How many of you remember saying to yourself way back when you were knee-high to a wolverine (not that you ever go that close to measure) that you would never do this or that to your children when you became a parent? Statements like this may have been made in the moments after a butt whipping or chastisement as we say in today’s vernacular. You may have felt wronged for the punishment you received, and of course because you were just a child your ability to see the big picture extended only as far as your toy box or TV! The reasons we were punished never made sense since all we were doing was having fun…true, the cat or neighbors dog paid the price but we’re not talking about that right now!
Most of the time after we were disciplined (whupped as we say in my house) and went to sleep, a normal side effect of a good whupping, we would be fine and all was forgotten. It was again time to play. Who had time to remember what we were disciplined for. Day light was burning! There were girls’ hair waiting to be pulled!!!
But there are also those times when the discipline can go too far, not just in terms of physical abuse, at least not in my case, but in terms of the emotional pain inflicted. Punishing or disciplining in the heat of anger is always a bad idea. For one, the risk of doing actual physical harm increases. Two, when words are spoken in anger they can be just as harmful, hurtful, and painful as the physical discipline. It is usually the words that are remembered the most and have the longest effect on a young mind.
So perhaps a change in tactics is called for. I know, sometimes it’s hard to keep your temper in check and this kettle will refrain from describing the pot as black in color! And yes, I understand that stress can play a huge role in how we react to different things. When our children get in trouble we tend to fall back on what we experienced growing up. We do what we saw. We say what we heard and it’s almost instinctive. We may even know subconsciously that there is a better way but our first reaction is normally what we go with unless we train ourselves to do differently.
I remember saying to myself after receiving my punishment that I wouldn’t do my kids this way. I would treat them differently. I would do this or that better. I was not concerned with the purpose behind the discipline or the love that spurred it. At the time I couldn’t see that my mother’s efforts were keeping me out of jail and an early grave. I was a selfish child and only understood my point of view and my immediate goals.
When I became a father by the grace of God, I started disciplining the same way I was. I was going to put the fear of God into my children. I was not going to spare the rod and spoil them. I didn’t know that there was another way, even though I promised myself growing up that I would do things differently. Then it dawned on me…my greatest improvements, my best achievements, always occurred after my mother lavished praise and encouragement on me. I always did better when I knew my dad was in the stands watching me play football and cheering me on. I always rose to the occasion when I needed to take tests because I knew it would make my mother smile to see my name on the dean’s list! Encouragement and not fear was the difference.
I still believe there is a place for stern discipline, but I have also come to understand that encouraging your child can be just as effective as the rod of correction. I wouldn’t say throw away the rod, but I would say we need to balance its use with the following ratio: 1:7, that is, for every application or occurrence of the rod pour on seven doses of encouragement or praise. As a rule, if you can’t think of seven things to praise your child for, then put the rod away as the instrument of discipline and find another way.
You can encourage your child to do better, be better and aspire to greater things. Speak encouragement into their ears, into their spirit, into their whole lives and you will change them for the better. Your words have power, use this power for good and not evil.