Scene: Our living room
Charlotte starts toward the entertainment console that holds the TV, DVD player, wireless router, and other expensive electronics. I tell her “no touch” for the umpteenth time. She turns toward me for a moment, considering, then starts back toward the TV. I say it again. She ignores me. I lift her into my lap and administer the punishment my husband and I have agreed on. An explosion of tears is her immediate reaction, even as I hug her and tell her how much I love her. Is it possible to feel like both the best and the worst parent at the same time? Her wails continue for about two minutes, until the distraction of mommy dancing to her musical toy bring giggles instead. All is forgotten. Until the next time.
I can’t believe we’re here already, at the beginning stages of learning how to discipline our precious baby girl. Ten months is way too early, isn’t it? I always thought it wouldn’t be until after her first birthday that Charlotte would start the whole “willful disobedience” routine. Maybe for lots of babies that is the case. But I know my social, curious, and already willful daughter, and she definitely knows what “no” means. You know the whole “This hurts me more than it hurts you” statement you’re told right before a spanking? Yeah, never thought it was really true until I became a parent. Suddenly I have this tiny person that I am instantly in love with, that depends totally on me for survival. I experience a profound level of joy when I am able to meet her needs, am rewarded with smiles and giggles and trust, and fall deeper in love with my baby every single day, as she learns to love me back. It’s a beautiful paradise, much like the Garden of Eden. Then she learns to move by herself. Suddenly Baby Girl can investigate her world and assert her own little will, and it’s up to me to define the boundaries. I would step in front of a bullet for her without batting an eye. I would do anything to protect her from getting hurt, and this includes setting limits. But then comes the moment when she starts toward that object that she knows is a “no touch.” She looks back at me, I remind her again, and she goes for it. Yikes. This is it, where the rubber meets the road. The time for warnings is over, it’s time for some corporal punishment.
Isn’t it crazy how in this day and age we cringe just thinking those words? I was spanked as a child, as was my husband, and we are both well adjusted adults with great relationships with our parents. And yet even in admitting on this blog that we have chosen to administer physical pain to our daughter in order to teach her not to disobey feels like a huge risk. Nobody’s dialing DHS yet right? I’m not breaking out the belt, or using an actual “rod,” or making her pick her own switch from the tree in the backyard. For now our chosen method is a pinch. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, to give my precious child pain on purpose. But just like we’ve chosen to give her shots to protect her from illness, we’ve chosen to administer small doses of pain to teach her obedience. To paraphrase our parenting class teachers, we want Charlotte to associate disobedience with pain in order to prevent the much more painful consequences of disobedience down the road.
This feels like the first of many stands we will take that is directly against what secular society says to do. When I feel my resolve start to shake, the critical fingers start to point, or a Parenting Magazine article start to condemn me as a unenlightened brute, all I can do is hold firm to God’s Word and trust the wisdom that comes directly from my Heavenly Father. My women’s Bible study has just begun a unit on parenting, and I was so grateful for the homework that listed several verses about parenting from Proverbs. Each verse spoke specifically about a parent’s duty to discipline their children. And by the way, the Bible doesn’t advocate time outs or counting to three. Here are a few:
Proverbs 13:24 – “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” (Strong words Solomon!)
Proverbs 23:13-14 “Do not hold back discipline from the child. Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol (hell).” (Yikes…seems over dramatic, but if you think about it where do disobedience and unbelief eventually lead to?)
Proverbs 29:15 “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” (As I’ve witnessed first hand at more than one parent/teacher conference.)
Now I am very aware that people have used these verses as an excuse for child abuse. Sadly, much of the Bible’s wisdom has at one time or another been twisted to fit the agenda of evil men who use it to support every kind of atrocity. But Scripture is still truth, it’s still God’s Word, and I have humbly and prayerfully committed to living my life and raising my child according to the principles found within. I’m not writing this post to judge anyone on how or when they discipline their children, but rather to share with you, dear readers, my struggles as well as my journey of learning how to discipline. It’s very scary to write out our plan for disciplining Charlotte, and I would humbly ask that you hang up your call to the DHS hotline, stifle the urge to comment on which discipline method you think is best, and instead just give me and my husband grace as we learn to discipline as the Lord leads. I promise to extend the same grace to you. We’re all in this together (oops, sorry for the ear worm) and there will be lots of trial and error as we narrow down which method is most appropriate in which circumstance.
Whew. This has been a very deep post. I kind of feel like my spine is on display right now. If you made it to the end I appreciate your willingness to read these thoughts that I have been pondering. I want to be the mother I was created and called to be. I think discipline is one of the hardest yet most crucial components of good parenting. My husband and I have just barely dipped our toe into the waters. We want and need your prayers, dear friends, as we make decisions about how to teach our daughter to obey us and ultimately God.