Posted by: mamaamy | May 1, 2009

Question 3: training or discipline?

How often should I be spanking and how can I be certain that spanking is the necessary intervention rather than coaching, etc?  In other words, how do I define when an occasion is meant for training and when it’s meant for discipline?  I feel like I never stop spanking C and wonder if I’m doing the right thing or pushing him too hard to “get it” before he is truly capable.  What’s normal?

This is an excellent question.  As children grow up, they try to understand the world and put it in order according to their understanding.  If, within this understanding, they learn about what behavior is appropriate in a situation, it becomes part of the order of their world.  It becomes part of their schema–the schematic in their brain that informs future behavior.  We are forming the schema of our children from their birth.  In our children, their schema reflects the understanding that disobedience brings sadness, obedience brings joy.  We have been training this in them since they were a few months old.    We are always coaching the children along the way, we are always talking of appropriate behavior, we are always defining the boundaries and interpreting situations, we are always training the children.  (In fact, not doing anything is training.)  Part of our job as parents is determining when disobedience/rebellion is in the heart of the child or if they just made a childish error. In our home discipline is reserved for disobedience–when a child knows what to do and does it not.  (It is like sin, when someone knows the thing to do and does it not, to him it is sin.) Consistent discipline for disobedience continues to inform the child’s schema that disobedience brings sadness—every time. It is a law.  It is a truth. You reap what you sow.  If you sow disobedience you reap sadness.

Training is different than discipline.  Training is proactive.  Think in terms of an athlete.  He trains his body to prepare it for the race.  It is a consistent work that alters his body over time.  Training is scheduling and setting up opportunities to develop behavior patterns, which may involve minor pain (an athlete suffers some during the training process) but it is not the same as discipline.  If you are proactive in training, then discipline is needed much less often.  Training is to form basic behavioral schema—what is appropriate behavior.  Discipline is reserved for rebellion/disobedience. For disobedience, a consequence is absolutely necessary.  Perhaps spanking is appropriate. For the most social of my children, sending him to his room by himself is more effective.  It is what you choose as the consequence and it must be consistent and immediate to be effective in altering his schema.  Disobedience brings sadness every time. (Not just for the child, but for everyone around him.)

In our family, we worked with our children on training with training sessions, and we disciplined for disobedience.  On rare occasions (once or twice for each child) the child would go through a major session of working out the rebellion in his heart.  The most recent time was with my youngest (when she was 2 or 3).  I was schooling some of the kids when I gave Moriah a word and she refused to do it.  I told her again what to do and she said “no.”  At that point, I could see that she had rebellion in her heart and I had to help her fight it.  (Btw, we teach the children that you fight rebellion with obedience.)  I told the other kids, that I needed to spend time working with Moriah, so school was finished for a while.  For the next hour I continued to give her a command and she continued to say “no” so I would give her a little switch, reminding her that it is my job to teach her obedience and that obedience brings joy.  “You have sadness right now because of the disobedience.  Please obey my word.  Obedience brings joy.” This went on for a long time.  Eventually she did the original thing I had asked, so I gave a different word to test if she was fully obedient.  She chose to say “no” to that word.  So we started the cycle again until she complied. After compliance, I would always alter the command to test what was in her heart and I didn’t stop until she would say “yes mama” and obey with a happy attitude.  (Keep in mind, my response was always a matter of fact—never in frustration or anger.  I was given to her to teach her. I was on her side.)  Once we established that obedience was required every time and that I was determined to help her obey because of my love for her and desire for her to have joy in her life, then she went for a long while without a challenge.  As I said, each child has gone through at least one of these sessions, but each one made a huge step in his understanding that my word has value, that obedience is absolutely required and that there is no option for disobedience.

Another important thing to consider; when it comes to training children, we look for opportunities for training.  When they do something that is not upholding the standards, we take it as an opportunity to train.  It is a good thing.  It is a positive thing. It is important Kingdom work that I have been given to do.

Mama Amy

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