FAITH AND REFLECTION — Someone asked me recently for my opinion on how to discipline children. Our nest has been empty for several years, so this should be safe and easy ground, but it really isn’t. It is difficult, if not impossible, to address this matter in any succinct, simple fashion. If you interviewed 100 parents asking them to describe their motivation and methodology on this subject, you might have 102 opinions.
There is some validity to this, given that everyone has a different family history, dissimilar children and a myriad of extenuating circumstances.
Parents should have a plan, however. The adage “To fail to plan is to plan to fail” is certainly true when it comes to children. Plans for discipline range from permissive to authoritative with many points in between. I would suggest that some point in between would be the best. The overly permissive parent may end up with a child whose unchecked behaviour becomes incorrigible and results in other parents telling their children, “Just stay away from him/her!” Authoritarianism, with its focus on rules and regulations rather than character development, is too harsh and dispassionate.
Discipline needs to be distinguished from punishment. Discipline is employed to emphasize cause-and-effect, build character and have remedial impact on behaviour.
Punishment, bluntly put, is vengeful or getting even. This is sometimes based on the parent feeling that the child has made them, “look bad” and of course this places the focus and interest on the parent rather than the child.
Sometimes a child can’t win! If they have misbehaved and lie about it, they are admonished to be honest and receive retribution for both the crime and the misrepresentation. If they come and honestly admit to a mistake or transgression there is little difference in the repercussions.
There should be a notable difference between the two and the honesty should be commended. Connection needs to precede correction and if it is loose, it’s a lost scenario for the child, that connection will be broken.
As parents, we often overreact. It would help if we would view these various transgressions and challenges as opportunities for growth and personal development … for both parent and child. The problem is that life and its circumstances, including the altercations and aberrations that our children bring our way, seem to hit us at 100 miles an hour and we feel out of control and hence, tend to be very reactionary. Not everything has to be dealt with in the moment that it occurs. A time of careful, prayerful consideration before action is so helpful.
The Bible teaches that children are not our property, but an inheritance from the Lord. Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a gift from the Lord, a reward …” How should we treat a gift from God?