I have been wrestling with the word discipline lately. Its actual dictionary definition is “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” Really?
When I think of discipline, I guess I think of being disciplined and doing what is expected, not being out of line. But using punishment is not exactly how I feel like we should teach our kids to behave.
I like to think of the word train. We set the example, we encourage the positive behavior and we teach and point out consequences of negative behavior. Modeling the behavior that you expect sounds so obvious, but it isn’t easy.
A year or so ago, I was so concerned that one of our kids was a yeller. They yelled a lot, pretty much anytime they were the least bit upset. Oh no! This kids’ temper is out of control! Why do they yell so much? What does that say about their heart?
What did I do when they yelled? I yelled back. How did they learn that people yell when they are upset? From me.
If we focus on our own behavior first, our kids will not only feel safer, they will learn from it. This sounds so simple, but it is hard! Always telling the truth, apologizing when you’ve hurt someone, following through on promises, respecting others, being disciplined ourselves.
This is definitely harder than reacting to our kids’ behavior with punishment, but so much healthier.
A big area of needed growth for me right now is the state of my house. It is usually a mess. I love order, but I am not very disciplined and often a procrastinator. A procrastinating perfectionist is someone who spends a lot of time disappointing herself and a lot of energy griping at her family about the state of disorder in their home.
My kids excel in making messes. One of them is a creative and creates messes out of the literal trash (or recycling) bin. One of them is blind and his favorite toy is marbles (!) and one of them is a girl, who loves to change clothes and stuff things anywhere and everywhere. They are good at play, often creative play, which should make me happy… but it makes me crazy! They never pick up after themselves.
I do a ton of nagging and complaining all week, (and occasional cussing) when I’m home alone on Monday morning, picking everyone else’s mess while they are at school. But, what if I learned to be more disciplined, and picked up after myself? Then, would I have time to see and remind them of their messes and even help them clean them up? Then would they remember when they saw me keeping things tidy, and that made me happy? Maybe.
What if we were more concerned with our own personal discipline than that of our children? Would that improve our outlook and attitude toward them? We should model love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We can praise (and reward) the good stuff, and I think the bad stuff often reaps its own consequences.
Parenting is so refining, isn't it?