Sunday, March 05, 2006

On Discipline

As I've already said, Caleb has been really "testy" of late. When things don't go his way he complains. When I say we are going to go somewhere, he immediately suggests an alternative. When asked to do something, he either ignores me or tells me he is busy. I guess this kind of behavior had sort of snuck up on me, and over the last several days I realized (I guess I'm just slow) that it was persistent. Caleb always complained and always bargained and never obeyed right away.

So he finally got a spanking.

Actually he got three at three different times in one day, but I don't spank often (no, really I mean that--keep reading) and in the course of telling him to stand still in the first two instances, I told him that I'd add a swat if he continued to wiggle. So when I spanked him those first two times, I could tell it didn't really hurt but since I'd already told him that I was only going to swat him once, I didn't feel right about adding another one because the first one was ineffective. So after those two spankings nothing really changed. But last night, the third time he got a spanking, well, it hurt.* And there was an immediate (I'm talking thirty seconds) change in his demeanor for the better. I couldn't believe it. He did everything I asked. He set the table. He helped me cook dinner. When he asked for something and we said no there was no violent protest or bargaining. And now as he is playing Monopoly with dad, he is the model child.

Now, I don't know if I did the right thing. In fact, I'm sure I make mistakes everyday in parenting. And perhaps the reason I had to spank was because I was inattentive to Caleb's behavior earlier. Anyway, in reading the Old Testament I'm impressed with the array of tactic's God uses in dealing with his covenant people. He warns, he shows signs to get there attention. He gets angry. He punishes. He gives them rules. He tells them what to celebrate so they will know what is good. He tells them what to touch and what not to touch. If anything I'm learning that God is in the details. And perhaps I have not been in enough details lately. The Psalms always say that God is slow to anger, so I guess I should be slow to spank. Jesus took a whip to the money changers in the temple, but that was toward the end of his earthly ministry. So if I'm going to spank it probably should be the last resort.

I've heard women describe the Bible as God's manuel for living, and I know it has lots of great information on the subject, but sometimes it just doesn't seem that simple. If God has a three step plan for raising up his people, I've not discerned it. In fact, if he has a three step plan (Hey!, I'd be happy with as many as 12!) for raising up kids I've not read that either. I think God did that for a reason. Or several reasons. Each child is so unique with heights and depth we cannot fathom, how could a book cover everything. And if we could find a pat answer for every parenting problem by going to scripture then we might not talk to others. Or worse, we might not talk to Him.

Not always knowing if I made the right parenting move keeps me humble and it keeps me reliant upon the Holy Spirit. It also reminds me that more than any one parenting move, my ability to be a good parent depends upon my relationship with my father and whether or not I accurately portray Christ to my son. There is grace in knowing that God is in control and while that is no reason for irresponsible parenting it does help me sleep at night.

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