More Autobio: child raising
As time went on and we slogged on through language study, teaching English and the difficulties of every day life, I was personally amazed and encouraged to see how much joy God gave me in being where He wanted me.
Leaving behind the physical work, the mental stimulation, the success of business, and the beauty of home had not had the deleterious effect I’d expected. Obedience brings joy and God was setting me free from my natural inclinations.
In making these adjustments, however, tensions did surface between us. One morning Barbara and I had a strong discussion. At one point I pounded my fist on the table and said, “Who’s the boss here, anyway?!!!”
Josh immediately replied, “The landlord!” We burst out laughing. His comment brought us to our senses and we were able to resolve the issue in harmony.
After our arrival in Turkey, we were also struggling with finding a balance in our parenting. What with the month long trip from Connecticut to here, dealing with all the changes and constant adjustments, we had trouble being consistent in our responses to the boys. My anger was always floating near the surface and could emerge at the slightest provocation.
John noted this and had a fatherly chat with me. “In our house we have only three rules,” he said. Boy, did that get my attention! I had so many rules for the boys that even I couldn’t remember them.
He continued, “These rules are: obedience, honesty and respect. Even a small child can understand what obedience is, and yours are old enough to understand honesty and respect.”
I knew what he said was true. Josh had lied to me before he could speak and knew it was wrong. He had been playing with something on the coffee table and while I watched him, he accidently broke it. I said to him, “Did you break that?” He looked at me and shook his head “no.” He knew danger when he saw it and instinctively sought to protect himself.
John went on, “You need to explain these limits to your boys and then tell them what discipline they will get when they cross the line. Not if they cross, but when, for they certainly will disobey.
“When they cross it, ask them what they have done–this clarifies the offense: disobedience, dishonesty or disrespect. Then ask them what they have asked for: a discipline—this clarifies their responsability. You don’t give them a discipline, they ask for it.
“The discipline you use should be immediate, painful and bring repentance. We use spanking. Things like ‘time out’ or ‘no TV for a week’ are ineffective because they don’t get the child’s attention sufficiently.
“One other thing,” added John, “When you discipline them, if they cry loudly, keep it up until they cry quietly. You are looking for surrender. This is a battle of the wills, and if they cry loudly, they have won. Make sure you win, it will be for their benefit. If they don’t learn to submit to you, later in life the police will have to help them submit to authority.”
Wow, that seemed so clear, so easy. I was struck with how this type of correction was just what the Lord had done for me, disciplining me in my depression, bringing me out into a greater freedom. Now I had the privilege and responsibility to do the same for my children.
I went right home and shared that with Barbara. Then we sat the boys down and explained this to them. Our discipline would be a spanking using a wooden spoon. Proverbs 13:24 was our basis for this: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”
[What comes next may not be what some of you like, but I ask that you look at the outcome: what our boys as adults are.]
This new framework brought a lot of clarity, but it also brought a lot of spankings. On a scale of compliant to strong willed, Josh was off scale on the strong willed end. He was not negatively rebellious, he was just determined. When he wanted to do something, he would just push forward with it.
He got spankings every day. Nat took his cue from this and avoided spankings as much as he could. While Josh’s approach was a frontal attack, Nat was more for doing end runs. For instance, one time when we were packing things up to move, we discovered that Nat had been quietly working at making it harder for us to spank him: under his mattress were all the wooden spoons we’d been unable to find!
Following John’s advice led to an important and positive showdown with Josh. He began to go in his pants again. He’d be playing outside and come in wet or dirty.
At first we wondered, “Is it the stress of change? Have we done something to injure his little psyche?” No, it was simple: he was too lazy to come in and go to the bathroom.
While on a trip we stopped at a gas station. “Everyone go to the bathroom!” I said.
Josh piped up, “I don’t need to go!”
“Ok,” I said, “But don’t miss the opportunity!”
Then, about five miles down the road, a distinct odor wafted up from the back seat. I pulled over beside the road and turned around.
“You went in your pants, didn’t you?” I asked angrily. Josh admitted it. After getting him cleaned up and changed, I got a stick from a bush beside the road.
“You did not obey me when I told you to go to the bathroom,” I said, “and you did not tell us you needed to go so we could stop for you. So I am going to discipline you. What discipline have you asked for?”
Josh bowed his head, “A spanking,” he said quietly.
“Right, and I am going to spank you until you surrender and promise you will never do that again.” I laid him over my knee and began to spank. I kept it up until I thought my arm was going to fall off. At last Josh said, “Ok, ok, I promise I’ll never do that again!” This was a major turning point in his life, the positive breaking and reshaping of his will that later led to his surrender to God.
It was also this struggle to bring the boys to surrender that made me understand Proverbs 19:18, “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” If we fail to discipline our children properly, we open the way for them to struggle with authority all their lives, and that will in turn hamper their surrender to God.
One time after I spanked Josh when he was five, he got down off my knees, turned, pointed his finger at me and said, “Dad, you did that wrong.”
Here was this little guy, speaking with me like an adult. Trying not to laugh I said, “Really? What did I do wrong?”
He looked at me seriously, “You were still angry. You should have waited until you were calmed down.”
I let out a sigh, smiled and said, “You are right, son. Would you forgive me?”
“Sure, Dad, everyone makes mistakes,” he said as he turned and walked off.
That made me think of something I’d read by Dr. Dobson where he said that the best of parents make the right parenting choices about 51% of the time. That could be comforting or disconcerting, depending how you look at it!
He continued by stating that if the kids know you love them unconditionally, they will forgive you for all those mistakes. I guess josh felt secure in our love.
When Josh was twelve, he and I were going somewhere in the car, when without any preamble, he suddenly said, “Dad, you are the best Dad in the world!”
“Really?” I said, quite surprised. “What makes you say so?”
“Because you always spanked me when I needed it!” he replied. The testimony of a twelve year old on this subject is something to think about.
Picture: little Nat with the children of my language teacher