Wednesday, July 07, 2010

On Discipline

Sunday morning my husband & I filled in as the Kindergarten Sunday School teachers. I couldn't help but chuckle when I overheard R's greeting to another child.

"Hey, you need to behave today in chu-wurch because my Mom is da teacher and you do NOT want her mad at you."

Here's the thing: My son knows without a shadow of a doubt that I love him completely. He also knows that I am his authority at this stage in life. He has a healthy fear (usually) of tangling with my leadership.

It was a great picture of the fear of the Lord described in the Bible. God loves us so fully and unconditionally. We were His idea. He formed us. He sent His Son to die for us. And yet, from this love He disciplines and corrects. He causes/allows consequences.

But don't, dear friend, resent God's discipline; don't sulk under his loving correction.
It's the child he loves that
God corrects; a father's delight is behind all this.
Proverbs 3:11-12 The Message

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 NIV

Lest I send ANY false message that I have it together as a disciplinarian, I want to share this story. Last night during dinner my children were in rare form. They were not being ugly, just very rowdy. I asked them to settle down more than once, but they could not stop giggling. The biggest challenge with triplets at this age is that they are a 'mob' and I sometimes have to work to get into their world--especially when they are lost in an imaginative game or silliness.

My husband was working late, so it was just me vs. them. After a few requests to settle down and focus on eating I attempted to soften my frustration by issuing a warning:
(In a deep, serious tone) "Hey! Calm down now or the angry Mama bear voice is going to come out."

All six big brown eyes were looking at me, but instead of fear, it was humor. They tried to stifle their giggles, but K let one slip and suddenly all three of them were laughing hysterically.
It was the first time my anger has amused them instead alarming them.
"Angwy mama bear?"
"Mommy, that is really funny!"
It was a pile on. They could not stop laughing at my comment. I realize I should have probably stopped the mocking as a lesson in respect, but I was kind of shocked and frankly, my statement was a bit ridiculous. And their laughter? It was sincere and contagious.
So, I laughed with them--at myself.

In the midst of the laughter, I had an epiphany of sorts and tried a different way, 
"OK, seriously, no angry mama bear, just YOUR Mom. Settle down now and eat."
That did the trick.

Children need boundaries. They need authority. When done within an environment that reassures them of our unconditional love and delight in them, it is modeling a very healthy picture of their ultimate authority in heaven.

It is so tempting to try to water down hard things and sugar coat discipline. Last night I was reminded that children don't need cutesy 'angry mama bear' games--they need strong, loving parents.


Bailey's Leaf said...

You know, I'm not the fun mama. I do correct my daughter. I do make her behave. (No, I'm not perfect, either.) I've found that a few other parents that hold their children to different standards tend not to hang around with us so much.

She knows that we love her. She also knows that we only punish her because we love her.

This parenting stuff is tough, though.

Malu said...

I do not have children , but I am a sunday school teacher and I know that love can do miracles in this path and you did it , you gave the children love and they corresponded to it .

Nikki said...

I just have to tell you that a post of yours from last week has been on my mind a (WHOLE!) lot lately. It helped me to decide to show grace to someone who really, really hurt my feelings. Thank you! Thank you for encouraging me to let go of the hurt and just forgive (even though she didn't even know the extent of my anger/hurt/frustration). A very important relationship could have been scarred if not for your post. Thank you!

Pam said...

I like the analogy of me vs. them. I can picture it in my head. I struggle in the area of discipline and mine is 10 years old. She is a good girl, just going thru the puberty emotional roller coaster and I might have to much sympathy for her. I needed those verses... They are going on the mirror for as memory verses.
Thanks for another great post.