Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What's the End-Goal of Parental Discipline?

Now that the emotional furor surrounding Adrian Peterson's discipline style has settled down a bit, I thought I'd take another look at parental discipline. I think we get bogged down in methods, and we forget to step back and consider the long-term purpose of our parental discipline. Isn't the end-goal of all our discipline to send our young men and women off into the world equipped to discipline themselves, to control their own dangerous and destructive desires?

Parental discipline is vital for our children -- unless we are to doom them to learning everything the hard way. We've had plenty of time and experience to gain perspective. We know the heartbreak of losing that first love, the desire to instantly buy all the stuff it took our parents 20 years to acquire, the tremendous pressure to conform to our peers who seemed so sure of themselves but were blinded by their own inexperience and lack of perspective.

We can be sympathetic to our children because we remember, often quite vividly, the lessons we learned the hard way after refusing to listen to our parents. We also can remember the stubborn streaks and the rebellion that made us butt heads with our folks, especially as we struggled through that rough transition from childhood to adulthood.

With all that perspective, we now turn to discipline. Each child is different. Some are more sensitive than others. Some learn fast while others are headstrong and stubborn. Since each child is different and every situation unique, it's important to remember all the different tools you have in your parenting tool box. Sure, you have corporal punishment, but there's no need to use a hammer if a screwdriver will work. Then again, maybe some sandpaper is all you need. There's always time-tested grounding, withholding of privileges, etc. Please feel free to add your own favorites in the comments below.

Again, remember your end goal. You want to emerge from your child's adolescence with an intact relationship. You don't get there by being their friend and not their parent. But that certainly doesn't mean you can't have good, frank discussions. When you share your own adolescent experiences with them -- your failures as well as your successes -- you help them recognize consequences and dangers they may not clearly see in the passion of the moment.

It is also important to give your children a voice in setting house rules and punishments. Sitting together and establishing these rules will give you some insight into how they think, and give them the invaluable experience of working through things they encounter at school, at work, on the Internet, or in the community.

And we shouldn't exempt ourselves from those rules as parents either. When our actions don't match our words, the old adage rings true: "Actions speak louder than words." When we consistently live by the same rules we insist on our kids following, our words take on more meaning, more authority.

And one last thought about seeing the end goal of parental discipline: we all want our children to enjoy successful lives on earth. But far more important is their eternal destiny. Above all else, show your child what it is to live as God's child. Make worship and Bible class a priority for you as well as them. Statistics show that a father's involvement (or lack thereof) in worship influences the worship attendance of their children even more than mom's. Jesus said it well in Mark 8:36. "What does it profit (your child) to gain the whole world and forfeit his/her soul?"

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