Quick story, I promise. In high school, a bunch of classmates and I decided to stage a walk-out in protest of the killings of Yusef Hawkins, Latasha Harlins and other teens who were victims of racist bigotry. A fairly large amount of other students who participated mostly to get out of class changed their minds when they were threatened with suspension and arrest. The remaining five of us wound up in the principal’s office. None of us got suspended, arrested or kicked out.

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Instead, the principal gave us the opportunity to address the entire school in an organized program in the auditorium. Being typical teenagers, we screwed it up and it never happened but the principal providing us with alternative  stuck with me. As a new parent, I’ve learned that creating alternatives work way better than spankings – although admittedly, it takes more work.

For a toddler, a pop on the butt is better than a third-degree burn from a stove (given the language barrier) but most of the incidents that beg for a spanking can be remedied by showing the kid something else to do with their excess energy. My son loves throwing his food on the floor when he’s had enough. I hate cleaning it up. I could pop him for it and he’d eventually stop but instead I started making him clean it up and put it in the trash.

When he refuses, it’s lockdown time. No toys, TV, tablets, anything. Not being able to watch his favorite toy unboxing videos is a crusher, so now he reluctantly cleans up after himself. There have been a few times when he’s forgotten about the threat of an entertainment embargo but there’s a lot less food hitting the floor these days.

On top of that, he’s learning early to fix his own messes and starting to understand that his actions have consequences. Yes, it took more energy on my part to handle things this way, but the payoff was well worth it. We can keep this up until at least the teenage years, at which time a swift kick in the rear might be the only option.

Larry Hester is a Brooklyn-born writer who’s written for Vibe, BET.com, The Source, Complex and more. He now resides in Newark, New Jersey with his wife and son. He welcomes any parenting advice or encouragement. Check him out on Facebook and Twitter @almostcooldad.

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Papa Don’t Take No Mess  was originally published on blackamericaweb.com

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