Discipline or Child Abuse

It's Tuesday and that means I have to tutor my two kindergartners today. I DREAD it. I wonder if that makes me not a "little kid" person. I tend to not think so. What many readers may think after this entry is that I am not a "little kid" person for another reason. I believe in discipline.

This is the reason that I dread the time I spend with these little kids; they have no discipline. They are rude, whiney and disobedient. It frustrates me because if they were my kids, it would not be so - not for long anyway. My belief is that my kids will go through bad spells to "remind" them why normally they aren't rude, whiney, and disobedient.

Will I be the master of the "time out"? Not on your life. Will I only reason with my little kids and explain to them why they must not act this way? Maybe, but only after the dust settles. No, my kids will taste the consequences of disobedience and find it a bitter pill.

Kids do not understand enough to reason. They cannot even start thinking abstractly until they get close to adolescence (see Jean Piaget's cognitive developmental stage theory). They think more concretely. What is concrete? It is cause and effect. If I do this, I suffer this punishment. I do that, I earn praise and reward. A little kid obeys because of this. Later, he understands the merits of the positive behavior as something deeper than reward and/or punishment - but that is LATER.

So what do we have here? The main problem with misbehaving young children is that their butts are too tight. They are too tight because they haven't had to remove their daddy's size 9 from it often enough.

"Oh, but Jeff, you are so cruel!"

On the contrary, someone wiser than me has written, "Spare the rod and HATE your child." It doesn't say "spoil" as most of us have heard, it is "hate". You do your children no service by allowing them to act up. In fact, you set them up for struggles as they get older and even in adulthood. I would argue that allowing a child to grow up without the tools to be able to function in the real world is REAL CHILD ABUSE. That is why you "hate" him if you do not provide proper discipline.

You do yourself no favor, either, by not stepping in to insure that your child learns to be a good and polite citizen. You are judged by your children. When I think of the mother of these kids I tutor, I do not think of her fondly. The same book as mentioned above affirms this thought, "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left undisciplined brings his mother to shame" (Proverbs 29:15).

"Big words, Jeff, but wait till you have your own kids. It will be different."

Of course it is easy for someone to talk about his mythical children and how great they are (or will be). However, because of my family situation, I have already experienced this. When I was a young man - fresh out of college, I raised my two nephews. They behaved. As a matter of fact, I only remember "disciplining" one of them in this manner after the age of seven or so. My youngest nephew stole some things from some people in his life and I found out about it. When he was caught, I explained to him how wrong and disappointed I was in him. Then, I made an appointment with him for an hour later. At that time, he met me in my bedroom where I explained things to him and also explained that this impending discipline was the most difficult act I could do out of love. The next day, I asked him if he understood why I disciplined him in that manner. He replied, "Yes, because you love me and you want me to live a good life." At that point, I knew that this kind of punishment would never be needed again for this boy.

When a child is younger than this, he only understands the consequences and not the abstract reasoning behind it. He doesn't want to be punished; he wants to be praised. He also, if a balance of discipline and praise in the confines of love are shown, does not want to earn his parents' disappointment.

"So Jeff, you want your kids to fear you?"

You betcha! During the preoperational stage of a child, fear = respect. Respect is an abstract concept. A child won't fear the parent 24/7 if the parent metes out fair and just punishment. They only fear the consequences of bad behavior that is meted out by the parent and will respect the parent that has the authority to dish it out. God didn't entrust parents to be their children's best friends, He entrusted them to train them in the way they should go.

"Okay Jeff, you are teaching your child that violences is the way to resolve conflict. I hope you can live with yourself!"

This is a false premise. If one examines the example from my own life, it would be hard to think of it as an example of violence. Violence is as much a state of mind than it is an action. Something escalates into violence. There was no escalation in my real life example; there was a calm example of behavior and consequence - an age-appropriate microcosm of real world behaviors and consequences. This why I think it is very important to not react with "discipline" but mete it out calmly and with deliberate timing.

One of the things that frustrate me is the government telling me how I can and cannot discipline my children. There is a line between discipline and abuse. Too many times, I fear, that the government and bleeding hearts that influence it force the parents of today to hate their children.


Chris said...

I think the spare the rod/spoil the child bit is true. Our 8 y/o will talk back to his mother but not to me or his brother. Care to guess the difference? Mom spares the rod and even caves on time outs.

goddessdivine said...

Wow, I didn't know you were so mean! ;-)

My parenting philosophy is that kids don't need any more friends; they need parents. I'm a big believer in discipline. Growing up we knew who was boss and things were just the way they were because mom and dad said so.

Kids are getting more and more disrespectful, it's sad. I can't believe what some of the get away with.

Sayre said...

Very interesting topic, Jeff! And, as it happens - I agree with you. My son, aged nearly nine, is a very proper, polite child. He is also very happy and sunny. As a child, I made sure he knew what was okay and what wasn't. A butt swat or a pop on the hand got his attention and was just painful enough to make him remember. Since he's been bigger, he's only had to be spanked a couple of times. Usually for major infractions. Now he gets an allowance - and it is not based on jobs or chores. It is based on attitude. If he does what is asked of him without complaining or repeated requests, he gets ALL of his allowance. If he complains, doesn't do what he's supposed to, or cops an attitude over anything, he loses money. All it took was one half-allowance week for him to get it. Because attitude is EVERYTHNG. Having a cheerful, can-do attitude will do more for his future than anything else - and we reinforce that idea. But it's because of the early discipline that he's got a chance at all of grasping these more advanced concepts.

Anonymous said...

Chris: It is true, now if you could just use your "influence" on him to stop him from talking back to momma! lol

Kristen: You would be a good mom. I think it is so true about the friends/parents thing. After all, kids steal their friends boyfriends. Better to be a parent than friend when looked at it from that angle, no? lol

Sayre: Of course you agree with me. You are intelligent - as I pointed out on your little blog exercise! ;)

That is GREAT about how you shape the young one's attitude. I will surely file that away for future use. Attitude IS everything!

Michelle said...

Very thought provoking.

I'm not keen on little kids myself, for the same reason. My mom used to say she taught me to be polite and well-behaved because she wanted other adults to like me. It's true. I have friends whose children I really loathe because they're so darn NAUGHTY.
Why don't parents realise no-one likes horrid naughty kids?

When I first was here in Scotland I had a job at a nursery watching over 18 four year olds. It was hell, because none of them listened or behaved. Really sad when a job like that makes you dread getting up in the mornings! :-(

Anonymous said...


I agree with much of what you said. I am the mom of 3 boys...11, 10, and 5yo. They are well behaved and respectful because my husband and I take the time (over and over again) to discipline and teach them etc. Too many parents take the easy way and give in to the child and as a result have children that do need a quick kick in the @ss! And I wholeheartedly agree with fear=respect. I am very glad that my boys have a healthy fear of their parents!