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Madlyn Primoff: When has it become wrong to discipline your child?

This week, a mother of two daughters, 10 and 12, was arrested for allegedly abandoning her children in the business district of Scarsdale, 3 miles away from their home.  After the two daughters were bickering in the back seat, Madlyn Primoff had enough.  She pulled over and told the girls to get out of the car, and proceeded to drive away.  The 12 year old caught up with the mother, but the 10 year old was left alone.  A successful attorney, Madlyn is now confronted with authorities and the public questioning her parenting skills.

Growing up, I remember hearing stories of friends of my parents who were left as kids…and I mean KIDS in and around the same age as these two children…on the side of a road, miles away from their home town, with no money, so that they could ‘find their way home.’  These stories were described as a ‘growing and learning experience.’  An experience to instill ‘self-confidence’.  Many of these individuals turned out to be well-adjusted, happy, self-confident people.

Unfortunately, today, this idea seems especially disturbing because we have witnessed numerous child abductions, kidnappings, killings and rapes.  So, you could say, we are in different times.  At the same time, however, part of me wants to say ‘What gives?’  I’m not a parent and if I were in the same position as Ms. Primoff, I am not sure how differently I would have handled the situation.  But this story begs the question, when did disciplining children become a crime?

It is not surprising to me that so many children are disrespectful to their parents and to their elders.  Parents are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.  G_d for bid a child act out in public.  If they don’t discipline the child, they risk embarrassment and judgment from surrounding observers who think they are weak and lack the ability to control their child.  Further, the child learns that this behavior is okay, which can manifest itself as bigger problems down the line.  If they do take action and swat the child on the backside or give the child a strong ‘talking to’, they risk being judged as abusive and inappropriate.  Decades ago, it was perfectly acceptable for a parent to discipline their children (not violently, I’m talking a little hit on the rear end).  But not today.

There is no judgment here, on either side.  I feel for Ms. Primoff.  I also feel for the 10 year old girl.  But I’d like to know your thoughts.  Was Ms. Primoff so wrong?  How would you handle the situation?

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Family Health, Mind-Body Tagged with: , ,
  • Let her gooooooo!

    Seriously, though, you should come to Argentina sometime. The kids here are all really poorly behaved. It’s amazing. And the parents never do a damn thing about it. It’s expected that all kids up to age 12 are just a-holes or something.

  • Flo

    I was just totally amazed when I read that news article: how in the world can this woman be treated like a abusive parent? Come on, you have to give hear a break here.

    In the past 20 years, parents have been pointed out for disciplining too much. The result: a whole generation of young adults and teenagers who just can’t cope with the real world, its codes and constraints, its unfairness.

    Today parents are told that loving your children is not enough, you need to educate them. Which in my view is true. And educating goes with disciplin and learning the consequences of passing the limits.

    While I might not have left the girls on the road, I would have stopped the car and distributed appropriate punishments to be carried on when arriving home. And if they were only the 2 girls at the back, I would have seperated them and sat one in front.

    Before judging this woman harshly, one should live through those situations. You would be surprised by your own reactions. A few weeks ago I gave my 2 year old daughter her very first hit on the rear-end. The guilt I felt right after! But my hand just flew off. Does that make me such a bad mother?

  • Flo/Reed, I couldn’t agree with you more. The more I think about this, the more I believe she should just be left alone.

  • Children today are getting pregnant as young teenagers. They are drug abusers, alcoholics. They are just plain rude, there is so much to say about children today and why??? Because kids do not fear their parents!! No you should not abuse your child but there needs to be some dicipline! I would not have left my children on the side of the road but you can best believe they would have been punished the second they got in the door!!!

