"His Mercies Are New Every Morning"
“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis
― C. S. Lewis
I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
So How Do You Discipline???
I have written and spoken much on what discipline is over the years, but often get this question. What I am actually being asked is "How do you punish?" Especially when people find out that we are conservative Christians who are also home educators and spanking is not a tool we use from
our tool box.
I love having a joyful home! I love watching the girls play and have good relationships with each other, and I love that they have good relationships with Me and Daddy. I love that they have good friends and are willing to share their friends with each other.
We are not a perfect family. Because we are not perfect. :) But we are happy and we are on a journey together, and we love it.
If you were raised in a strongly punitive oriented family like I was growing up, it is really hard to shift your understanding of discipline and not use it interchangeably with punishment.
People want to know how we take a child who is in a frame of complete selfishness and full of anger, who has no understanding of what a family is, and help them to heal, become part of a family, succeed and be HAPPY!
I like the verse in Romans 12:1-2
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable and perfect." ESV
Well, it isn't easy. :) And Romans 12 1-2 is my life line. I have to be renewed in my heart and my mind. We have to lay down our lives before the Lord, each and every moment of every day. Each of us.
There is another verse that I love: Romans 2:4 "It's your kindness that leads us to repentance Oh Lord."
And also Micah 6:8--- "He has shown you, Oh Man, what is Good and What the Lord requires of you. But to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
How do these verses relate to punishment? Or to discipline?
The last verse has effected me so very much in my life. I can be just, and merciful and humble at the same time.
I can justly say that one of my children has disobeyed what I asked them to do.
I can mercifully forgive them, because I can humbly see that I have not obeyed perfectly all of what God has given ME to do.
When I cry out to the Lord for forgiveness, he does not turn me away. If I tell one of my children they are being disobedient, and I patiently wait....they respond fairly quickly. It would surprise you how even the hardest of hearts can be turned by our own simple humility.
On the practical side to this. If we want our children to be respectful, we teach them respect, by being respectful.
I remember when Miss Alli came home 8 months ago. She was appauled that she was asked to say yes maam and yes sir, no maam and no sir, please, may I and thank you. She thought we were rather nutty. LOL
I remember her saying, "What kind of place is that that I am being treated like a slave, having to say, "YES MAAM".... and she snarled it and made fun of it.. .and it was rather ugly. :(
My response to her was to teach her right from wrong. "It is not ok to speak to mommy that way. I know you don't understand this yet, but we are going to work on this every day, because it really isn't ok. I explained to her how families work together and respect each other. And then I asked her.... "Have you heard mommy say "Yes maam to you? Have you heard me say please and thank you? Have you heard me ask you "May I brush your hair?"
She thought about it and had a quizzical look on her face and had to say, "Yes." I told her, "You have lived your first 11 years not understanding that your are missing out on kindness! You have missed out on being respected! Not only will mommy respect you! You must respect mommy. That's the deal.....
Lesson over. She tried from that moment on. No matter the situation. Angry, happy.... it must be said. Today, 8 months later. It is automatic. And I rejoice. :)
So, how do we punish? Hmmm. We use what I would call a "naturally RELATED lesson". It is related TO whatever we are doing.
If you ride off on your bicycle and are not careful.... we have to come in and talk about it, instead of riding bikes. If you do not obey in the store. We go home. If you don't have your bed made before school. You make it as soon as you get a chance. If you are snotty in the car, we go home. If you are unable to handle yourself during the day, we don't go anywhere. Miss Alli has had to miss two play dates because of a bad day. She knows that I mean what I say and say what I mean. I do not use that time to punish her further, but to spend real time with her that she needs. We may take that private time to talk about how our day went and how we can do better. Much of the time she is actually very calm and sweet, knowing that there is opportunity to try again, and that I have acted out of love towards her to help her.
If I do not feel somebody is ready for a certain activity. I simply tell them. "I don't think you are ready for this." "I think this might be too much for you to handle." Or... "Do you think if you were to go there, you could be just as respectful as you are at home?" and see what they say.
