I’ve learned a lot by reflecting on how I responded to and resisted my father’s parenting. My father used to keep a note in the pocket of his blue work shirt, with two columns: one of plus signs, one of minuses. He used the columns to score my behavior and determine whether I had earned privileges and rewards. This did not have the intended effect.
I had a long history of tension with my father over unfair punishments, but I put aside my misgivings and tried hard to make it work. As I expected, it became clear quickly that my father’s scoring would be imbalanced. A negative mark was easy to gain and difficult to prevent, and on some days I received many of them. If my spoon made a noise against my teeth, I got a negative. If I looked unhappy about that, I got another; if I protested, yet another. I couldn’t avoid negatives, no matter how hard I tried.