Unity in Discipline
My previous blog covered the importance of couples showing a united front when dealing with children. Another important ingredient in successful parenting is deciding how you are going to handle discipline. That was our saving grace. Well, if I was really honest we stumbled across the concept as our children matured and our knowledge grew through reading parenting books and input from mentors. Boy did we make a lot of mistakes, but with four kids, practice makes perfect. We had to decide what behaviors, limitations, curfews, language, attitudes, chores, and consequences were going to be acceptable. Since the expectations were set; the outcomes would not be a surprise to either spouse or child. These guidelines removed the ambiguity of why the child was punished and created a spirit of unity in the home. The guidelines also helped me avoid being reactionary and kept my emotions in check. In Psalm 38:1 David petitions the Lord to not discipline him in anger. “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.”
Children thrive with boundaries (rules & regulations). Freedom might be their battle cry but ultimately children want and crave boundaries. Boundaries express to the child that you care and value them and want them safe. Sure, they will kick and scream the whole time, but secretly they crave it. How do I know? Not only have I read it, seen it work in the classroom, but I have witnessed it in my own children. Recently, I had a teenage child of mine come to me and admit they were glad we didn’t let her spend the night at some friend’s houses during her freshman year. Apparently, by keeping her home we protected our daughter from doing ecstasy (designer drug). I have personally witnessed dozens of kids, who where kicked out of public schools due to behavior issues, thrive when enrolled in a private school. Those kids wanted to know someone cared enough to hold them accountable to rules and follow through with the consequences. It is amazing how well most of them adjusted to a stricter environment and miraculously changed their character.
So, set some ground rules and age appropriate consequences for misbehaviors and by all means stick to them. I have to laugh a little when I think about this and an incident we had with our oldest and most independent daughter. When she was about 5-6 years old, she told my wife with a very petulant voice, “You said if I threw the toys out of the basket and didn’t put them back one more time you would give me a spanking and you didn’t.” Wow, talk about strong willed! At the age of 6 she knew justice had not been served and disrespected my wife for not following through with it. She knew she had gotten away with something. What’s even more humorous is that as I am writing this, my oldest daughter just now called me and asked me what I was doing (she works for a big 5 accounting firm). When I mentioned the story she gave me the exact quote above. My wife and I are a good balance for each other. She was very forgiving and loving and I was way over zealous in dishing out discipline. Your home may be the same way or you may be parenting on your own. Guidelines take a huge burden off of you and help keep the emotions out of the process. Much of the material I am covering can be found in a wonderful book or DVD series called Parenting with Love and Logic, www.loveandlogic.com.
Stay tuned for Part II on the topic of Unity in Discipline