Discipline of children is controversial topic. I'm not known for shying away from such topics, though! (As evidenced by my entire blog page dedicated to Natural Family Planning, and my frequent mention of breastfeeding - and I have a post (or several) in the works about breastfeeding and "extended" breastfeeding, too!) In "real life," I love to get into topics like this with friends. Most of my friends have the same views as I do, but I do have friends who are Atheist, different Christian denominations from me, or very liberal (hello, I am the most conservative person you'll ever meet), so from time to time I find myself in a riveting discussion. I love it. ( :
What I don't love is having to actually discipline my child. Its hard. Growing up, Mama always said "this hurts me way more than it hurts you." I never believed her, of course, but now I see that she was right. I want to just love and cuddle with my daughter and never have to discipline her. BUT, she will never grow to be a good Christian woman if we don't raise her right. Can I get an "Amen?"
My husband and I were raised pretty much the same way - you obey your parents, don't give them any lip, and don't misbehave. Or else you got a spanking (or a whippin, as some people call it).
Ephesians 6:1-3 - Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."
I know a LOT of people nowadays say that spanking is wrong and evil, and makes children grow up to be messed up in the head or abusers, but I don't agree with that. DH and I are perfectly normal (gasp! Despite having been spanked!!) adults with no inclinations towards physical abuse. We don't hate our parents for disciplining us the way they did. And I know tons of people just like us. Maybe its just a Southern thing. Maybe someone in California will read this and be completely appalled. *shrug* My suggestion, if that's your opinion, is to stop reading now. ( :
We spank our child. She is not abused, we do not hurt her. But when she is being blatantly disobedient, she will get popped on her hiney.
Proverbs 12:24 - Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Now, I realize she's only 2 years old (well, almost 3 now!) and she doesn't always know the difference between right and wrong yet. But my husband and I both firmly agree that she does know quite a bit, and when she knows not to do or say something and does it anyway, she should be punished. Now, here someone will say "put her in time out" or "take away her toys," or even "just ignore her bad behavior and reward her good behavior." Sorry, folks, that kind of "discipline" doesn't always cut it.
"Time out" doesn't work yet for us. C doesn't quite understand what I mean and there's just no way she can sit still on command for any amount of time. I don't expect her to do that, anyway (hello, she's a toddler - they can't sit still, like, ever). In order for her to actually sit in time out, I'd have to sit beside her and physically restrain her from moving. Not happening. Besides, doesn't that go against "ignoring bad behavior?" Hmm...
Speaking of that, that's the silliest thing I've ever heard in terms of discipline. (Sorry if that offends anyone.) I'm not saying that sometimes I don't overlook C's temper tantrums - cause sometimes I do. If she's clearly overtired from skipping a nap or from a big day, I can expect at some point before the day's over she'll have a meltdown. And when I say meltdown, I mean she'll throw herself on the floor, kicking and screaming. I can ignore those tantrums. Even if I think her reason is dumb, I know she's exhausted and really can't help herself. So if I'm in a position to ignore her, that's what I do.
BUT, if she's having a tantrum because she made a mess with her toys and I told her to clean it up (which she is totally capable of doing; she cleans up her messes all the time), I'm not going to ignore that. That's disobedience. And she knows better. Yes, she's not even 3 years old, but her mental level is higher than her physical age. (I know lots of parents think their kid is a genius, but seriously, my kid is super smart. Not bragging; it just is what it is. Physical stuff is more challenging for her.)
Sometimes, C will throw a fit (as we say down here) if I don't do something exactly to her liking. Like this morning. I was eating breakfast and C wanted a bite of my toast. No problem, but I told her I would hold it for her (it was peanut butter toast, and I didn't have time to clean up the inevitable mess if she held it herself). Well, she didn't like that idea at all. Threw herself down and completely lost it. It was probably one her her worst tantrums ever (and that's saying a lot, cause she's had some doozies!). Exactly what I don't need first thing in the morning. At first, I ignored her. After all, she had just woken up, and since I'm totally not a morning person, I can sympathize with waking up on the wrong side of the bed. But then she just kept getting worse and worse - and louder and louder.
