Saturday, November 23, 2013

A plea to parents from 35,000 feet!

On a recent flight to take my father to see his twin sister I experienced something that you pray never occurs on a flight.  I had three seats all to myself. I was happy happy happy! But the happiness did not last. For I soon discovered that seated in front of me and behind me where moms with two children each. Problem - the moms lacked basic parenting skills including how and why to discipline. I have flown many times with children all around and had a blast talking and entertaining. But not on this flight. As I sat and listened to one parent scream while other one bribed her two, I inserted my ear buds and cranked my music hoping to find some solitude.  I failed.

It was easy to see from those sitting close by that I was not the only one shaking my head and looking for ear plugs. Not a single person was upset at the children involved. What became clear to all of us was that too many parents today lack the knowledge and skills in raising their children with discipline, and knowing how to discipline when it is needed - even in public.

Here are the thoughts that I began to realize are missing in these types of situations. Maybe you need this. Maybe you can share this with someone else. And please don't miss the last section!

Parents and their Emotions
When parents allow their children to push their buttons and trigger the release of their emotions, the children win! One mom was screaming at everything! She was behind me.  Her daughter and son were not causing any problems for anyone else but mom. Their ears were popping. Yes this hurts! And children will cry. Parents please stop screaming! It only proves YOU are out of control. Control your emotions in the manner that you desire your children to control theirs. If you respond to them with emotions, you will get emotions back! Someone gave me a coffee cup last year (a real big one) that says "Keep Calm and Carry On!". Parents this will work wonders! Keep your emotions in check.

Know the goal of Discipline
Discipline is not for control! Too many think this. Discipline has as its goal the teaching of boundaries so that our children can learn to self discipline. Think about this one. The boundaries are established via teaching to show where danger exists. The boundaries are reinforced by firm commitment to them so that protection is provided. Our children then learn that there are limits and thus they learn to stay within those limits - the safe place. If you discipline for control, your children will lack the boundaries needed and thus will go beyond your protection. They will lack self discipline which leads to problems as teenagers and adults.

Don't forget the Bible
Notice these verses: 

Prov 22:15
15    Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.

Prov 13:24
24    He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.

Prov 23:13-14
13    Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
14    You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.

I know there is a huge rejection in parents spanking their children today. Parents need to realize that past experience of abuse or heard stories of abuse do not negate the clear teaching of the Bible. The Bible is truth. If you chose to not follow it, you will reap from that sin. Problem in parenting is that your children will reap what you have sown. You cannot remove correction via spanking and expect your children to learn discipline. The Bible tells us this will not work!

We cannot discipline in anger. To spank in anger produces the environment for abuse! Remember the section on emotions. But we must discipline! To not do so is to NOT love our children. The Bible teaches this and it is true. Just as God disciplines us, we must also discipline our children. Our discipline must be firm, precise, and fitting. Spanking must be included. It reinforces the boundaries that are needed for our children. To not do so is real child abuse!

Bribery is evil

The mom in front of me bribed her children with everything she could think of. Nothing worked. One bribe led to another. The children had her figured out. They knew mom was willing to give them anything. This is NOT discipline. In fact it teaches children that if you keep begging eventually you will get what you want. In life, this lesson leads to a scary reality.

The message of embarrassment
Both moms said multiple times to their children that they were embarrassing them. The more I heard this the more I wanted to lean forward and back and say: "What you really mean is that you are embarrassed that others are seeing your lack of parenting skills." A lady seated across from me actually voiced this to her daughter during one of the outbursts by the moms. This lady was right. If we parents are embarrassed, it is not our children causing this. It is that we are seeing clearly that we need help in parenting. When embarrasment arrives, listen to it knowing that you are now being given the moment to make changes to your actions or lack thereof.

That last section I mentioned above
 Heidi and I have raised two boys. One a junior in college and one a senior in High School. Our boys grew up traveling with youth groups all over the country. And then they continued growing while living in the glass house of a Pastor. We did not get it right all the time. If I could, there are things that I would change. Yet as I look back, I am thankful for parents who reinforced what I have written above. I am thankful for faithful Pastors and church members who shared key insights into parenting when our boys were little. We did not live close to grandparents. We were on our own. I am so thankful that we listened and followed the best we could to the advice given. Our boys did not slow our ministry down nor did they ever disrupt our trips. We took them everywhere and we have had more fun as a family in ministry than I could have ever imagined. They lived and grew and thankfully, though not perfect, they are now Godly hard working young men who know discipline and right from wrong. The above worked!

Hard work was required. Consistency was much needed. We reminded them constantly that they were not pastors kids but were our children who God had created with a plan for their life. When they failed, we disciplined, yes we spanked, and we grounded. There was no bribing. There was no time out in the corner. Discipline was firm and it was never withheld. We did not allow them to get destructive or obnoxious. Instead we gave them the boundaries so they learned and knew what it meant to be disciplined. Any parent can do the same. You will never get it 100% right every time. You will make mistakes. We made many. But you can teach and you can discipline. The real question is very simple:  Are you willing to do it? It takes effort. It requires knowing the end goal. It requires commitment to that goal. It requires us as parents being disciplined ourselves.

The two moms on the flight are in for some rocky times. More troubling to me is the fact that there are four children that will experience those rocky times thanks to their parents.

How sad is that?