I am not against spanking. I am not against punishment. In fact the very reason why I do either of those is the same reason that is prompting me to stop. For me the purpose of parenting is to train my children. The reason why I spank(ed) them is because there is an age where I believe that is the best way to teach them. As the children grow so must the teaching methods. Over time we stopped spanking and started more “age appropriate” forms of discipline.
For the last 3 weeks I have been thinking about how I parent my oldest 2 daughters (Dove age 7 and Eden age 5). I have concluded that the majority of my parenting with them revolved around some form of punishment. Loss of privileges, time outs, etc. I have also realized that, not only do these forms of discipline distract from my goals as a parent, I think there are times when it conflicts with them.
The disobedience of a child is one of the best opportunities to teach. It is amazing how receptive children are to this instruction. Given this, I find it amazing that my first instinct is to resort to a 5 minute time out. I mean, think about it. You hear these stories of teenagers who are grounded for months. Have the parents talked to the children about how and why the crime was committed and really concluded that this is the most effective way to teach them the applicable lesson? This seems like a really bad way to teach most anything. Most of my memories of punishment produced a very strong desire to not get caught and almost no desire to grow, change, or learn. And yet, this is still my default parenting mode. After thinking about it, I think there are two reason why I do this:
- It is, by far, the easiest.
- I am somewhat afraid and intimidated by legitimately teaching my children
In the Bible there are so many references and examples of God punishing His children but there are far more references to Him teaching and instructing them. In our house, I fear that there are far more examples of punishment than there are teaching. This is perfect if we want to raise a military family in which the children learn to respect and fear the parents and any other authority figures. . But this is not our goal. We want to raise a family where the children fall in love with God and the other members of the family. I feel like this goal requires tools that are more complicated and difficult than punishment.
Therefore, effective immediately Kami and I are going to attempt the following. When a child breaks a rule, disobeys or does something that “deserves” punishment we will ask ourselves the following:
- What do we want our child to learn from this situation?
- What is the best way that we can teach them this lesson in a way that will have a life long impact and not just help us to survive the minute, hour, week, or month?
We’ll let you know how it goes. What are some things you have learned about teaching your children?