Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Lie--Discipline Will Damage a Kid

Ok parents, this one is for you. This lie is not overtly spoken in our culture. It is more of a lie that is OBVIOUSLY present when I interact with or see you and your kids in public. I don't know if all of the perpetrators of this lie believe it exactly as I have written it, but there is SOME reason they don't discipline their children. I don't know if they think they will damage the kid or if they think it is better to spoil the child or if they are too tired or lazy to discipline or if they are purposely creating kids with no discipline as a means of retaliating against a society they feel has given them a raw deal. Either way, I would challenge that parent by saying that discipline of your children is actually HOW you love them and not disciplining them is actually hurting them and may even be a form of neglect.

The first time your kid throws a fit in the cereal aisle because he or she wants the super sugar fruity yum yums, that child is testing your reaction. If you bend to their will because you don't want to make a scene, they won. They now know that anytime they want something (and they will ALWAYS want something), they just have to make enough of a scene to make you cave in. This habit will stick with them for a very long time. This will be crippling to them later in life. Children crave discipline and order and routine. They are still trying to figure out how things work. As babies, they cried, you fed them (or changed them, or rocked them or burped them). As kids, they will try the same tactics because they think it will work. It is our job as parents to help them grow past this stage.

Kids are not pleasure delay-ers. They want something and they want it now. One vital skill that parents should teach is that life does not always bend in your direction. If you want something, you have to plan for it, save for it, budget for it. NOT doing so leads to overspending, debt and financial hardship. Many adults would have greatly benefited from this lesson early in life (including me). This is where my theory that discipline is a form of love comes in. As a parent, I want my child to be happy, healthy and successful. I see my most important job (after being a strong Christian and a great husband) to be raising my kids with integrity, work ethic, compassion, and discipline. That discipline is what will get them through their studies when they would rather party. That discipline is what will give them the strength to turn down the drugs when someone offers them (and someone will). That discipline is what will help them excel at whatever extra pursuits they choose (music, athletics, academics, etc.). That discipline is what will allow them to focus at their work and excel there. It is essential. God views discipline as a form of love. He disciplines his followers when they don't obey (look at the Israelites). Discipline in the Bible is what sharpens God's people to be better Christians. Not giving them the discipline, is, therefore, neglect.

So what kind of discipline am I talking about.
NUMBER 1 is the word "NO." Kids MUST hear the word "no". They absolutely must not get everything their heart desires. I don't care how rich you are. You must not give your kid everything--period. Being able to deal with "No" is the hardest lesson to learn. It is also the most important. Kids that never hear "No" do not deal with rejection in relationships well. They will, at some point in their lives, be turned down. If you want to make that first rejection absolutely devastating, never tell your kid no.
NUMBER 2 is teach your kid to prioritize and to make "either/or" choices. Life is full of trade offs. I can either go here or here, not both. I can either have the Super Sugar Fruity Yum Yums or the pack of Tic Tacs. Not both. Learning to make a choice and stick with it very early (like 1 year old) is so important. They learn to be decisive. They learn to be who they are. They learn to prioritize. They, by the nature of choice, learn "NO".
NUMBER 3 is to have REAL consequences for bad choices. Jonas has learned real early that life is nothing but a series of choices. Sometimes he makes good choices, sometimes he makes bad choices. Good choices are pleasurable. Bad choices have unpleasurable repercussions. If he jumps off something too high, it hurts--bad choice. If I tell him not to do something and he does it, he gets spanked. It hurts--bad choice. One time he tore a book at the baby sitter's house. He had been saving his little commission for many weeks so he could go to Toys R Us and pick something out. He had to spend all of his money on a new book. It hurt that he could not get what he wanted--bad choice. He has thrown a fit in the middle of restaurants. He knows that the result of a fit is a spanking--period. In the middle of dinner, he throws a fit, I take him immediately to the restroom and give him the consequence of his bad choice. I tell him that I am not giving him the spanking, he chose the action that led to it.
NUMBER 4 is to model the discipline. This can't be left out. If you don't act with discipline, how in the world can you expect them to. If you don't want them to cuss, then YOU shouldn't cuss. If you don't want them to throw fits when they don't get what they want, then YOU can't throw fits if you don't get what you want.
NUMBER 5--and this is probably the most important part to counter the lie--You MUST reassure them that no matter what, no matter what they do, you still love them. I know my discipline does not damage my child because I know that they know that I love them. I tell him every single day, several times a day, that he is important, he is smart, he is good, and I love him. After I discipline him, I ask him to tell my why he got in trouble and then I spend a good bit of time hugging him and telling him I love him no matter what. This reinforces the idea that discipline is love. I tell him that his actions have consequences but those consequences will never be that I don't love him.

Listen, I am not the worlds greatest dad. I'm probably not even in the top 100 greatest dads. But, I love my kids. I want them to be productive, contributing members of society and I am trying to equip them with the core principles to help them succeed at whatever they choose. Will they always be successful, no. I actually pray that every now and then (rarely), they fall on their face. It builds character and makes the successes that much more sweet. This ability to succeed starts with discipline. Don't be afraid to do it. Your kids will thank you for it later. I know I am thankful for my parents having the guts and the intestinal fortitude to discipline me.

One last thing, I DO NOT think that spanking is the only, or even the best, form of discipline. You have to figure out what works for your kids with each situation. For example, grounding Jonas from the TV or IPad sometimes works MUCH better than spanking because he is reminded of it every single time he wants to watch something. Other times, spanking is the better choice. Some people don't spank. Ok, fine. They still MUST discipline and it MUST be meaningful to the kid.

1 comment:

Natalie said...


Please print this & hand it out to new parents in the hospital in the brand new diaperbag they give everybody.

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