Monday, December 9, 2013

Teach the children well ...

Children should obey. ... but is there more?  More than we teach by rules and penalties?

Do this!  Don't do that!  You'll get in trouble, you'll get grounded, you'll lose your privileges  . . .

and later,

Do this!  Don't do that!  They'll put you in jail, you'll lose your job, your property . . .

Do, or . . .  It's fear-based, of course.  If there's a loophole or a chance of escape, the threatened penalty is no longer a deterrent.  Street gangs, Wall Street gangs, a gang of thieves or a gang of congressmen and their lobbyists, if they can get away with it, they'll likely do as they please.  When the standard is a rule (law), it can dull and weaken.
The way of rules is lamented among all civilizations, generation after generation.  Rules reach for that which they cannot embody; right thinking and a good conscience.  Those who walk the path of rules fall short of even the least laudable of goals.
Children learn most by our example.
The exasperated father spanks his complaining child.  ...
The fearful mother shakes her rambunctious toddler.  ...
The teen's exhausted parent shouts down the offered answer.  ...   What did they teach?

Conflict and violence, the power play, the heavy hand ... fear!  And escalation in response to resistance.

But our great hope is to raise up our children to be men and women of courage and strength, nobility and clarity, with hearts for truth and compassion, justice and mercy.  None of those qualities are engendered by the 'rules and punishments' way, are they.

What can we do? 
He's a gracious father, uncle, and grandfather.
I watched as he worked through difficult
issues with his family, and was instructed
 by his calm and thoughtful manner.
It's the far side of the world in a culture where
family is perhaps more important than is
common in western culture.
Encourage them every day.  Tell them in practical ways that you love them unconditionally. Notice everything they do well, from table manners to helping to homework, and speak appreciatively.  Compliment them for their choices that reflect good character.

When they misbehave, try grieving instead of getting angry.  Or anything instead of anger.  Anything.

When they complain at the top of their lungs that, "You said 'no' just because you don't want me to have any fun," try responding tenderly to their frustration, and perhaps walk them through the decision they've asked you to make.  Let them inquire, listen honestly to their thoughts about this and that.  It may or may not change your decision, but it won't teach them fear.  It won't leave them unloved and alone.

A conflict with your child is not for the moment only.  How you respond will determine if there are more head-on conflicts in the future or fewer.

There's a great gulf between discipline and punishment, isn't there.  One shapes character, the other may cripple it, especially if you're angry.  Never conclude an occasion of reproof without genuine love and understanding between you.  In the years to come, they'll remember little of what you said compared to their memories of how you loved them.