Discipline is for the Daring

Discipline is for the Daring - Parenting Like Hannah

Photo byMary Tempesta

When my daughter was little, we went to a lot of those mother/child classes. I used to cringe every time the teacher gave any instructions to the children. My favorite part was always when the teacher would ask the children to sit with their mothers in the circle. My daughter would quickly come and sit beside me as instructed.

The other mothers’ children would continue to run around the room getting into things. Usually there were one or two mothers who felt guilty and began to try and convince their child to come sit beside them. “Oh, don’t make them come get into the circle.” the teacher would say. “They are too young to be expected to obey.” Suddenly all eyes would turn to me and my obedient child. The look was similar to that you would give a suspected child abuser.

Often, comments would follow. “Oh, it must be so nice to have a child who was born compliant.” “You realize you are stifling her creativity/free spirit by disciplining her.” “Isn’t my Johnny so cute/funny/free spirited?” I had to bite my tongue to keep from replying “That’s what you think!” “No, she is actually very creative and I’m not sure I want a free spirit if that is what it acts like.” and “No, actually your child is quite unpleasant to be around and is giving me a headache.”

The funny thing was, my daughter even started to ask me after class why the other children acted that way. No, it wasn’t because she wanted to be free to run wild like her peers. She actually found unruly children to be annoying and realized they were costing her a chance to do more exciting activities because the teachers couldn’t pull those out with so many children out of control.

The negative parental peer pressure doesn’t stop when they get older though. In fact, it actually gets more annoying. Parents who have raised their children into adulthood start to add their voices to the outcry. “Oh, just wait to your child gets to (fill in age three to five years older than your child), then you will see how much trouble they can be.” “Of course she is sweet now, she’s only (age).” Or the ever popular and somehow persistent, “It must be nice to have a child who was born so compliant.”

Some days I feel like I am back in high school being pressured by my peers to break the rules. I began to realize that to raise a child to behave today takes as much strength to stand up to negative peer pressure as it did to not get drunk in high school. In some ways it may even be worse, as at least most of those high school activities would have resulted in negative consequences from your parents or the authorities.

Most parents who don’t discipline their children are only faced with exhaustion, broken items, and a dearth of invitations which include their children. I would imagine most of them don’t even realize they could avoid those consequences if their children were better behaved. Instead, they pride themselves on their hysterically funny, creative, free spirited children. What most people are afraid to tell them is that those children are not funny at all, but disrespectful and rude. They also hesitate to point out that creativity is better expressed on paper instead of their kitchen wall with a permanent marker.

When my daughter was little, I used to tell her that the polite, well-behaved children get a lot more privileges in life than the naughty ones. (Ron Clark’s The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules For Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child gives some outside support of this theory.) Once she started to school, she really started to reap the benefits of being well-behaved. If you can stand up to the pressure and raise a well behaved child there are multiple benefits. Not only is your life more pleasant, but the outside world will start to provide your child with all sorts of positive reinforcement.

So how do you stand up to the negative parental peer pressure and raise a well-behaved child? Especially when you are sure everyone is convinced you are secretly beating him to make him that well behaved (authoritarian, oppressive, controlling or tiger mom are words you may hear)?

Actually, if you were good at standing up to peer pressure in high school, the same techniques work now with the parents who are trying to convince you to let your child “run free”. If you went along with the crowd in your teens, now is the time to step up and do what is best for your child. It may feel very lonely sometimes, so find friends and mentors who will support you in your parenting.

If you need help with discipline, in my next post, I will give some techniques I learned during teacher training. In the meantime, dare to be different and discipline your child. It is much easier for God to reach and use a child who has been taught to be obedient than one who has been taught that disobedience is preferable for your personal growth and development or is somehow “funny”.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)