As promised, here’s some more thoughts from my personal “unit-study” on discipline.
When it comes to discipline “training” it’s helpful to use a medical perspective. Prevention is better than medication. I think that most of us would whole-heartedly agree with that train of thought. It is SO much easier and more enjoyable to train ourselves and our families to be disciplined in the present, rather than dealing with all the numerous hosts of consequences and misbehaviors down the road.
Daunting task? Yep. Easier said than done? Absolutely. Complicated? Not really.
The thing is we’re all going to have our weaknesses and different personalities and cultures to deal with but even given all those variables, discipline training really boils down to two key concepts. Model and Method.
#1 The model:
“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
We HAVE to model self-discipline.This is absolutely essential in discipline training with children. They are still learning all the nuances of language for one and may not completely understand WHAT you are saying. Or maybe you’ve caught yourself like I did with myself the other day yelling at my daughter, “Stop speaking so rudely to your sister!!” Hmmm….see anything wrong with that picture?
But there is even more to self-discipline than anger control and obedience. I’ve been thinking about questions like this:
Do we buy everything we want, right when we want it?
Do we make others in our family wait on their wants to meet our own?
Do we barrage our families with every bad mood/day?
Do we complain and whine whenever we don’t want to do something or are inconvenienced?
Do we eat like there will never be food again?
Do we avoid exercise?
Do we avoid reading/ learning new things?
Do we avoid planning because we don’t want commitments or expectations?
Do we lie? Cheat? (Kids usually can’t tell the difference between a “white” lie and a “lie”)
Do we neglect our family or other important responsibilities because we are thinking of ourselves (ie: “me time”, career development, etc)?
Do we avoid budgeting because we don’t want to have the responsibility of managing our funds?
Well then….what exactly are we expecting from our children?
Now, obviously with some of these questions there are things to consider such as disability, health issues, etc. But when I honestly took a look at myself with these questions in mind I started to realize how much a disciplined home begins with me.
#2 The method:
This encompasses both Work and Patience Training.
For Work, we typically use Stewardships. Ok, I guess they are more commonly known as chores or jobs but to me those words had such a negative connotation that we use “stewardships” at our house instead. The basic premise is that these jobs create responsibility which gives them a feeling of belonging and significance. They feel needed and wanted. Their contribution matters.
Also, when introducing the “whys” to our kids we explained that God gives us everything we have and in order to show gratitude and have further “responsibilities” we have to take care of the ones we already have.
This should be a step-by-step, little-by-little process. It requires training too! You can’t expect anybody to read your mind. Be honest and specific about what is expected and then follow through with instruction and continued “check-ups”.
Since the world is becoming less and less agricultural we may have to be creative, but find a way to make sure that everyone has something that they are responsible for and that they FEEL it is a responsibility. Work creates self-discipline because one must put off the natural man and train their mind and body to do something they many not WANT to do, but they know it is necessary and good.
This step ties right back in to modeling as well. If you’re not taking care of your responsibilities then….?
Patience Training happens naturally while training your children to work because they have to be patient to see a desired outcome. We can enhance patience in our children pretty simply: Make them wait. And often: Make them work for it. This doesn’t mean withhold needed things. We’re not creating stoics. Although we can make them wait even temporarily to eat, sleep, attention, etc.
This starts in infancy, we can soothe a child with our voice to let them know we will meet their needs but we don’t have to do it in the moment. This is especially true when the “need” is really a “want”, kids must learn from the get-go what is a need and a want and that they will have to be patient for both and generally work for a “want”.
Just like anything else, you CAN have too much of a good thing. Discipline does not mean you should become like a machine. Everything will NOT be perfect. I should make this my mantra 🙂 Sometimes, life happens. BUT, “training” in any sense of the word is an incremental process. Every morning I wake up I’m striving for a “better-than-before” kind of day!