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.