    • jaxresident

      Funny because if you are a parent these days you are caught in a catch 22. i want to discipline my children, and at the same time they go to public schools where they are being mentally abused, talked to in improper English by the teachers, and screamed at, belittled, not taught but indoctrinated by these teachers. they treat kids like prisoners like they have done something wrong in school. then you have teachers that are just plain damn mean and treat kids bad just because they can get a secure paycheck because they are protected by these unions that only care about the money and not the kids. then we get them back home, and it is hell for them to conform to the household rules and standards again,. I know I have experienced it first hand. It is the schools that are making these kids into monsters. I had my children in homeschool and private school before I was divorced. When I had to put them in public school , the first day ..and I am not kidding they came home,,, they put their head in their plates of spaghetti and said “this is how they let us eat at school”… they were also eating with their fingers. . this was their first day… It was horrible. from there their behavior changed, their language changed, etc.. I was constantly correcting them and telling them not in my house. It is sad. I would go to their classes in middle school and hear the teachers talk, and the kids. they were horrible,,, and these were AP classes. they have truly dummied down children in public schools these days. that disipline, well there is none. Just yelling and disrespect from the teachers and kids going at it back and forth then back with the adults. it is them that is teaching it. I have seen it with my own two eyes and It is totally shocking. Warning for parents that have kids going into middle school? Don’t put them there,,, see if you can do virtual school and keep them in some sort of religious functions at church to make alternate friends and then let them go to highschool. At least it is a little different and they get to skip prison. so sad.

  • Sheila Goodwin

    I am 63 the mother/Granmother and Great grandmother of several,when my 4year old mixed my make up perfume, & nail polish and used it to finger paint my bed room, I bagged all of her toys- She asked me what I was doing with HER things I said”takeing them like you took mine.” After three days she asked if I was through playing with her toys,I asked why and she said none of her friends would come play because she had no toys.Not only did she learn to respect my things but she also told other children that we don’t go in my momma’s room unless we ask. My teenagers learned how lying hurts-they found that Mother’s can lie too.”Yes dear I will drive you to the skating rink to be with your friends Saturday.”
    Saturday comes and OOPS SORRY I LIED.
    We bring children into this world,we are responsible to teach them the world does NOT revolve around them ,They have to earn their own respect and rights. You don’t make children afraid of you- you teach them to fear the consequenc of their own actions when they break the rules or make bad decisions.
    We have to follow through with what we say we will do otherwise we are only lying to them and makeing ourselves untrustworthy,not beleaveable,
    and teaching them by example that we don’t beleave in honor.Life and lessons are way more simple then we want to beleave.

  • Mary Miss Mary

    There is a major line and a major difference between appropriate and inappropriate punishments. That line and that difference is crossed when a child is endangered by the punishment. There is absolutely no question that leaving a child or even an adult alone on the road, with no communication and no resources, even a short distance from home, is dangerous.
    There is another issue that I consider when I look at the Mom’s photo. Menopause. Mom is in that age range and I know from my own and others experience how hormones can screw up your thinking, judgement and reactions. Its time for Mom to have a thorough evaluation, physically, psychologically and emotionally. Something more than children in the car brought her to this inappropriate action. And, it should never happen again.

  • Maria Jose Castro

    What I’m actually thinking is that her parenting skills are not up to snuff. I think there is bad parenting everywhere, whether in Argentina or in White Plains, geography is the least of it.
    Meteing out such extreme punishment as Ms. Primoff’s, which is essentially abandonment, causes mental trauma at an early age which can be carried through the rest of these girls’ lives. I suspect that their bad behavior in the car has something to do with her bad parenting skills. I am not against her getting called out publicly for her poor parenting and suffering the consequences for abandoning her kids in the middle of the road. She had bad judgement. This is not acceptable behavior for an adult and a parent and I am personally hopeful that this sends a message to other abusive parents – mental abuse is also abuse.

