In college, I worked two years at a daycare. Although I appreciated the preparation it afforded toward future parenting, some of the methods employed didn’t set me up as a successful instructor. Obviously, a daycare regulated by the state had to be cautious when it came to disciplinary actions. We as teachers were not allowed to put a child in the time-out chair until they had struck out three times. So, those four-year-old quick-studies learned that they could repeat the offense three times before they would face any consequences. They could ignore us multiple times before they chose to listen.
Another drawback involved our speech. We weren’t allowed to use negative language in our instruction. For example, instead of saying, “Quit running,” we had to say “Use your walking feet.” Although this method seems positive, it doesn’t prepare children for the real world.
We need to reintroduce our children to words like “no,” “stop,” “danger,” and yes, even “sin.” They need to understand that all choices have consequences: some good, some bad. They need to contemplate the repercussions of their decisions. They need to recognize that punishment does exist in the real world.
Jody Stallings, an English teacher in Charleston, says that kids need to learn to do the right thing because of the threat of discipline and because morally, it’s the right thing to do (not because they will get rewarded for it).
“Schools shouldn’t prepare kids for a world that doesn’t exist. In real life, citizens aren’t rewarded extrinsically for being good citizens. You don’t get a bonus check for paying your taxes on time. Cops don’t pull you over and hand you a $50 gift certificate for going the speed limit. Nobody throws you a pizza party for not firebombing your neighbors”(Positive Reinforcement Doesn’t Work in the Long Run).
If kids grow up ignoring and disobeying authority, they will struggle to keep a job, a house payment, or a license to drive. If students cower over “losing” a spelling competition or a night out with friends, how will they cope when real struggles arise? If the bar is always adjusted and lowered for them, how will they deal with spousal conflict, backstabbing at work, or rebellious children of their own? Will they walk away instead of communicate, neglect the responsibility, quit the job?
Are we really preparing our children to be successful adults if we always alleviate the pain of consequences or loss? If we aren’t attentive, we’ll raise a whole generation of people without grit or gumption.
Personally, I want my kids to be responsible and resilient. I want them to persevere and finish with character. I want them to learn how to communicate in the face of conflict, not just scream or walk away. I want them to recognize fault and quickly apologize for wrong-doing. I want them to humbly follow, even as they lead.
If they can’t accept boundaries, rules, and consequences with people, how will they learn to follow God and make Him their authority? How will they ‘act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God,” if they can’t even obey parents and accept discipline?
Naturally, my goal isn’t to raise mindless minions that obey my every whim. My desire is to see my children motivated by a heart that seeks the Lord, desiring to do His will. However, when kids are little, sometimes a parent has to play the Holy Spirit (I don’t mean that literally of course), inspiring a conscience that reminds them, “That’s not right. Danger if you go that direction.”
Here are a few lessons I’d love my kids to take to heart:
Regardless of what anyone does or says to you, you (and only you) are responsible for your response. Bullying doesn’t excuse bullying. Be kind in the face of mean.
Recognize that you will mess up. Everyone makes mistakes. Humble yourself. Apologize. And forgive others in like.
Receive your discipline with acceptance and remorse, not excuses and finger pointing. Don’t whine about it; learn from it.