Discipline: A Pendulum Swing

When the subject is disciplining children, the opinions vary widely. The pendulum swings in a long, slow arc, encompassing every conceivable view.

On one side, you have fathers who may be considered lenient, even pushovers. They sometimes go too far, and in an effort to nurture creativity and freedom of expression, these dads try not to do anything that upsets or disappoints their children in any way.

On the other side, you have what you might call “old-fashioned child rearing.” These dads might say: “I give my kids a good whipping every so often, just to keep ’em honest.” To their credit, these dads want to instill humility and proper respect for authority, but sometimes they don’t realize how much emotional and sometimes physical damage they are doing.

And we’ve seen the evidence of this pendulum swing in our society. We’ve all seen the reports of children who have been hurt by a father, or a stepfather-by heavy-handedness that qualifies as abuse. At the other extreme, some people have become lax even in their views about disciplining dangerous criminals who are known to be guilty. It’s easy to see how fathers could be confused and apprehensive as they approach discipline with their own kids.

Let me affirm that discipline-in a healthy balance with love-is good for children. We all need to think about, pray about and discuss with our wives the specifics about the way we’ll express and carry out discipline. In general, give your children well-defined guidelines, and then be consistent with consequences when they step outside of those guidelines.

And don’t forget one of the most important aspects of discipline: it’s modeling self-discipline. Your children will have a much more positive view of the guidelines you set when they see that your behavior is consistent with what you say is right.


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