Child Raising 101: Saved by the Bell
When our two boys were about 2 and 5 years old, we were really struggling with parenting. Our difficulties were so obvious that my team leader, John Bell, offer to share his approach to parenting. I was all ears.
“In our house we have three rules,” he began. Well, that got my attention! I had so many rules for the boys that even I couldn’t remember them!
”These three rules are obedience, honesty and respect.”
“Wow,” I thought, “that is so simple.” I could immediately see that every other rule can be put into one of those categories. That makes the limits clear, easy to remember and straightforward.
The John went on,“Then tell the child what the limits are, and what the consequences are for crossing the line. Then when the child crosses the line—as he will–ask him what he did (how he disobeyed, making him accountable) and what he asked for (the kind of discipline, making him responsible), and give it to him. That’s it!”
That little talk transformed our family life. As we began to apply this approach there was some predictable resistance, but following through soon made us all happier. The boys knew what the limits were (limits give security), we all knew when they crossed the line, and they knew what consequence they would get: something immediate, painful and bringing surrender. We used spanking; our boys were quite hard headed and needed it. Other children may do better with a different discipline. But it must be immediate and painful enough to make them think about not wanting it again.
The most important ingredient to this was our consistency in following through. If we didn’t deal with each clear infraction, we would send a mixed message encouraging the boys to try disobeying again. We would also make them insecure with our inconsistency, resulting more disruptive behavior. Failure to follow through would make our own lives harder; better to put out the effort and make things better in the future. But with God’s help we were consistent and it paid off.
Listen to the testimony of our boys. When my older son was twelve, we were driving somewhere together. Out of the blue he said to me, “Dad, you are the best dad in the world!”
“Really?” I replied, quite surprised,”What makes you say that?”
“Because,” he said with finality, “you always spanked me when I needed it!”
On several other occasions when returning from visits with Middle Eastern friends, where their undisciplined children had dominated the time with whining, crying and manipulation, both boys exclaimed, “Thank you, dad, that you did let us be like that! Thank you that you disciplined us when we needed it!”
Out of the mouths of babes….obedience, honesty, respect.