We kept Miss Alli with us and did not send her off to her own Sunday School class for 6 months. We did this with our other girls for up to 2 years. We were criticized for it. So be it. :) We knew what the girls could handle. We strive to do things in a way that will help them succeed.
Teaching and requiring kindness is very important. We do not let the girls get away with being unkind to each other. You may ask... What do you do? I listen....keeping my ears open.
If I hear anything like that... I may pull somebody aside and say, "How can that be worded differently?" "Would you want somebody to speak to you the same way?" If not, how can you change how you are speaking? A couple of our girls didn't get this at all at first. It took using the video camera so they could HEAR themselves to show them how things sounded. They didn't like it, and they changed.
BTW- I have done that with myself too. I want to make sure that I am using kindness in my voice and not sounding harsh.
What we do NOT do, is say, "Because you didn't listen, no games or you have to go to your room, or you have to do chores." These are not related and it is hard for many children to understand.
AND CHORES are part of our everyday life! They are NOT a punishment. That one was a HARD one to get over with 2 of our girls because they had been punished with chores. Today, they each happily do their chores.
You may ask.... "What if you MUST get shopping done, or have to go to meet somebody?"
I would ask, "What is more important? The job the Lord has given you to do, in teaching your children? Or making an appt? Your friend will understand. You can eat Peanut Butter sandwiches.
But discipling your children cannot be put on the back burner.
One of the most important things we do is to guide our girls to the ONE who can ultimately change us from the inside out. We do not force. We pray with them often. Alli thought prayer was silly when she first came home. Today, she LOVES to pray.
And we also pray ourselves; sometimes out loud when we do not have the answers. I have asked for the Lord's help when I was frustrated, asking him to give me tenderness, because I feel angry.
There have been times when I have prayed this, and somebody has repented upon the spot, realizing they have been hurtful or unkind.
Our children need to know that their behavior effects others, not just themselves. Hurtful words hurt others. And we parents need to remember the exact same lesson!
I want my girls to grow up and remember a loving, tender mother who gently taught them right from wrong and drew respect out of them.
I do not want my children to have behaviors based upon being shamed or afraid. I want them to obey based upon Love. Perfect Love casts out fear.
In regards to the child who has a complicated trauma background, and may also have issues with FAS or PTSD, it is really important to take that extra baggage they have brought with them VERY carefully. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, works very well for a child who has alcohol/drug exposure. They DO NOT remember easily and do not understand cause/effect, ESPECIALLY if it is not related directly to what they are doing. That is why a time out, or a loss of priveledge does nothing to effect them. They don't get it.
For a child who has PTSD, understanding and breathing techniques go a long way. Just sitting in the rocking chair to reboot and try again works well.
And sometimes, when a child gets "STUCK" and you can see in their face they don't want to continue what they are doing, but they are unable to get out of it.... a REBOOT of the brain may be the best thing. STOP what you are doing.... Say something like, "Let's end this now. And go outside for a walk or something different.. Do it TOGETHER." You will be surprised how quickly they can gain control and then you can talk about it later.
Ultimately, It is our desire to lead our girls to drink from the waters of life. We can lead them there, but we cannot force them to drink. That is between them and the giver of that life giving water. :)
All we can do as parents is to lay our lives down for our children. We can lead them and guide them. But the end result is between them and the Lord. As a parent, you cannot guarantee that if you do xyz- your kid will turn out perfect. But you can give them every opportunity to succeed.
At the same time... if things are not going well at all, doing the same thing you have always done will not bring about new fruit. It may be time for a change. The change has to start with US, as parents.
Remember the ole' "Don't try to remove the speck from your brother's eye when you have a BEAM in your own."
The other day, I had a conversation with somebody who presented an issue with their child and asked what I would do. When I got home, I asked Miss Alli what she thought; being discreet. She said, "Do they pray mama? It will be really hard if they don't pray."
Out of the mouths of babes. :)