    • jaxresident

      More psycho babble. Are you a psychologist or a DCF worker? That is not abandonment. She told them if they didn’t stop, she would put them out of the car and they could walk home. They still had a home to go to. It WAS A CONSEQUENCE OF THEIR ACTIONS FOR BEING DISRESPECTFUL AND CAUSING A DANGEROUS SITUATION FOR THEIR MOTHER!!! Lets put blame where it needs to be. On the child!!!! the children were not harmed. they got home right? How was that mental abuse? I know mental abuse. Mental abuse was from the children causing stress to the parent who had their life in her hands. I look at it as she did the right thing. If I had to deal with that, I would have been a nervous wreck and could have caused an accident. She avoided putting them in a dangerous situation by adhering to her consequence to their disruptive behavior towards each other and their blatant disregard for her authority and disrespect to her. I kind of view it as she dissolved a very stressful and dangerous situation that could have had more severe consequences. Mental Abuse? You have no clue what mental abuse is. Not even close. Giving them a consequence to their behavior and following through with it is not mental abuse. Not even physical. they even got exercise. I think it is people like you that define discipline as mental abuse? Abuse ,, mental abuse, is something you cannot fathom if you say that is mental abuse. Wow.

  • I feel sometimes, parent allow their children to act out at home and do not disclipence them. They will sure to act out when out of the house. This have to be dealth with at home and they will not act out in public. I raised 3 girls and 1 boy. They are all grow-up now, but I took care of what ever I needed before we left the house, they need what would happen when we retrurned. They turned out wonderful. I would maybe go to jail today. But God know, I did the best I knew how.

    • jaxresident

      here here. Did the same thing. They should know what to expect and how to behave before they leave the house. then if they challenge, they know what is coming when they get home. so it teaches them to weigh whether it was worth it or not. that was a HUGE pet peeve of mine. acting out in public or just playing around in public or touching things that you should not. they were not to even ask for anything. I told them it would be a direct no, But when I was out, if they did what they needed to do, I wold ask them if they would like something. it was a way of quietly rewarding them. I can honestly say when mine were young,, I was truly blessed. never did I have to tell them to behave. and they would look at other kids misbehaving like they were crazy. LOL. I got mine on the tail end. the terrible teenage years. hehehe. just kidding not that bad,, just became lazy and their rooms look horrible and bathrrom is always messed up with gel mouse, pimple medication, etc. LOL. Hey, if that is all I have to worry about well I must have not done too bad. I came home to a home cooked meal today. Grilled chicken. My son and his friend grilled it. I am being spoiled for money now. LOL. I am okay with that. my husband is deployed, I come home my lawn is cut, and my dinner cooked. AND I SPANKED TOO. hehehe. Hey. I love my son. he is awesome. the oldest. Just growing up. my youngest is in football. always busy. oldest band and NROTC as I said, I don’t think I did too bad. wonder what would have happened if I wasn’t such a crazy woman mom that would go ballistic if rules were not followed? I am sure I would not be getting the royal treatment when I got home. LOL.

  • CST

    This is frightening! Abandonment is not discipline. It has never been wrong to discipline your child, it is your responsibility. Dropping your 2 young girls, 3 miles from home is the height of irresponsible, parental behavior. Even with a huge amount of frustration a parent could pull over, lay down the law, separate the girls, set boundaries, call for quiet time during the drive and/or take away privileges if the fighting continues. I am a mother of four, 10, 9, 4, and 2. I agree this women needs serious help.

    • jaxresident

      I don’t think she did anything wrong. If I was rich, or lived on a farm and I had a 4 mile driveway like my relatives do, what would be the difference? Oh forgot, it is a money factor right? The woman did not do anything wrong. How she disciplined the children is her decision. they were not abused, they knew the way home, and they were not toddlers or anything like that. I have three boys, and my entire family are made up of boys. If her daughters were disrespecting her like that, I don’t see she did wrong and I don’t see she needs serious help. Time out? really? I love that. We put our kids in time out. We had a chair sitting in an empty room for time out. We were told that was too extreme. Like I said, people have a right to discipline their children the way they deem it works without causing the child bodily harm, and I don’t mean bruises on the butt either. I remember I got a paddling from school and it hurt to sit down for the entire day. But I never got in trouble again at school ever. I think you are wrong in this case.

