My word for the day is “flabbergasted”. According to dictionary.com it means “to overcome with surprise and bewilderment; astound”. And the #4 definition in the Urban Dictionary defines it “To be surprised, shocked, astounded, horrified, agitated, etc…”. That about sums up my thoughts this morning after reading a couple of posts on a homeschool group regarding the discipline of children.
It is true; we can’t live in the society without rules and regulations to organize our vast populations. Without rules there would be chaos. But why is it that parents feel the need to “punish” their children for breaking “house rules? Punishment implies retribution or penalizing and puts children in the role of criminal. It lacks respect, it lacks support, it lacks understanding, and it lacks love. Punishment is a way to control behavior. Control implies dominance and supremacy, so why is it that parents demonstrate the need to dominate their children? To be the supreme leader? I would guess fear. Parents are fearful that without control and dominance their children will become failures, they will become criminals, drug addicts, or worthless members of society. Or in the least, their children will become lazy and unstable. Parents won’t be able to brag to their friends on Facebook that their child isn’t a doctor or lawyer or CEO of a corporation.
The reality of the situation is that children who feel loved, supported, respected and encouraged are not the children who fail in life. When I think about what has made me succeed over the years it has been when I have been praised, when I have felt secure enough to have a voice and to express myself. It has been the times that I have felt disrespected and dominated that I have wanted to rebel the most.
When we take away everything, in the name of discipline, that our children hold dear, when we put them in chairs and isolate them, remove doors of bedrooms and take away their privacy, and bemoan the fact that spanking is no longer an approved method of punishment, we are disrespecting them. We break the trust they have in us. We act out of anger and frustration and fear instead of love and understanding.
What would happen if, instead of quick punishment, we walked away and came back later to discuss the situation? What would happen if, instead of yelling, we took a breath and said, “I love you”? What would happen is we asked “why” instead of berating them for breaking the rules?
Are the rules fair? Do they understand them? Are there valid reasons for the rules? If children and, especially, teens don’t understand the reason for our rules they will feel justified in breaking them and angered at their punishments. They disconnect, they walk away, and they lash out. And we stand there with our mouths open, shaking our heads and wondering what we did wrong. Wondering if there is another punishment that works better.
I think it is important for us to think about how we feel when we are disrespected. How would we feel if someone else treated us like we, so often, treat our children? Doesn’t the Golden Rule apply to how we treat our children as much as it applies to us? And in case you have forgotten, the Golden Rule states that we are to treat others, as we would wish others to treat us.