’t tolerating such behavior from her son. I smiled as she administered “avoidance conditioning” upon his head all the way down the street.

One word that I’ve begun to despise when uttered by politicians and pundits is “unacceptable.” Politicians from the president on down righteously proclaim that such and such behaviors are “unacceptable.”

Then nothing happens, thereby accepting those behaviors by default. When this mother decided her son’s behavior was “unacceptable,” she stopped it. No meetings, no discussions, no theorizing, no negotiations.

And by acting with force and decisiveness, she did her son a huge service. Lives are altered by small events and there’s an outside chance this young man’s course was adjusted toward a better destination in those moments we witnessed.

We can’t know until his future evolves but I tip my hat to this parent who put crystal clear meaning back into the term “unacceptable.”  Thank you.

Otis Gardner can be reached at