    • Gina


  • Elizabethe

    I find it difficult to punish my children when they do exactly what Ms. Primoff’s children were doing. I have threatened to do the same thing. However I would only do so in an area that they are familer with and I would keep them in my the line of sight. Several years ago my son told his teacher that his father “choked him’ What he failed to tell them was he was having extreme temper tantrum and his father had to hold in bearhug hold because he was in the kitchen where he could have gotten cut or hurt is some way from the kitchen utentensils. We had CPS come in to our home. Telling us that we are not allowed to restrain our child or hit them on the bottom or anywhere on their person.

    Now a days it seems like it is a crime to punish your child when I was a child my parents gave me spankings as a child for doing something wrong my parents taught me right from wrong and to give respect to my elders even when I don’t want too. I am a much better person today than my brothers who grew up in a very different home. They both did not get punished for doing the wrong thing and now they both have been in jail several times.

    So yes I think that everyone should be able to punish their child in a way that is effective without physically abusing them excessively. I don’t think that what Ms. Primoff is wrong for what she did she has a responsibility to those children to get them to do the right thing. She did not hit them she simple made them get out of the car and have them walk while I think she should keep them in sight and a little exercise don’t hurt anyone.

    • jaxresident

      Where the hell did you live for them to tell you that you could not discipline or restrain your child? I would have asked to see the law on that. These CPS people are disturbed people just trying to make a buck and get quotas so they can justify getting money and kick back for parenting programs that people are forced to pay for to get out of getting a criminal record. The entire system is totally messed up. After that DCF person left, I would have spanked him for lying. If I am going to get accused of something, at least it would have been the truth. now that was sad. And it is exactly what they want. To break down the families and demoralize a society so it is in chaos so we will have no choice but for government to dictate our parenting and our kids and adult behaviors. It is sad.

  • MJ

    She is a mom just being a mom. Give her a break! I am not saying she was right or wrong but I am saying that as parents we decide how to discipline our own kids and it is no one elses business.

  • Maddy Hammond

    I remember when my son was 5yrs. old(who is 21 now), acted up in public. I took him home right away. He was still having a full-fledged tantrum so I literally had to drag him upstairs and put him in his room. He was yelling he was sorry. I said to him once you calm down, you can come out. He calmed down shortly, and never did it again.

    I strongly feel that the public should not have to endure a child’s bad behavior. The parent(s) or caregiver should take the child out of the situation(if possible) or safely separate them from the thing that is instigating he/her to act up!

    • jaxresident

      instigating him/her to act up? If they are acting out in public, they are doing it on their own. And for that you did the right thing. But trying to blame their behavior on something else other than themselves is not good. they are the reason for all of their actions,.

  • Me

    It’s amazing how one meltdown for one parent turns discipline on its head. Actually, it’s not one parent. It’s society as a whole. It’s those of us who grew up with certain discipline from our parents and said we would “never do that to our kids” when we grew up. By not providing adequate discipline, we as parents are turning out criminals, drug addicts, and hellions who don’t care one iota about themselves, their possessions or others. We have children, even adult children, who think it is okay to look us in the face and tell us how worthless we are. We have children who tell us we never cared. We have children who tell us they hate us. It’s because, as a society, we have coddled our children, trying to make up for where life has dealt a hard, swift blow to an otherwise innocent life. But where does it stop?? Where do we reach the point where we begin the appropriate discipline and make our children take responsibility for their own actions instead of attempting to save them from their own just punishment? Where do we stop babying our children and begin the process of creating self-sufficient members of society who will contribute appropriately according to their desires and abilities? Where do we stop the entitlement era and revert to a time when you worked if you expected to eat, you created an income for yourself if you wanted spending money, and you supported your family to the best of your abilities?

