The most troubled adults I know are those who were frightened as children
by extreme physical abuse or psychological terror.
Their parents called it “discipline.”
The more horrendous the beatings and the more frightening the threats,
the longer it takes them as adults to believe that I care, or that anyone does.
Perhaps because they’ve were frightened so often as children,
adults who were treated badly as children often wisely choose safe and kind partners.
But they find it hard to trust these partners even after many years of being treated well.
Scared kids become scared adults, always waiting for the next beating or betrayal.
A PARENT’S JOB
It is not a primary duty of parents to control their children.
The primary duty of parents is to protect their children.
WHEN IS DISCIPLINE WISE?
Discipline is wise only when it makes sense to the child.
And children can only think selfishly.
Therefore, discipline is only wise when the child knows that what they did wrong was
that they didn’t take good care of themselves.
If you send a child to their room because they haven’t learned
to look both ways before crossing a street, they won’t put up much of a fight.
But if you use the same punishment because they’ve been “impolite,”
they may fight you all the way.
This is because politeness is not a value a self-centered child can understand,
but protecting themselves from being hit by a car definitely is.
You can force “politeness,” or any other behavior, simply by hurting or scaring a child.
But you can’t teach them the value in being polite until they are old enough to understand.
Unfortunately, a healthy child only achieves such maturity around puberty.
(And the kids who have been frightened and beaten all their lives will be rebelling
so strongly at this age that “being polite” will be the least of a parent’s worries!)
NATURAL CONSEQUENCES = NATURAL DISCIPLINE
Misbehavior has natural consequences.
The best discipline of all is simply to point out these natural consequences.
A Good Example:
Suppose you see a group of children at a day care center.
One child is pushing another child around, acting like a bully.
If you don’t need to protect the child who is being bullied, just wait a few minutes.
Then notice that all of the other children have naturally moved away from the bully.
Then simply go up to the bully and point out what is going on.
Say something like: “When you act like that the other kids don’t like you.”
This is how you use “natural consequences.”
A Bad Example:
Many parents would handle this situation quite differently.
They would run up to the bully, grab them violently, turn them around,
and yell at them about their behavior. They may even hit the child.
The parent’s yelling and hitting “changes the subject” in the child’s mind.
The child no longer thinks about their own bullying behavior,
they think instead about their parent’s bullying behavior toward them!
The parent’s actions were “unnatural” consequences, added to the situation by the parent.
Unnatural consequences don’t teach children anything, they only confuse them.
Always look for natural consequences when you want to teach your children.
DON’T TEACH FEAR
In recent years many “liberal” parents say that they don’t hit their children.
But then they usually add with an apparently wise smile: “I just scare ’em!”
Thank God for small favors.
Scaring kids is by no means better than hitting them.
Both of these are unnatural consequences that undermine parental authority,
and both are abusive if used to extreme.
BUT WHAT IF THE CHILD DOESN’T LEARN?
Real life is the best teacher of all.
So our children will learn.
But they will learn at their own pace,
and we parents will always be frustrated by that pace.
(If someone told you parenting was easy, they lied.)