11 Dec Dare to Discipline
As I was working with a group of eight to eleven-year-old children in my church this past weekend, I was disheartened at how undisciplined and disrespectful they were. After a lot of “shushing” which brought no results whatever, I sternly reminded the children that disrespect and irreverence were not an option in the setting. They stared at me incredulously wide-eyed, but then gratefully settled down to pay attention.
After the meeting I asked one of the young mothers working with me, “What is with these children that they don’t recognize when they are being inappropriate.” Her response was definitive, “We don’t discipline.” I looked at her in amazement. “We don’t! It has been pounded into our heads that we don’t spank, and no matter what else we do, we must feed their self-esteem. We’re raising a bunch of brats.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Amongst all my friends,” she continued, “there is only one mother who disciplines,… Natalia…and look how well behaved her children are.” Natalia is a soft-spoken tender-hearted woman who I would never have guessed to be a disciplinarian…but apparently she is doing something right with her five children because they are always respectful to peers and teachers.
Yesterday I was helping my daughter-in-law with a project. Her infant daughter was sleeping soundly next to us when her two and four-year-old boys came running into the room playing and shouting. Because she had told the boys just minutes earlier that they had to be quiet while near the baby, she kindly put them both in time out. Then she proceeded to second-guess her decision. I encouraged her disciplining. “You weren’t too harsh. Even two and four-year-olds can be made aware of their actions and the consequences to those actions.” Two or three minutes later, while happily playing again, her four-year-old reminded his two-year-old brother that they had to play away from baby sister. See my point?
Consistency and follow-through matters
It’s frustrating to see mothers and fathers who say one thing, and then do completely the opposite. “If you do that again you’ll be in trouble.” The child repeats the offense and the offense is ignored, or the threat is also repeated. Great parenting? Not hardly.
I will admit that some would say I disciplined too much. In order to keep a semblance of sanity in our home we had rules for just about everything. When rules were disobeyed there was “time out,” and yes, I spanked my children when I felt they needed it. My adult children joke about the infamous wooden spoon I used to get their attention…often all I had to do was open the drawer where the spoon was found, and the inappropriate behavior stopped immediately. It worked for us.
In our society today it is taboo for a parent to spank, but I remember being spanked by my father…and each time I thought, “I deserve this…and I won’t be breaking the rules or sassing my mom in the future.” I knew what was expected of me…the spanking helped remind me when I thought I was exempt from those expectations.
My daughters use “time out” or “privileges withheld” to discipline their children. I probably should have used more of that, and less the wooden spoon with my children…too late now. But my children all turned out great! (this coming from their mother…) They aren’t perfect, but they understand why laws and rules are given, and they recognize that there are consequences to their actions. Our culture is in dyer need of its citizens…young and old, to recognize how to function appropriately in society. Most laws and rules are made to help those who can’t discipline themselves. How sad it is to see our prisons full of so many who didn’t learn to respect the rules of behavior in their youth.
Adherence to rules and respecting boundaries are best taught in the home where discipline is coupled with unconditional love and acceptance. Our homes are testing grounds that give our children the opportunity to “do over.” Society and our judicial system aren’t nearly as merciful. Come on moms and dads…dare to discipline. Keep focused on your duty. Love your children enough to teach them the rules of behavior and the importance of self-discipline.