I guess technically I employed several different methods of discipline this morning. First, I tried the ignoring method. Didn't work. Just made her up her game (i.e, throwing her beloved stuffed animals at me). Next, I tried the spanking method. (Really, just a quick pop, not a beating like you're probably picturing.) That didn't phase her at all. Finally, I snatched up those animals and threw them on top of the fridge. That really ticked her off. *sigh* The entire time, I was trying to calm her down and reason with her (ha! Reason with a toddler?! Yeah, right.). I finally went to my bathroom and shut the door. Yeah, I probably won't be winning any Mom of the Year awards, but sometimes you need to get some distance and gain a little perspective on a situation, you know? And sometimes when its 7:30 in the morning and you're already not a morning person, you just need a 10 second break from the screaming so you can calm yourself and not completely lose it.
Well, that got through to my daughter this morning. She immediately calmed down. She was actually good as gold until I dropped her off at her grandma's. I did have a talk with her about how it is not acceptable behavior to act like she did, even if she was mad about not being able to hold the toast (which I'm sure was extremely important to her). That's the second or third talk we've had to have this week about her behavior. I hope this phase ends soon!
On the way to work, I talked to my husband, who is just as lost as I am here. We're not quite sure how to handle these tantrums our daughter is insistent on having so regularly lately. We just know that we can't allow her to get away with acting this way. I think with our child, when she's a little older time out will be pretty effective. I also think in certain situations, taking away toys will work now. But if she's not actively playing with a toy, taking away something won't have any affect, in my opinion.
I know some people would tell me to just give in and not be so stern. After all, is it really that big of a deal to let her hold the dang toast and just clean up the mess? No, its not. BUT, I had already told her no. End of story. I (and my husband) have no intentions of giving in to our child's every whim. She needs to know that you don't always get everything you want, when you want it. Our job is not to be her best friend, but to raise her so that she'll one day be a God-fearing, Christian woman with good values and morals.
Proverbs 22:6 - Train a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
It has to start now, when she's still young and impressionable. We can't wait until she's a wild teenager with no respect for her parents. Its too late then.
And you know what? I might not have all the answers (not even close!), but I know I'm on the right track. How do I know? Because every single time C calms down from a tantrum, she comes to me, apologizes, hugs me, and tells me she loves me. She doesn't want to disappoint me or make me angry. She wants my approval and my affection.
Proverbs 29:17 - Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.
Yes, I know Bible verses can be taken way out of context. Not the case here. God was pretty clear on this topic - we have to discipline our children to save them from Sheol (Hell).
Proverbs 23:13-15 - Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol. My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.
I don't think "strike him with a rod" means to literally beat your kid with a metal rod, either. Nowhere does God say "knock your kid out when he misbehaves." So don't take that part so literally, like some people do. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the argument that "the Bible condones child abuse." Nonsense. God wants His children to obey him, and if we don't He will punish us. As parents, our children are expected to obey us in the same manner, and if they don't, God expects us to punish them.
Hebrews 12:11 - For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
And that's the goal. "The fruit of righteousness." Children are a blessing from God, and our job is to train them in God's ways. Every child and adult of God is one less in Satan's army.
I know this sounds terribly "old-fashioned," conservative, and maybe ignorant to some people. That's okay. As Christians we are called to live apart from the world and its gray areas. The world has made us think its okay to be lackadaisical in our faith and our Christian walk - but it's not okay. How we are to live has been laid out for us in God's book. No, its not easy, but its what we are called to do.
Please don't think that me saying this means I'm already "there;" on the contrary, I struggle with this very thing. Following God's Word is often "against the grain" of society. And I'll be the first to admit I often fail. Luckily, God knows I'll never be perfect and has already forgiven me. I just have to keep trying - and I have to do my best to make sure I raise my daughter according to His guidelines.