Tuesday, September 5, 2017

School's Back in Session

And for the students in your household, now come all the variables a new school year brings: making friends, learning teacher expectations, finding one's place in the social matrix, doing homework, the opposite sex and, of course, parental discipline.

Parental discipline is vital for our kids 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 urge to satisfy our dissatisfaction with an impulsive purchase, the pressure of conforming to peers who (it turned out) didn't have a clue.

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 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 hard-earned perspective, we now turn to discipline. Some learn fast; others not so much. Since each child is different and every situation unique, it's important to remember all the different tools you have to use. Sure, you have corporal punishment, but there's no need to use a hammer if a sander will do. There's always time-tested grounding, withholding of privileges, etc. I'm sure you have your own faves.

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 present 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. It will give them the invaluable experience of working through things they encounter at school, at work, on the internet, or your own neighborhood.

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. Studies have shown that a father's involvement (or lack thereof) in worship influences the worship attendance of their children even more than mom's.

Make your parenting count. The influence you have on another human being is probably never greater (or more significant) than what you can achieve in the life of your son or daughter.

What are your hard-earned insights on being a father?

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