    I cannot say that I am the perfect parent because I know I am not. I reach my quota of whiney children, and I have to break away. I sometimes yell, I sometimes spank my children, and sometimes they have to stand in the corner. I have put them in their rooms and closed the door until they could sit with the rest of the family without crying or wanting negative attention. I have even, after my six year old told me she hated me and didn’t want to live with me, marched her to the door, put her outside and locked the door behind her. No, I didn’t leave her on the side of the road, but it taught her a valuable lesson. We do not speak to others in such a way, and if you expect to be a member of this family, you will respect others. For the six year old, it took one time, and we generally don’t hear “I hate you” anymore. I left her outside for two minutes as she cried and banged on the door, begging to be let back in the house. Sure, there are some things I should probably do differently myself, and there are plenty of times I feel my children aren’t disciplined appropriately or enough. My problem isn’t lack of discipline, it’s a question of what amounts to appropriate punishment for each child. One child may require a simple “disappointment speech” while another may need something a bit more harsh, such as being sent to the bedroom for a set amount of time. It’s a matter of finding what type of discipline works best for each child, and the type may change with the day or with the attitudes of the child. But we as a society need to find out what works, what doesn’t, and strive to raise contributing members of society. My earnest hope is that my children grow to be members of the society who strive for something greater instead of becoming part of the entitlement epidemic that flaunts itself in the world today.

    • jaxresident

      Personally, I don’t see you did anything wrong with anything you did. But if anyone can say you did and justify costing you alot of money to “become a more productive parent” they will do so. Children are very narcissistic when they are children. They should be taught that things like that are wrong, and what you did was a good idea. My nephew came home at 14 with his ear pierced. My brother in law walked in the door after a hard day at work, and told his son hi,, walked right past him, walked in his room, packed his bags, put them at the front door and told him.. “well son, I guess now you think you are man enough to define me well I shoudl tell you goodbye. Call me over for dinner sometimes when you get established. He grabbed his arm and escorted him to the front door, gave him a gentle push out the door, handed him his bags, and closed and locked the door. My nephew knew better, but he was at that point scared. So he took his bags and went to a friends house. Told their parents what happened, and they called. My brother in law and he was really nice and thanked them for giving him a place to sleep and told them exactly what he told his son. Well, he hung up the phone, and the next day after work, my nephew came to the front door and rang the doorbell and asked if he could come home and handed my brother in law his earrings. He apologized for his actions.As an alternate consequence to his actions, he was grounded for three months, from school to home. I think what he did was right, and my nephew now has since grown up, is married with three boys. (talking about pay back. LOL) He has his hands full, but he is a good father. He is a successful business man. and a good Husband. and he had a few bouts with his dad. One where he was 17 and lied to his dads face, and got knocked out. it was a very serious iissue . he stold the car and crashed it. and lied to his face. Like I said, now days he probalby would not have gotten away with either. but it made his son, who was hardheaded a better man. His kids are wonderful, well mannered, and disciplined. All play sports and Now my brother is a grand parent. As I said, sometimes we as parents don’t always feel we have the handbook or at the moment did the right thing, but when we see their success in the future, it makes us feel a little better.

  • I think that Madlyn had a bad overwhelming day which lead to a bad decision! When my child was three she decided to scream for candy in a store even though I had explained to her that she couldn’t have any. I swatted her on the behind and she stopped screaming. The cashier told me she’d have to call the police if I spanked my child in the store, I gave her the phone number to the local police. My responsiblity as a parent is talk to my child and spanking is a last resort. At three she believed she could disobey me to get what she wanted. If I let that go to please the cashier, my child may have believed the world works that way. I saved me and the police problems down the road. She’s a teenager and understands that the world doesn’t revolve around her because I refused to let the world dictate how I parent my child. The world will not bail your child out of prison but will look down on them when they do wrong. A spanking is not child abuse and being a parent sometimes means being an authoritarian. Deal with it now or child and parent will suffer later. Everyone doesn’t have to spank their child but I think boundaries have to be enforced.

