by Jim Burns
Copyright © 2007 - Book Excerpt
Extending grace and being consistent about discipline are two of the most difficult aspects of parenting. They need to be addressed, because few people are confident about handing out discipline. I regularly have parents tell me, "I want my kids to like me so much that it's hard to discipline them, let alone be consistent about it." Also, though you may not see it yet, there is a correlation between grace and discipline. A deficiency in one will affect the other.
This probably goes without saying, but kids will be kids. They will mess up. They will cross the line and they will challenge your authority. Your kids will catch you on one of your bad days or in a vulnerable moment when you have no reserve, and suddenly throw a curve at you. When it happens, you probably have neither the energy nor the self-discipline to do the right thing, and their manipulation will cause you to compromise your beliefs about grace and discipline one more time. The reason I can write these words is that this has been my experience too. Balancing discipline and grace can become the greatest struggle we have in our quest to be confident parents. We really do want to do what's right for our kids, but sometimes we just don't have it within ourselves to show grace during times of discipline.
* * *
Janice is a single mom, doing her best to raise her kids with grace and discipline. Ever since her husband left, she has been disappointed in how life is turning out. She works too much and doesn't have much emotional security. Janice's problem is that she doesn't want her kids to reject her like her ex-husband did, so she constantly gives in. Her kids are becoming more and more out of control, and Janice feels lost.
Gary grew up in an emotionally disengaged family. His dad was quiet, and although he never divorced Gary's mother, their marriage was pitifully poor. Because his dad was distant and distracted, Gary's mom was the dominant force in his life. She was emotionally unstable and all over the map when it came to family relationships. For Gary's mom, the standard method of discipline was to shame the kids into doing something "right." Most times she got the obedience she desired, but at the expense of deep wounds in Gary and his siblings' hearts. His father and mother weren't evil people. They just didn't know how to express intimacy.
After Gary left home he was blessed to marry a wonderful woman and become a father. But he struggles with being inconsistent in his discipline and extending grace toward his kids. Like his mother before him, Gary's emotions are like a roller coaster. One moment he screams at the kids, and the next moment he lets them get away with murder. His deepest fear is that he is becoming more like his mother, whom he despises most of the time. Gary's inconsistency is affecting his relationship with his wife and with his children.
Now, these stories may not reflect yours, but from the amount of mail I get in response to the HomeWord daily broadcasts and the numerous questions we receive at our seminars, I would say that the majority of parents struggle with discipline and boundary-setting issues.
As you well know, babies don't come with instruction manuals. Our kids probably don't realize that many times we are making up rules and consequences as we go. Each child comes with a different personality and another unique twist on discipline issues. Just as we started figuring it out with Christy, along came Rebecca, who required different rules and guidance. Heidi showed up with her own particular approach to getting her way. When the girls were in their teens and preteens, there were times when I honestly wondered if they huddled together before coming at us, almost like a football team talking strategy. I would imagine them saying, "Okay, you attack Mom from this angle with kindness, I'll whine until I wear her down, then you sneak past when she is preoccupied with me and act like nothing was wrong. And if that doesn't work, let's just say, 'Dad said it was okay.' "
Get On the Same Page
Here's what I tell parents all the time: Get on the same page. As a couple, you need to agree on the same philosophy regarding discipline and grace. When it comes to discipline, consistency is the key to raising responsible kids. If you are married, team up with your spouse to deal with issues so that one parent doesn't get worn down. If you are divorced, first try to get on the same page with your former spouse, and if that doesn't happen, develop a healthy approach to discipline and follow through with it as best you can. Seek the support of others who understand what you are going through.
To every parent, may I be perfectly blunt? You are not your children's best friend. You don't have a chance at that until they are older and out of the house. They call you Mom or Dad for a reason (as opposed to your first name). You are too old and will never be cool enough to be their best friend anyway.
One day, while in the car together, my then-sixteen-year old daughter, Rebecca, announced, "Dad, all my friends think you are the coolest dad." She even quoted exact sentences some friends had used to describe me. My ego was swelling. I was feeling pretty good about my nomination for "Cool Dad of the Year." Then I made the big mistake.
"Rebecca, do you think I'm a cool dad?"
Her response was swift. "No!"
"Why not?" (You would think I had learned.)
"You don't let me go to movies that everyone else in the universe can go to. My curfew is earlier than kids ten years younger than me. And when Lauren invited me to Disneyland for the day, you made me go to school instead. [She neglected to mention that she had a final exam that day.] You and Mom are just way too strict."
My head shrank to its normal size and I realized, once again, that I may be cool in my imagination, but I am not my daughter's best friend. Frankly, it's easy to laugh at this, but it still hurts because we naturally want our kids to like us better than anyone else. Parents who are trying to win a popularity contest with their kids will be sorely disappointed.
Confident Parenting by Jim Burns
Copyright © 2007; ISBN 9780764202070
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
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