This week’s class was all about discipline. We started with figuring out the difference between “discipline” and “punishment”.
When I think of the word “discipline”, I subconsciously shorten it to “disciple”, as in the 12 men who spent 3 years following Jesus around. I read somewhere that a disciple was simply someone who followed a Jewish Rabbi around, basically being their shadow, in order to learn from them and become a Rabbi themselves one day. It literally meant “to be covered in the dust of the teacher” — following their actions so closely that every step the teacher took caused the dust of their feet to cover the disciple. A 24/7 apprentice, if you will.
That’s how I define “discipline”: the day-in, day-out lessons taught by one person to another through intentional teaching, through observation, through action, and through repetition. It makes a lot of sense to think of our kids that way. Depending on their age, they may be with you 24 hours a day, every day of the week. They learn from everything you say and do, through your body language, tone of voice, attitude and mood. To me, discipline is what you’re teaching your children through your everyday life. It makes use of the daily routine and teachable moments, creates learning experiences and uses natural consequences to expose children to the reality of life in a safe environment.
Punishment, on the other hand, is more reactive. The way we defined it in class was as a negative result that can tend to ignore the cause of a given behavior.
We watched a 20/20 segment that had to do with spanking (I’ll leave that debate for another time …). Each of the parents interviewed were VERY reactive in their spanking and slapping. There didn’t seem to be any warning given before a spanking or slap happened, it was usually done in front of other children, and there didn’t seem to be any discussion of the offense afterwards, except in one case. I’ve seen many parents exhibit this kind of punishment, and I really believe very strongly that it does absolutely no good at all. It usually happens as a result of a tired, frustrated parent who should probably give herself a time-out and then reassess the situation.
We also discussed looking at the cause of behaviors, as opposed to just addressing the behavior itself. I found this part to be very common sense. For example, it’s 9:00 at night and little Johnny is throwing a tantrum at Wal-Mart while Mom tries to get her errands run. We’ve all seen it happen, and we all know why it’s happening: Little Johnny is tired and needs to go to bed. But I suppose if it really were common sense, we probably wouldn’t have all seen it happen so many times, would we? 😉
One thing that we briefly touched on, and that I believe is a very important part of discipline, is restoration: making it right. If a child hurts another child, they need to apologize with their words and actions to make things right. If they break someone’s toy, they need to fix it or replace it. There needs to be a follow-up action that completes the process of addressing the cause of the behavior and the behavior itself. This follows into grown-up life. If I ding another car in a parking lot, I can be really sorry for doing it, and I can apologize til I’m blue in the face. While the other driver may appreciate the apology, what he’ll really want is the name of my insurance company or plain old cash to fix the ding.
We did also talk about inappropriate types of punishment, and our instructors mentioned a few situations that they had seen that had led to the apprehension of children. Cruel, inhumane things that adults had done to children. It’s one thing to read horror stories like that in the paper or hear about them on the news, but my stomach turned while listening to these ones. That could be our child they were talking about. We haven’t finished the process yet and we’ve still got awhile to go, but our child could be in an abusive situation like that right now, or they could have been removed from that kind of home already. Either way, it really started to sink in that our child may come to us with those kind of experiences.
Only two more weeks to go!