    • jaxresident

      I would report that cashier for getting into your business. Who is she to tell you how to discipline your child. What state was this? Is there a law against corporal punishment against children in that state? And if there is not, then she should have been fired for putting her business into yours. I remember when I was in Georgia and my son was acting up and I told him if he did it again, I was taking him in the bathroom and he was going to get his pants pulled down and get spanked bare on the bottom. the lady standing there, told me,, “do you need me to hold the door open so you can get your buggy in there?”. Some states still believe in the culture of disciplining your children and allowing you to do so. I am glad you stood your ground as a parent. I am sick of people meddling into others business. Real abuse ? You would not see it in public and children would not act out in public that are truly really abused. Those kids live in constant fear of dying so they would never act out to get into trouble. I know I have seen it with my own two eyes. When you work in the environment, you get to see up close and personal.

  • Veronica

    My parents always laid down the law whenever me or my sister acted up. Acted up in a store..spanking. Fought in the house…sent to room. You name any bad act and it was dealt with. Ive been spanked plenty of times and my sister has also pulled the “I dont want to live here” routine and was locked outside. Im 24 and my sister is 26, we are well rounded individuals, going to college, happily married, not addicted to drugs, and I thank my parents for raising us up right.

    • jaxresident

      I never got sent to my room. I just got spankings or I was fair warned before we went out what the consequence would be if I did act out or misbehave. there were rules and there were consequences to those rules and I knew them. If I pushed it to the limits I would get disciplined for it. God forbid if parents do that these days. Kids could go to school with a puss face and tell their teacher they were spanked and then you have DCF or CPS knocking on your door trying to take your rights away from you as a parent. Telling you that if you tell your child ‘” what you say goes and you do as I say” is child abuse. I work in family law and have seen these so called parenting courses. It is shocking how much power they tell these kids they have against their parents.

  • Jean

    My sister didn’t discipline her children. When they were teenagers they acted like 2 or 3 year-olds when they wanted something. Now in there 30’s they have finally become more responsible though my niece has 4 children (all by the same jerk)and is unmarried, on welfare, and no longer seeing the father (finally!)
    We did discipline, maybe a little too much at times, but our daughters have always been polite, responsible, and respectful of others.

  • well said!

  • Nieka

    I believe you need love and dicipline to raise kids. Love with out dicipline is not real love and dicipline without love is abuse!!!! These kids out in this world are crazy, it is up to us as parents to help direct thier path!

  • jaxresident

    Problem is that too many people have taken the rights away from parents to discipline their children. I don’t think what she did was wrong. But I would have done it closer to her neighborhood and made them get out and walk home. when they got home they would be sent to their rooms only to find themselves with extra chores, and more discipline measures if they acted out again, and it that didn’t work, they would get their butts beat. I would exhaust everything until the final corporal punishment. I was spanked with a belt or a switch when I was a kid. But it was never out of anger. We had “the talk” before I got my swats, and yes I did have marks on my butt and sometimes on my legs if I moved and didn’t take my medicine like I should have. But I never viewed that as abuse. I never got a spanking I didn’t deserve. but a good spanking leaves an impression. and the impressionable times to do that is from 4 through 10 years of age. If you don’t establish what you want to instill in your children during that age, consequence will not work in their teenage years. After 10 years of age, they are really too old to spank. At that time, the grounding comes in because possessions are freedoms and if freedoms are suppressed, that is a consequence. Just like spanking was a consequence of actions like disrespect, etc. during the impressionable years. Not hateful discipline. Chasten before rebuke is what they say in the Bible. And I really don’t think what she did was wrong. they were disrespecting their mother. And for that there should be a consequence. That consequence was they could wall their butts home and sort it out and apologize when they get there. Simple as that. My boys are fine and they have been disciplined. they are teenagers now, and they know consequence and respect for authority. . And they did get a few spankings along the way too. But even as teenagers they say they deserved it.