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Friday, July 31, 2009

More Thoughts on Discipline

I have been reading, reading READING.... and have had a hard time sleeping with all the things going on in my heart and mind.

So I thought I would share a few of them.....

One of the books I am reading is called "Spare the Child" The religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. by Philip Greven

Something that was blaring on the radar screen of my mind was the idea of discipline=punishment.... all the Harshest of punishments which were hair raising in this book did not seem to cause the recipients to change.... only to suffer.

While much of what I read was outright severe abuse against children, mixed with confused religiosity, I was continually shocked at the blindness of how parents couldn't see the damage they were causing their children. Many of these famous preachers of their day who were featured children in this book had other siblings and I wonder what happened to them?

As I have been reading this, the big part glaring in my mind has to do with true DISCIPLINE..... discipleship. Not memorizing catecisms, which is a good thing, not standing over and directing every move, not punitively looking down our glasses while our children wait for the next blow.... but teaching true discipline, true SELF discipline.

This doesn't happen in a session where a child is spanked for every infraction, having their will broken and spirit damaged, and then taught how to think.

What it can happen is in dialogue. Talking to our children, getting to know how they think, what they feel, how they understand the world around them, and then gently guiding them in conversation, and presenting new ideas for them to grasp.

If you are at a store and your child asks for something and you need to tell them no; and their reaction is one of sadness or disappointment, that isn't a bad thing. It is NORMAL.... I get disappointed sometimes too. So what is so wrong with acknowledging their disappointment, and then using that moment as teaching moment to help them see that the world doesn't revolve around their wants, that money must go for clothing and food, and that God is our gracious provider. Then, having them help pick out foods that we can truly be thankful for, and teaching them that if they work extra hard, earn a little more money, they just might have enough to buy that thing they want so badly.
Come up with ways for them to earn extra change, and make a positive experience of it.
Later during other conversations, you can come up with stories of children who were actually selfish in their thinking, and the outcomes of being too self focused.

This child will learn self discipline. They will learn thankfulness, they will learn that we must work hard for things we desire to have. And... they will learn that sometimes, they really didn't want it that much. I can't tell you how many times, after our girls earn money for something they have wanted, they wind up changing their mind, as that money has true value to them now.

Let's go back to the original example: The child disappointed about not getting what they wanted.
What if the parent were to tell the child they were being selfish. Tell them selfishness is sin, and they are going to be spanked for their sinful attitude?
How is that going to help a child understand what to do next, other than hide how they really feel so they won't be struck next time?

These are just thoughts coming to mind as I am processing all the info in my head.

Some might say, why not combine the two.... teaching and punishing. I would say, if you can have results in the first place, it seems punishing is not relevant....

And if you don't have immediate results that you want to have.... well, I'm not so sure punishment will make any difference. It seems more discussion to help a child understand would be in order. More coming alongside, more relationship.....

What I have seen in regards to spanking, is that spankings don't seem to do anything other than hurt. If they really worked well, wouldn't children cease behaviors that would cause parents to think they needed one?

My point is that spanking is not discipline. Spanking is punishment. It is a tactic used by some to get external control through fear. Thus creating the illusion that quiet, fear filled children are cheerful, obedient, reverent children.... and the only thing that might be true in the above statement is the fear filled part.


Hippie Housewife said...

Your past three entries on discipline have been excellent. I couldn't agree more, and I appreciate the real-life examples you included as well.

Oakie Grandfather said...

Right on Christie

Sarah said...

I'm really appreciating this series as well. Never did think that inflicting physical violence on a child was a good way to "teach" anything. I used to run and hide when my sister got spanked, just so I wouldn't have to hear it, and when I got spanked it didn't teach me much except to resent my parents. I remember a night when I was five that I had been sent to bed at the ridiculously early time they insisted was my bedtime (now I know children need sleep, but c'mon, how likely is sleep to happen anyway when the sun is still high in the sky and I can hear other kids playing outside on the other side of my window? :-) ) and I spent a long time trying to be still and quiet, even though I was not remotely sleepy. When I did finally become sleepy, I heard my father start the vacuum cleaner in the hallway right outside my door! So, being naturally frustrated, I yelled out something I had heard from other kids in kindergarten and thought it was a perfectly acceptable thing to say: "SHUT UP!!!" Of course, I got spanked. They did not care that I had no idea that was a bad thing to say. So what did I learn? I learned my parents were illogical (send me to bed, then make noise that keeps me awake?), that if my parents had failed to teach me what was a right/wrong thing to say well then that was somehow MY fault and not their responsibility, that my parents didn't care about any explanation of my perspective, and that they most certainly were not willing to apologize when they were in the wrong (even though I asked them for an apology--you can imagine how far that got). That's just one incident, not for the most part representative, nor do I think my parents were horrible parents by any stretch of the imagination, but still, decades later, I can recall that incident and say "grrrrrrrrrr" as my blood pressure rises...

Now, I do think there are a VERY few exceptions to not striking a child, but never out of anger or embarassment or just reacting. For example (one of the ONLY ones I can think of), a parent has repeatedly instructed a very young child not to reach for the stove, as it may at any given time be hot. Child does not listen and continues to reach for the stove. At this point, it may make sense for the parent to (lightly) slap the child's hand, as the slight pain inflicted is surely less than the lasting pain of a burn, and would probably associate bare hand + stove = pain in a way that definitely benefits the child, until the child was old enough to think more logically about the situation and take proper safety precautions on his/her own.

I'll stop rambling now. :-)

TulipGirl said...

Well said.

Tereasa said...

I appreciate your thoughts so much.

Anonymous said...

There is a book called Relational Parenting that I have not yet read, but the title sounds intriguing. It describes the way I feel I raised my step-daughter who learned her lessons quickly. However, raising a child who had prenatal alcohol exposure has been WAY different. Each new day it seems we are still learning the same lessons we worked on the day before, the week before, the month before, and yes, the YEAR before.

The more my son has learned to verbalize his reasoning behind certain behaviors, the more I have grown to understand how poorly he connects the dots. Even though I find myself falling back into the familiarity of how I was raised, that style of parenting in doomed to failure with him.

Your role play description is something I have used, but need to take time to use more often. By giving your daughter the opportunity to be you, she had to put herself in your position...in addition to seeing how she looked whining. I bet this approach will produce some permanent changes in her that will transfer to the next similar situation she encounters!

Great example! Thanks for the reminder!!!

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