Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Difficult Matter of Discipline, Part 1

 Today's guest post was written by my good IRL friend, Abigail Zieger. Abigail blogs at The Birth Bug about all things pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting related. I was very excited to see the topic of her post, as discipline is just starting to be an issue for us with S. It is so much harder than I thought it would be as a parent to discipline with wisdom and grace, and to know how to handle things! I hope you are encouraged!

 That ominous word at which every parent inwardly shudders. The word over which many debates have started. The word on which entire parenting books have been written. The word that leaves us all grasping for a right way to raise our children.
 
What does the dictionary have to say about discipline? The definitions most pertinent to child rearing are these:
  • training to act in accordance with rules; drill.
  • punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
  • behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control.
We’re quick to notice, however, that the dictionary isn’t the only place where discipline is discussed. Countless books have been written on the topic- from strict “spank them immediately as soon as they step out of line” authors and from “never tell them no because it might damage their psyche” authors- and everything in between! 

Our friends and families give us advice on it. Ladies at church chime in. The clerk at the grocery store is quick to offer her two cents. The waitress, the flight attendant, the neighbor, the preschool teacher. Everyone has something to say about how to handle your kid.
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When our son first started demonstrating that he knew how to misbehave, we found ourselves wading through an overabundance of advice. Should we spank him? Should we ignore him? Should we distract him? Should we only use positive reinforcements of good behavior? Should we constantly correct, or only when its serious? Gentle talkings-to, or strict punishments? Battle it out? Or patience and repetition over time?

We found that our son’s passionate and strong willed personality did not respond well to certain types of discipline that were quite common among friends.  In our desire for consistency, we gave our son the same correction for every act of disobedience. In doing so, we taught him how to seek negative attention (I don’t know that every child would respond this way, but our son would repeat and repeat the same act- and we think he liked our reactions!).

We created an environment in our home in which I was always catching my son misbehaving, and he was always fighting back. We discovered that a battle of the wills could quickly become an ugly thing. Sometimes we’d both be extremely frustrated and angry. It was to the point that I was teaching my son nothing but  how to have a bad attitude.

On the other hand, we couldn’t let our son go without any discipline. He would not learn his boundaries. He would not learn right and wrong, and how to behave in different situations. He wouldn’t learn how to honor his parents. He wouldn’t learn how to obey out of love for us and love for God. And in the process, I learned that I wasn’t loving him rightly if I neglected giving him correction.

But up until this point, we hadn’t asked the most important question of all…

Tune in for Part 2 tomorrow! 

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