Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Al Naturale

I was watching a TV show last night, which featured a large family. One of the children had written on the counter with marker, and the mom immediately marched her five littles in and demanded to know who the culprit was. Of course, none of the children would fess up, so all five had to stand in the utility room, noses to the wall, for four minutes (one minute per year of age). When the time was up, the mom explained to her children what they had done wrong, again, and sent them off to play. Now, I am not criticizing this mother...she clearly loved her children, but I do think she could have employed a different method. I noticed the sad looks on the children's faces after time-out, the look of children who are so sorry to have disappointed their mommy, so sad that their behavior forced her to punish them: the look of  shame. I know from experience that long after a punishment has been implemented, the punishee (forgive me for coining a word here) worries that the punisher is unhappy with her/him, and also that the punishment is often more recollected by the punishee than the "crime" itself. 

I posit that natural-like consequences would have been much more effective in this situation. The goal of Christian discipline, I believe, is to teach, correct and guide. So, when we discipline our children, we should ensure that our method will teach our children without shaming them. In the instance of the marker, the mom in question's goal was to teach her children not to write on counter tops. Why not invite them all into the kitchen, show them the marker stain, and then calmly declare, "Uh, oh, marker on the counter. Marker is only for paper. We need to clean this off."? Then, she could have handed her children each a rag, or a scrub brush, and let them work the marker off, possibly lending a hand here and there. This would need to be done without shaming comments, lectures, or angry words. In fact, it would be fine if, in the course of the consequence, the children actually had fun!! This way, the mom's role is not that of a judge who sentences her children and then carries out the sentence, but, rather, her role would be that of a kind teacher who offers her children the chance to correct and learn from mistakes.

Yesterday, little man wanted his daddy to play with him before work. Daddy informed him that he would play, after little man cleaned up the play dough he had been playing with. Little man did not want to clean up his play dough. Daddy warned him that the longer it took for him to clean up, the less time he would be able to play with little man, as he had to go to work. Little man started running around the room, playing with other toys. We informed him that he could either sit on the couch and rest (since he said he was too tired to clean up his play dough), or he could go ahead and clean up his mess. Little man opted to sit on the couch for a loooong time. Finally, he got up and cleaned up his play dough. Then he looked expectantly at daddy: "Play with me, daddy!" Daddy looked at his watch, and said, "All right, but I can only play for five minutes, and then I have to get ready for work." Little man accepted this, though he was a bit sad when his daddy had to leave to get ready for work. This is an example of a natural consequence in action. I believe that this is one of the most effective ways of teaching our children. Little man learned a bit about using his time wisely; he learned the reason why listening to what we say and doing it right away can have rewards (more time to play). He learned that he is responsible for his own behavior, and the consequences thereof. Never once did we have to shame, lecture, or punish. We did not have to stress out over our son's behavior--the choice and the consequences thereof, good or bad, were up to him.

This is really how God disciplines His children: His aim is to teach us, not to punish us. If in doubt, read Hebrews 11 and 12. Read the book of James. What do these books show is the purpose of discipline and trials in the Christian life? The purpose is to train His children, sometimes to correct them, but never to punish. 

As parents, let us meditate on these excellent verses from 1 John 4: 

15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post. I really enjoy your blog, insights and writing style. Something else I sometimes think about are the fruits of the spirit, applied to our behaviour as parents. Gentleness. Kindness. SELF control. These things are far more beautiful in action than harsh words and iron discipline.