Thursday, November 2, 2006

Ye Olde Xanga post on positive discipline...

To discipline a child is not the same thing as punishing. Much confusion arises in this area of child rearing, because in Christian culture in the past 30 years, these two ideas have been equated.

Punishing a child focuses on the negative behavior and requires some kind of physical or emotional pain from the child. Examples of punishment would be spanking or some removal of emotional availability.

Parental discipline does not equal punishment. It means teaching the child and gently leading them towards the example of Jesus. No beating required.

Is parental authority God-given? You betcha! But it's not the kind of authority that demands to be recognized. It's the authority Christ modeled for us-gently correcting, appropriately rebuking, leading, illustrating, sheltering, and giving fully of ourselves. And patiently, consistently repeating that as many times as need be. We're given authority not to control our children's behavior, but to gradually teach them how to handle their own sinful nature and internalize godly morals. And that takes time.

The problem with punishment is that it addresses behavior instead of the heart. While spanking your child may produce faster results, those results are out of fear of punishment. Love is not the motivator.

Children aren't born with morals. In order for a child to internalize the positive reason why she should act a certain way (out of kindness, compassion, principle), she must be given the opportunity to fail and try again and again, all the while being gently and firmly prodded and guided towards right action. If physical violence is used to discourage a "misbehavior", then avoiding a punishment will be the child's main motivator for acting right. The imprint that physical pain inflicted by a trusted adult leaves in the child's mind is indelible. The child's moral development is somewhat arrested, because they carry the fear of shame/punishment into adulthood with them as their primary motivator for good behavior.

Related to this is the fear of losing love because of bad behavior. (Also a terrible reason to "act good".) No matter how many times a parent says, "This is for your own good" or "I'm doing this because I love you", what the child carries away with them is, I never want to do that again because I hate being hurt by my parent, and I hate disappointing them so.
The child responds with good behavior out of fear of displeasing his/her parents. They learn that acting "good" means being loved, and acting bad means withdrawal of love. As sons and daughters of God, are we not to extend God's unconditional forgiveness and love to each other? (And who are we, by the way, to play God and demand painful payment for sin when Christ has already taken the blame?)

From an immature child's perspective, what is punishment teaching them? What lesson do they really walk away with?

Teaching a child that a moment of weakness warrants corporal punishment sets them up for abuse and an unhealthy understanding of God and others later on in life. Thinking patterns established early on in life die hard, or not at all.

Here's what I mean. As a child grows to adulthood, in order for him to function in a healthy way within relationships, it is paramount for him to establish healthy boundaries for his own person and to respect the boundaries of others. Spanking completely undermines the idea of respecting his own boundaries from his earliest memory.

Spanking a child when he fails teaches him that his failing deserves a punishment.
It also teaches him that it's OK to punish others when they fail you.
How will that look when it plays out in his marriage? Friendships?

Spanking a child teaches him that when you get caught, you get hurt. Lesson? Don't get caught.

Spanking a child communicates that love and physical safety are conditional. If you mess up in a relationship, it stops being loving and safe. How will this effect his ability to be open and honest?

Spanking teaches a child that if she displeases someone else, her physical boundaries don't have to be respected. How will this look when she's dating an abusive guy? Married to an abuser?

Spanking tells the child that in order to be "cleared" from an offense, it must be punished. How does that effect his understanding of God's grace?

"This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you" communicates to the child, "You're making me hurt you. I wish I didn't have to, but you've forced me." I shiver while thinking of how many woman have used the idea that they're responsible for their own abuse as an excuse to stay in a destrictive relationship.

Please, dear ones, understand that I would never accuse any well-meaning parent of purposefully harming their child. Unfortunately, intentionally or not, spanking is damaging. The good news is that Christ is the inventor of new beginnings. The past is the past, and we can only be responsible for the present. God's grace is sufficiant for us, and for our children!

So, is it possible to maintain godly authority within the home without corperal punishment? Yes, it is!

I love this quote from Corrie ten Boom (the christian woman who survived the Ravensbruck prison for hiding Jews in her family's home..her family is an amazing testimont to grace and forgiveness):

"...we were disciplined without spanking. I cannot remember being paddled as a child, but there was no doubt in our family that we were to obey Father...We never spoke of "line of authority in our home-it was simply understood. Father didn't have to stand up and say, "I'm the head of this home!" He just was. We never felt any desire to have it any other way, because love and security of all our relationships were built upon the established fact that God was always with us, and He had appointed Casper ten Boom in charge of the home called Beje."
                                                                                                          -Corrie ten Boom, In my Father's House
More later on punishment vs. natural consequnces/prevention...

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