Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Discipline, part one

[Thanks to all who want me to write a book. These blogs are super-edited versions of public and church seminars I've taught through the years, combined with general stories from our lives with our children. I don't know any book publishers at this point. If I run across one, I'll consider the book. Okay?]

When a new parent finds out that their child is a different person with their own mind and preferences, it can be a shock. All of a sudden that sweet, sticky, smelly bundle of joy stomps their foot and yells "No!" Parents tend to overreact or underreact because they weren't prepared for it. Who knew their kid would mimic the brats that live down the street?

It's discipline time! But what does that mean, exactly? Discipline is more a matter of teaching than it is punishment, and it is a form of teaching that is lived out more than it is spoken. We are the "play of God" acted out in front of our children. They learn self-control, love, dedication to God, loyalty to family, and submission to Christ by watching us. If we are not true to our convictions, they will sense it early, absorbing that lesson and learning to disregard what we say. Or what the church teaches.

Sentences such as "this is the kind of people we are" or "the way we do things is this" can combine with referrals to family and religious heritage to create a sense of identity and place for the child. They NEED to be special and they NEED to be different. Giving them a heritage that is lived out openly gives them both. Orthodox Jewish families keep most of their kids, even though their dress and life is so very out of step with the world. How? They inculcate a sense of identity from an early age, backed up with traditions, routines, and reasons.

When punishment is required, be creative. There are many different forms of punishment and very few of them require laying a hand on your child. Speaking of "the laying on of hands," let's look at some of the rules concerning physical punishment of any kind.

1. Never touch your child in anger.
2. Never mark your child. In all 50 States, that is considered abuse.
3. If the child is terrorized, they will not learn the lesson you intend for them to learn. They merely learn that you are dangerous and their position in your life (or in life itself) is tenuous.
4. Physical punishment only works when it is designed to get the child's attention so that the lesson can commence, or if it is to quickly remove the child from danger.
5. Children's bodies are not well developed. Grabbing them, shaking them, yanking them along behind you is a good way to dislocate joints, cause permanent soft tissue damage, or serious brain damage. A blow that is "minor" to us can cause serious damage to a child.
6. If a little spanking didn't fix the problem, a big spanking won't, either.
Continuing to do what you've always done, even when it didn't work, and hoping that it might work now is a sign of insanity.

Appropriate punishments can be anything that the child doesn't like, but which is not psychologically or physically harmful. Think of things such as:

1. Separation: boredom is a horrible thing in a child's life. Make them bored for punishment. Take away a favored toy, or all toys, for a time. Put them in an area that is boring -- at a kitchen table, in a chair away from friends and entertainment, etc. General rule of thumb is to not separate them like this more than two minutes for every year of their age.

2. Taking away priveleges: TV, games, playtime. Again -- boredom is the aim.

3. Grounding -- again, boredom.

4. Matching the consequences to the behavior: break your sister's toy, you have to do without your favorite toy/item until you have worked enough to "pay" for a new toy for your sister. Mess up daddy's screws, nails, and tools? While others are playing, you have to straighten up the tools to daddy's satisfaction. Play your stereo too loud? After a warning, you do without your stereo for the rest of the day.

More later....


At 4/26/2006 10:41:00 PM , Blogger Laurie said...

HI there Patrick---our congregation shares a parking lot with a division of Simon and Schuster called: Howard Publishing. I am not sure what they are looking to publish, but you could always make an inquiry.

Be Blessed.

At 4/26/2006 11:55:00 PM , Blogger Joel Maners said...

Good advice here. Thanks! We started using a "naghty corner" several months ago with our boys. It works wonders. Also, different kids respod to different types of teaching. I've noticed many differences between bos and girls as well.

At 4/27/2006 06:42:00 AM , Blogger Ahnog said...

Overall I agree with what you have written but I want to say a few things about spankings.

By way of introduction, I'm 48 and my children are both raised, married and have their own homes now so I've gone through the entire process and am speaking from that end of the experience.

And, I might add, I've gone all the way though the childhood experience (grin), including being raised in a children's home were the smallest "spanking" I can ever remember was 39 licks with a razor strap.

I am against abuse--even abuse called "spankings" when it is of the kind I received as a child.

On the other side of the coin we are all aware of the fact that the Bible statements on this issue (like) ...

He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
(Proverbs 13:24)

...and the fact that the civil law given by God to Moses prescribed "beatings" for certian civil offenses, limiting them to 40 licks...

And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.
(Deuteronomy 25:2-3)

In view of this information, clearly, there are two extremes--one says no spankings at (all spankings are abuse) and the other says spank for everything as long and as hard as you can.

In viewing this information as young parents my wife and I decided to spank. We decided to reserve spankings for outright rebellion, not for mistakes or weaknesses. We also resolved not to spank while in "hot" anger. We also made it a rule never to spank bare skin. And finally (and this is the real point I'm writing to make) after the spanking we would allow the child a few mintues or even an hour or so to think on the matter and then hugs and assurances that the matter was over were given. My point is that I think the after spanking hugs are as important as the spanking itself in disciplining a child.

As a side note, I think in schools and homes were the child knows that spankings will never take place THAT I HAVE SEEN rebellion is encouraged and results. Without the possibility of corporal punishment all other forms of punishment seem to lose their influence.

At 4/27/2006 07:37:00 PM , Blogger Jesse said...

Some children never learn though. What do you do with those kind of kids? I'm not too worried about young children if they are tought correctly at a young age, but what I'm concerned with are high schoolers, kids my age and above. It's these people that I think will never learn, because it's extremely hard to discipline them, for it usually only cause more rage, and possibly massive family conflict. Could showing them what might happen to them in a few years be a resolution to this problem?

At 4/28/2006 10:50:00 AM , Blogger Joel Maners said...

Good question Jesse. My brother got into trouble with the law when he was in High School. The police called my dad to come down and pick him up late one night. My dad told the police that he would come down in the morning. He wanted my brother to spend a night in jail to see what it s like. It worked. My brother never got in trouble with the law again.

By the time you are a young adult, spankings do not work. I think you have to let young people suffer the sonsequences of their actions to some degree.

At 4/28/2006 02:30:00 PM , Blogger Bill said...

Has anyone ever told you that you should write a book? Seriously, these have been both powerful and practical posts of late. Good stuff, dear brother! Thanks! -bw

At 4/29/2006 10:28:00 PM , Anonymous renee cutts said...

Yes, he needs to write a book on parenting and on some apologetic topics. We are really blessed you are sharing with us online. Thank you for your words of wisdom. My children are so different in the way they learn and their personalities that I feel challenged from the time I get up to the time I go to bed and then some. I'm glad God blessed us with them in the order they came because he seemed to have saved the more challenging ones for later. I think I needed to mellow a little before the last two came or learn some things in advance. Is it because I'm getting older or more patient or is it that I lost my resolve, or got softer somehow? I'm certainly less uptight than I was with the first one. The older ones see the different methods that we use on the younger children and say things like, "that's not how you handled me when I did that." They all do require different things of us. I don't like to admit it to them but some of it is that we are still on a learning curve.

At 4/30/2006 04:38:00 PM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

I think your thoughts are really good, but I do have a question. My daughter has a very willfull not-quite-two-year old. Kaia is a very smart little girl but the usual methods of discipline do not work with her and being so little the loss of privileges doesn't work either. She is more headstrong than even my most headstrong was and I am frequently at a loss to advise her frustrated mommy.

At 4/30/2006 09:38:00 PM , Blogger salguod said...

OK Patrcik, if you won't write the book, at least make a special section for these posts in your sidebar.


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