White Plains Police Department
Madlyn Primoff

NY Mom's Parenting Misstep Opens Dialogue About Disciplining Children

April 30, 2009 06:00 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Madlyn Primoff recently attracted national attention for kicking her two squabbling daughters out of the car in a White Plains, N.Y., neighborhood, forcing many to focus on good and bad parenting decisions.

Not Abandonment

Primoff’s lawyer said she “absolutely was not abandoning her children,” when she asked them to leave the car, according to The Journal News.

In fact, she just drove around the block, but when she came back, she could only find her 12-year-old daughter. The sisters had separated, and Primoff’s 10-year-old daughter had been found by someone else and taken to an ice cream parlor.

Primoff checked the area, and then sought her husband and father’s help in finding the other girl. When she called authorities, she learned that the youngster had been taken to the police station.
Primoff, a lawyer specializing in international finance issues, spent a night in jail and was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, The Journal News reported.

Reactions to Primoff have been varied. “I’ve been on that edge, teetering, when I want to scream and pull my hair out and my kids’ hair out,” ABC News quoted Ilina Ewen, a writer for the Deep South’s Mom’s Blog, as saying. “But what [Primoff] did was so dangerous.”

LA Moms blogger Jessica Gottlieb said that she wouldn’t have minded Primoff’s decision as much if the girls had stayed together.

Still, Gottlieb added that if she was close to home and in a safe neighborhood, she might boot her own daughter from the car if her behavior merited such action.

“We’re going to raise a nation of sissies,” she said. “God forbid a child learns a lesson.”

One curious aspect of Primoff’s case, notes The Juggle blogger John J. Edwards III, “is that Ms. Primoff doesn’t fit the stereotype of the harried working-class mother driven to the end of her rope.” However, Edwards also pointed out that “bad parenting decisions really know no socioeconomic class, as this episode reminds us.”

Analysis: Is parenting intuitive?

“Being a parent is easy and intuitive, correct?” asks Anna Quindlen of Newsweek. “Well, no—it’s just customary to pretend that that’s the case.”

Parents may frequently feel as though their job of raising children should be easier than it really is, Quindlen notes. But parenting classes can go a long way toward making the job more manageable, and can help kids as well.

Years ago, psychologist Laurie Miller Brotman studied young children from “poor and troubled families,” and found that those whose parents received some kind of parent training were less aggressive and had fewer weight problems than children whose parents did not. The kids also had changed levels of cortisol, a hormone that “spikes” in stressful situations.

Quindlen writes, “Having their parents learn the basics of good child rearing had actually shifted the biology of these kids, so that it became similar to that of ‘normally developing, low-risk children.’”

“Connect the dots here, and the picture you have is mind-boggling—even in tough neighborhoods, with boys and girls whose background and circumstances would argue for a negative future, a little parent training can go a long, long way.”

Related Topic: Disciplining someone else’s child

Knowing how to discipline your own children can occasionally feel confusing at best, but correcting someone else’s children is sometimes even trickier. Leslie Pepper of Family Circle magazine writes that “these days it’s not just PC to police other people’s children.” Parents must often make a judgment call on whether an issue involving other’s children is serious enough to address, such as kids chewing food with their mouths open versus refusing to wear a seatbelt in a car.

“I’ve been a family therapist for 30 years, and I’ve never seen a generation of mothers and fathers so guilt-ridden and overwhelmed with their lives and their role as disciplinarians,” family therapist Carleton Kendrick told Pepper.

“Sad as it is, discipline no longer seems to be a collaborative effort among parents,” Ron Zodkevitch, a child psychiatrist, stated.

Reference: Discipline guidelines


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