This picture floats around Facebook from time to time and usually garners a rousing cheer, a lot of “LIKE”s, and more than it’s fair share of “SHARE”s. I also hear from pockets of parents who claim that the government has taken away their rights to parent and that children have all the rights. This conversation usually devolves to the point where a parent states they are no longer permitted to spank their children. In some places this is true, but in most others it isn’t. But that’s not the point of today’s blog post.
It is true, and no one can effectively dispute, that children require discipline. Does this mean spanking? It can. But let’s unpack DISCIPLINE just a bit. The word discipline comes from the root word DISCIPLE. The word disciple, in it’s original context, meant “to teach or to train.” Most people have some recollection that Jesus had disciples. They were the 12 specific followers of Christ. Each was taught, trained, led, and guided to follow their authority who was Jesus Christ.
Providing discipline to a child is, therefore, to teach them , train them, lead them, and guide them. And these can be done through a variety of means. The method in which you discipline is as unique at the culture of your family but always keep in mind the purpose of discipline – to teach and to train. This includes correcting misbehavior by teaching the correct behaviour.
The ideal teacher is through example. Role model the behavior that you desire in your children. Be the person you want them to be. When they make mistakes, break the rules, or fall short on your expectations for them, be prepared to address the problems. Personally, there are two strategies that I find most effective:
These are the consequences that happen naturally. All by themselves. Without parents having to do anything. Consequences that happen naturally. Here’s an example:
Daughter: “But I don’t want to eat breakfast!”
Dad: “Okay. See you after school.”
Daughter: half-way through the morning she is hungry and regrets not eating something at breakfast. Tomorrow, she may remember that eating at breakfast is a good idea.
Or another example:
Mom: “Don’t forget to put your bike away before bed.”
Son: “I won’t.”
Next morning: “Mom, where’s my bike?”
Mom: “Did you put it in the garage last night like I asked?”
As long as Mom doesn’t rescue Son by running out to buy him a new bike, a valuable lesson is learned.
These are consequences that “fit the crime.” Parents put a consequence in place that fits with the misbehavior of the child. Here’s an example:
Mom: “Don’t forget to put your bike away before bed tonight.”
Son: “Okay, Mom. I won’t forget.”
Son goes to bed, mom checks outside and finds Son’s bike laying down in the driveway. She puts it in the garage (with a lock on the spokes if necessary).
The next morning, Son asks about his bike.
Mom: “I asked you to put your bike away last night. You didn’t so I have locked it up in the garage. You can have it back tomorrow.
Keep the consequences simple, clear, and to the point. Children learn well from these. By using this two key parenting strategies, a child also learns how to self-regulate and make decisions.
My word of caution to those who insist that spanking is needed to parent, I say this: If you require hitting to control your child’s behavior you are already in trouble. Parenting is about building a relationship with your child, teaching them to be a healthy and functioning adult who contributes to society. Surely this can be achieved without the need to hit a child.
Everyone has a story. My hope is that you and your family have one filled with teaching moments that leave both the parent and the child feeling encouraged and confident. Where each child is taught, trained, led, and guided through a healthy childhood with positive understanding of authority (which I believe is where the problem lies with behavioural challenges that society and culture faces. But that’s another post for another day.)