Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Gentle Discipline is Not, Continued

Gentle disciplines is not adversarial! This week, I dealt with a little five year old girl who has been spanked, given time-outs, and tantalized with rewards for good behavior her whole life. She is one of the worst-behaved, violent little children I have ever encountered. You see, this little girl hears an authority figure set a limit, and she gears up for battle. She is strong-willed and intelligent, and she digs in her heals when she does not want to do something. Her mom told me that one time she spanked her very hard, borderline abuse hard, and the little girl came out of the bathroom laughing. My wonderful husband, upon hearing this story, told me that that is exactly how he was as a child. This week, the little girl told me, when I set a limit, that she was going to smash my head...she proceeded to approach me and push on my head. My sweet little Aydon was terrified. Needless to say, I put my foot down and said that I will no longer watch this girl, for the sake of my son.

I do not want to lump all children into two categories, but I will say that it seems to me that some children are sensitive to what their parents think and feel, and some children, though they definitely crave the love and affection of their parents, are born into this world not so worried about how their parents feel about their behavior: they have a heart to conquer, to win, to lead. Many children have a combination of both of these spirits, and all children were created by God with the personalities that He gave them. The more sensitive children respond quickly to punitive discipline. Having their parents spank them, or put them in time out, breaks their hearts, but they cover it up to please their parents and keep them happy. They act as good as possible to avoid punishment. If they choose to disobey, they often are sneaky; not outwardly rebellious. The children with "strong wills" are more likely to question their parents. Punitive discipline sets them up for a life-long fight. Letting a spanking in any way affect them proves to the world that their parents won, and they will not have it.

Gentle discipline addresses both personalities, because the parent embraces the role of a teacher, a discipler, who comes alongside the child, works with the child's personality, and guides the child in the right direction. Christians who use gentle discipline recognize that a child's heart is what matters, and that outward good behavior does not always mean that the heart is in the same place. These Christian parents seek to teach their children right from wrong, yet they also do not mislead their children into thinking that outward good behavior is all that counts. They allow God to work in their child's hearts. They refuse to shame their children into acting good. They treat their children with the same grace God bestows on them.


  1. I was the "sensetive" child, I would do anything to please my parents, so I was only spanked a few times a week, and never very hard. My sister was the opposite, she was spanked all the time and I remember wondering why she wouldn't just give in! The little girl laughing after a spanking reminds me of her. That type of discipline is so so damaging for either kind of child.

  2. I was both. I was a sensitive child - I died inside every time I was disciplined, every time I was shamed and every time I was threatened with a spanking. But when you know you just can't do anything right - when you know that even if you forget something you'll be spanked - then you either lose yourself or protect yourself. I protected, and even though I was an extremely difficult child I thank God that I protected myself, even if it caused me to be spanked more.

    I'm so thankful that I found gentle discipline for my children and thank you for writing this series. :)