Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Discipline and the Rearing of Children: Part I

I said in an earlier post that I'd been thinking about doing a post about discipline. I didn't do it because I didn't want it to become a rant. Then Addie said, " I'm curious about your discipline rant now. Do it!" So, if this turns into a rant, you all know who to blame. (I'm kidding...)

But, to keep Addie's mailbox from overflowing with hate mail, I'll try to keep myself civil... and you can direct your comments toward me if you have them.

I will preface this discussion with a hearty admission that most of these ideas were not mine, but belong to Tedd Tripp. I read them in his book Shepherding a Child's Heart. Available wherever fine, Christian books are sold.

What I believe about discipline:
- The goal of discipline is not punishment. The goal is to help children change their hearts so that they want to do what is right, and they don't want to do what is wrong.

- The purpose of discipline is not to change behavior. If that was the purpose, we'd just call it manipulation. The purpose is to help children see that we have sinful hearts which want things that really are not good for us. Ultimately, discipline should lead a child to an understanding that obedience to mom and dad, and later, to God, is best for us. And we submit to authority because it is the best thing for us, even if it isn't always what we want.

- Discipline is a process, not an act. By this I mean that taking care of an "infraction" cannot be accomplished with a simple spanking, or a time out. Alone, these are just ways of convincing the child to act differently, without ever helping them to understand why their heart WANTS to be bad or how God can give them the desire to be good. In other words, alone, these methods amount to manipulation: so we have kids whose hearts still desire to sin, but perhaps they have been convinced not to. But humans can only act contrary to their hearts' desires for so long - eventually we all end up "following our hearts," to quote a popular phrase. So, if only the behavior is addressed, the heart will still cause a problem in the long run. (To this end, I have found that the process of discipline, arising from a single infraction, can be terribly inconvenient and, frankly, style cramping. So be it. If you want to know more about what that process looks like, I can post about that another time... or you can read Tedd Tripp's book.)

- Children should never have to guess about what they will be disciplined for. There is no "I've had enough of that!" When we let our limits determine whether our kids are disciplined, we confuse them. The message they hear is that right and wrong are negotiable. They are left to wonder why "X" wasn't a problem yesterday, but now (because mom is having a bad day?) they are being disciplined for it. IMO, this fosters the "it isn't wrong unless you get caught" theory. In addition, I think the "I'm fed up" type discipline totally negates the message we are trying to convey. Astute kids will figure out that discipline isn't really about what's best for them, rather it is about not annoying mom and dad. It seems more likely that kids will buck authority when they see discipline simply as a parental annoyance reducer, rather than as something that has produced benefits in their own lives. I guess the idea here is - be clear about what is and is not acceptable, then be consistent.

- There is a difference between authoritative parents, and authoritarian parents. The former are firm, but loving, and are interested in having their children learn from discipline. The latter want only obedience, no ifs, ands, or buts. The problem I see with most authoritarian parenting is that much of what those parents require of their kids is determined solely by the arbitrary desires/convenience of the parent. This kind of parenting is detrimental to children. (More about this in another post.)

- There is no room for bribery in discipline. Neither is their room for guilt-tripping. We remind. We teach. But we need to remind ourselves that we can't control. So when it comes down to it, they either go with what they've learned, or they don't. That means that for young children, when we see that they are about to disobey, we LET THEM (assuming their safety isn't compromised.) And then we discipline them. I think children have to be allowed to make their own (age-appropriate) choices. This is where kids learn what it means to earn trust too. If, in a certain situation, they have repeatedly shown their unwillingness to obey, then they don't get to be in that situation for a while.

Those are my initial thoughts. I have not touched upon the particular rant-provoking issue, because I think it might be a post all it's own.

So, let's hear it... comments, questions?



Anonymous Linda said...

We have found Tripp's book extremely helpful too. I like how Tripp emphasizes reconciling the relationship with discipline and that you're not doing it right if your child is going away from you angry after discipline. Remembering and fostering that helps me encourage my children's hearts and my own heart too, not to continue to be angry at each other. Thanks for posting this, and I look forward to more discussion.

Wed Jan 18, 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I think I'm going to pick up this book... on my way to amazon.com right now!

I think my hubby and I are doing ok at discipline. It's hard because I WILL NOT FOLLOW my parents example and I don't think his parents example was too hot either. So we're both trying to do it all from scratch.

I want to read more and hear different viewpoints of discipline.

I guess the thing I hate THE MOST is when people try to tell me I'm doing it wrong and I look at their kids and think, do you want me to do it like you? Your kid is a robot. She says and does the right thing in front of you and then turns around and does whatever she wants. I don't want that for my kids.

I do see discipline of my children as a reflection of God's discipline of me. If I do something that I shouldn't be doing I get that nudge that says hey, you messed up and now you have these concequences. He doesn't rain down fire and brimstone on me. It's a loving thing, I see that. And THAT is what I want to do with my children.

How to get there is the journey.

That's SO much more than you wanted me to share! Sorry! LOL

Wed Jan 18, 01:23:00 AM  
Blogger Addie said...

Thank You! That was really good stuff. I completely agree with all you said, I just struggle sometimes with the application. I will sometimes allow myself to be more reactive to behavior instead of proactive. Parenting is all about consistancy but sometimes I want to be selfish instead of consistant. It's a constant struggle within myself.

And you really like teasers don't you! Come on I want to hear the controversial stuff you keep dangling in front of our noses! ;-)

Wed Jan 18, 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Addie said...

Look at me being a blog hog! I forgot to mention that we just recently picked up the book 'Creative Correction' by Lisa Welchel. The whole thing is pretty much ideas for teaching your children through discipline. It's not about getting perfect behaviour from your kids, but helping them to learn to make right choices in the future. One of her ideas was controversial (hot saucing) but she gives lots and lots of ideas for different problems, so if you're uncomfortable with one you can pick something else. OK, I think I'm done now.

Wed Jan 18, 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious, Addie....what is "hot saucing?" I once heard the term tomato staking and thought that must be a horrible thing- only to find out it was a parenting style in which basically the child is with the parent every moment, much like a tomato is tied to a stake. I thought it made sense, but I still need to be MUCH MORE PATIENT when it comes to having my kids help me with chores.....or teaching them, for that matter. I just need to be MORE patient period. I'm tooo selfish with my time and space!

Fri Jan 20, 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger PEZmama said...

I think hot-saucing is putting hot sauce in kids' mouths when they say something they aren't supposed to. Kinda like washing out the mouth with soap.

I might be wrong, but I think that's what it is?

BTW - do I know you? Can you leave a name? Either way, thanks for stopping by.

Fri Jan 20, 02:23:00 PM  

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