The most troubled adults I know are those who were frightened as children
by extreme physical abuse or psychological terror.
Their parents called it “discipline.”
The more horrendous the beatings and the more frightening the threats,
the longer it takes them as adults
to believe that I care, or that anyone does.
Adults who were treated badly as children
often wisely choose safe and kind partners.
But most find it hard to trust these partners
even after many years of being treated well.
Scared kids become scared adults,
always waiting for the next beating or betrayal.
It is not a primary duty of parents to control their children.
The primary duty of parents to protect their children.
Discipline is wise only when it makes sense to the child.
And children can only think selfishly.
Therefore, discipline is only wise
when the child knows that what they did wrong was
that they didn’t take good care of themselves!
If you send a child to their room because they haven’t learned to look both ways before crossing a street, they won’t put up much of a fight. But if you use the same punishment because they’ve been impolite, they may fight you all the way. This is because politeness is not a value a self-centered child can understand, and protecting themselves from being hit by a car definitely is.
You can force politeness, or any other behavior, simply by hurting or scaring a child. But you can’t teach them the value in being polite until they are old enough to understand. Unfortunately, a healthy child only achieves such maturity around puberty. (And the kids who have been frightened and beaten all their lives will be rebelling so strongly at this age that “being polite” will be the least of a parent’s worries!)
Misbehavior has natural consequences.
The best discipline of all is to point out these natural consequences.
A Good Example:
Suppose you see a group of children at a day care center. One child is pushing another child around, acting like a bully. If you don’t need to protect the child who is being bullied, just wait a few minutes. Then notice that all of the other children have naturally moved away from the bully. Then simply go up to the bully and point out what is going on. Say something like: “When you act like that the other kids don’t like playing with you.”
This is how you use “natural consequences.”
A Bad Example:
Many parents would handle this situation quite differently. They would run up to the bully, grab them violently, turn them around, and yell at them about their behavior. They may even hit the child. The parent’s yelling and hitting then “changes the subject” in the child’s mind. The child no longer thinks about their own bullying behavior, they think instead about their parent’s bullying behavior toward them! The parent’s actions were “unnatural” consequences which were added to the situation by the parent.
Don’t try to teach through unnatural consequences. It won’t work.
Unnatural consequences don’t teach children anything,
they only confuse them.
Look for natural consequences
when you want to teach children.
In recent years many “liberal” parents say that they don’t hit their children.
But then they usually add with an apparently wise smile:
“I just scare ’em!”
Thank God for small favors.
Scaring kids is not better than hitting them.
Both scaring and hitting are unnatural consequences
which undermine parental authority.
And both are abusive if used to extreme.
Real life is the best teacher of all.
So our children will learn.
But they will learn at their own pace,
and we parents will always be frustrated by that pace.
If someone told you parenting was easy, they lied.