Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Thoughts On Discipline

With the boycott of the Pearl's, their material, and those who support them, I discovered Molly's blog.  Molly describes herself as  "a 30 year old Alaskan mother of five (age seven and under) and wife to a Real (cute!) Man. " and as such, she must possess a certain amount of mommy know-how.  Yet, I respectfully disagree with her methods and ideals about discipline, almost completely, as I'm sure she would disagree with mine.

First of all I'd like to make clear two points:

  1. Correction and Spanking are not synonymous.  Really, they aren't.  I believe in correction, teaching and discipline.  Yet, I no longer believe in spanking.  The belief that not spanking means permissive parenting is false.

  2. Force Must Not Be Met With Greater Force.  That sounds like a train wreck, doesn't it?  And not at all what I want my home to look like.

Now, for my thoughts:

Discipline is an Art, Not a Science:
I am distrustful of anyone who says that they know the way.  How do they know it?  What makes them such fantastic experts?  And if they truly do have some expertise, how do you know it will work on your child?  Each child is different, and has different wants, desires, thoughts, feelings, and reactions.  What works on someone else's child, might have no impact on yours.  It's one of the reasons that I value attachment parenting ideals.  Not only are they not strict rules, but they allow the parents to become intimately connected with who the child is, thereby setting a solid foundation for future discipline.

Patience, Patience, Patience.  After That, More Patience.
I don't believe that children are terrorists, Nazi's, or stubborn mules.  I don't believe they need to be trained like dogs.  I do, however, believe that they have unique and sometimes wild spirits, that must be directed.  Their hard edges must be smoothed.  Spanking, harsh words, and anger don't smooth those edges.  This is by far the hardest part of parenting.  At least for me.  My children can be trying, and it can be difficult to maintain my cool.  Some days being much harder than others.  But, I am their model, and how they view themselves is shaped by me.  If they come at me with force, I mustn't respond with force, equal or greater.  I must be an immovable object, sometimes.  And sometimes, I must bend and teach them how to compromise.

When one of my  children is doing something naughty, or refusing to obey, I get down on their level, look them in the eye, and tell them with a serious voice exactly what they must do and what the specific consequence will be if they choose not to.  Just looking in my eyes is enough to remind them that I am the authority in our home.  Then the choice is theirs.  If they choose their own way, I calmly give them their consequence.  Sometimes, it's a time-out.  Sometime it's something more appropriate to what it is they have done or not done.  It depends on the situation.  Sometimes things have to be repeated.  It's that smoothing of edges.  Gentle but firm consistent correction and redirection.  I really believe that this teaches them responsibility for their own actions.  They choose to obey or comply, and they live with the good or bad consequences that result from their decisions.

Children Will Do Anything To Get Attention
Children will even be naughty to get Mom or Dad to notice them.  While bad behavior must be corrected, avoiding it in the first place is better.  We can't allow ourselves to become distracted by the every day, and ignore our children.  As much as I value my home, and my responsibility to it, people have to come first.  Dirty dishes will always be there.  But my children will grow up and leave.  If I sense that my kids need more of me, then I have to give it to them.

Proverbs are Proverbs, Not Laws
Now, before anyone jumps down my throat, let me explain.  I recently read in the comments section of another blog where Tulip Girl was warned that she had best be sure that Proverbs was wrong in regards to spanking children.  Proverbs is a book of Wisdom.  Not a book of law.  Not only is "spare the rod, spoil the child" not in the bible, but Proverbs 13:24 ("He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.") when read in context appears to be about the importance of discipline, not spanking.  Also, the Hebrew word shebet is used there, which was a Shepherds rod, used for gently guiding the sheep, not beating or spanking them.  Proverbs 13 speaks about the importance of correction, accepting discipline, and the value in wisdom.  It is about explaining the importance of an ideal set before us by God.  Not an specific instruction to hit our children.  I could go on and on about this topic, but I won't.  Scripture is invaluable, as a child of God, and as a parent.  But let us not make into a law what was never intended to be so.  Proverbs gives us parenting ideals, not a command to spank.

Guide, Lead, Direct, and Cheer
I have learned how much my children crave not only my attention, but my approval.  When they are kept busy, they don't get in trouble much.  When their play is directed (not controlled, just directed), they don't get in trouble much.  And when their goodness and kind behavior is greeted with cheers and praise, they like to repeat it.   Reagan and Piper get tickets for chores, and for going above and beyond.  They have been an incredible incentive, and we've had so much fun with them!  Everyone cheers when someone gets a ticket, and good behavior is reinforced again when those tickets are turned in for a prize.  Even a thank you, and an acknowledgment of good behavior is important to my children, and I try to do that as well.

So, my ideals are to be firm, gentle, encouraging, consistent, and loving.  I will not always measure up, nor will they.  I have a loving Father and Savior as my guide, one who doesn't approve of things I do wrong, but doesn't condemn me either.  In fact He forgives over and over again, and has shown me incredible patience, mercy, and grace.   When I make mistakes, I admit them, and ask my children to forgive me, as I expect them to do, and that sets an example as well.  Until I can picture Jesus spanking a small child, I cannot include it in my discipline.  I'm so sorry I ever did.  I want to parent my children as God parents us, with grace.

For more on gentle discipline:
Gentle Christian Mothers

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