Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How to keep your kid from becoming a namby-pamby

We have been discussing corporal punishment and some see it as the cure for allowing a generation to grow up as namby-pambys!

First, what is a namby-pamby?  Here is some explanation derived from

Word History: We are being very literary when we call someone a namby-pamby, a word derived from the name of Ambrose Philips, a little-known 18th-century poet whose verse incurred the sharp ridicule of his contemporaries Alexander Pope and Henry Carey. Their ridicule, inspired by political differences and literary rivalry, had little to do with the quality of Philips's poetry. In poking fun at some children's verse written by Philips, Carey used the nickname Namby Pamby: "So the Nurses get by Heart Namby Pamby's Little Rhimes." Pope then used the name in the 1733 edition of his satirical epic The Dunciad. The first part of Carey's coinage came from Amby, or Ambrose. Pamby repeated the sound and form but added the initial of Philips's name. Such a process of repetition is called reduplication. After being popularized by Pope, namby-pamby went on to be used generally for people or things that are insipid, sentimental, or weak.

It is a real danger that we face, to be honest.  And, ironically, the danger is in overprotecting our children from danger!  Because of the way that danger sells news, it represents the world as dangerous everywhere!  It permeates our culture to the extent that children are never allowed to walk to school with other kids for fear that they will be abducted.  This, even though statistics show that this problem has not really increased over the years, but the reporting of it has!  Understanding this is important to realizing the source of the ailment.

When Lafawnda was a young pup of about 4, she went to a preschool class held by Miss Marty.  Miss Marty believed it was her job to teach children to not be afraid of the world and she was very good at what she taught!

For example, she took them out one day into a hilly area and took them hiking to the top of the hill!  It was a high, steep hill for a 4-year old, but she told them they had to make their way to the bottom.  If need be, they could slide on their butts, but if they really wanted to have fun, they would roll every chance they got!

The first time down, the kids were scared.  They didn’t want to hurt themselves, so they slid on their butts fairly carefully.  Until Miss Marty showed them that she could roll like crazy down that hill and live to tell about it!  Soon, everyone took the plunge and rolled all over the universe.

She had them climb trees, jump off of things.  When they got hurt, they were not coddled – nor were they belittled – but instead were encouraged to get up, dust off, and go at it again.  Part of Lafawnda blossomed!

A couple of weekends ago, our granddaughter was playing soccer when she was whacked pretty good with a kicked ball.  When her mother started to run out onto the field, I told her in no uncertain terms to stop!  This was a very valuable experience for a youngster, to learn to shrug off a little pain and jump back into the game – which she did.  In fact, she played harder than she ever had after that!

And that is the point.  Kids avoid becoming namby-pambys more from confronting the world in an adventurous way than from tolerance of corporal punishment.  Not that a swat on the butt is never called for, because some occasions call for it.  But, that is not the path to boldness for a child in my eyes.  No, the path to boldness is found in adventure and exploration and being taught to tolerate the price of scrapes and bruises that sometimes comes with it.  They quickly learn that the reward far outweighs the risk.  When I was a kid, all of us kept BandAid in business!

Now, I invite you to watch a video from a TED lecture on this topic.  The guy is a lousy lecturer, which is actually one of the things I like about him.  But, he goes for it in ways that will probably  have you laughing.  In part, you will be laughing at how outrageous he is, but you will get the idea!

If you can’t see this, try:


  1. I have to be honest; I could never go on a Boy Scout campout! When I hear about boys cliff jumping, or axe throwing, or fire starting, it chills my motherly bones. I'm glad that they have the opportunity, but I'm equally glad I don't have to watch. lol

    1. My mom had a heckuva time watching me play football, too!

  2. I think that you and I are in the same wave length on this subject. I was also very happy to see the younger generation of my extended family bringing up the latest generation in much the same way that they were brought up, to accept some risks and learn how to survive in a tough world. I did not see any namby pamby bringing up during my recent vacation and I do not think that I will see it when I go to Delhi next week to meet another set of grand nephew/niece in a much tougher environment.

    I have passed on the TED Talk to all the new parents in my family. Thank you.

    1. I kind of figured we were. This gives it a bit more positive spin, though.

  3. I remember Elly going on a residential outdoor adventure course when she was at junior school. Sports like canoeing, rock scrambling, abseiling, monkey crawling across a rope over a gorge and many other delights were all part of the programme. We left her off at her temporary abode near the Giant's Causeway, on the Sunday night for the week of fun ahead.

    My school friend decided on the spur of the moment to come visit for a few days and since she had never been to the North Coast we planned a day there and perhaps for her to see Elly either between adventures or at the end of the day.

    It was late afternoon when we called to Elly’s home base and as we parked up I saw a trio of young ladies at the pay phone in the foyer. One of the young ladies sported a plaster cast on her leg and moved with the aid of crutches. You guessed it. My Elly had taken a fall and spent most of the morning at the local hospital, it turned out that she was trying to phone home – it was the days before cell phones.

    She was as surprised to see us as we were to see her condition, and the words of greeting were “I’m not going home. I am allowed to stay!”

    She did and obeyed orders to stick to dry land.

    1. From your comments to and about Ely over the years, I can totally imagine her responding just as you say. She seems to have gotten a lot of attitude about life from her mother!

  4. Good teacher. I've done lots of hill rolling - child and adult.
    Parents often say, yes - as long as there's no risk.
    There's always risk. Either way.
    Risk of injury or something awful.
    Or risk of namypambyisation. Having no confidence. Living in fear. Believing I can't.
    Better to take the risk of living.

    1. "Better to take the risk of living." Perfect.

  5. I enjoy your ideas on the subject of discipline. I can look at it quite differently from my advanced age than I did when I was in the trenches. I'm still no a great one for watching kids take a beating in sports, but I do love them to be encouraged to go for it. Wish we had all had Miss Marty as a teacher. Although, since I grew up like Topsy in the hills, I followed my adventurous sister through many risky adventures. Our parents learned about them (if ever) much later.

    1. We learned of many of our son's adventures in very like fashion: years later or not at all. Some of them I know about I don't relay to my wife!


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