24 A refusal to correct is a refusal to love;
love your children by disciplining them.
– Proverbs 13:24 (The Message version)
Or the version that most are more familiar with
24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
– Proverbs 13:24 (New International version)
Miriam and I come from similar yet very different family backgrounds, similar faith, different perspectives.
I am the oldest of three boys, raised in a traditional Illinois small town environment with a stay at home mother and father who worked a nine to five job. Both parents disciplined me with spanking as an option from an early age, my dad’s belt often the method used. Neither parent shied from discipline, largely out of necessity as I and my brother were active boys. We learned early to respect that my parents stood together, were fair, but were not afraid to be tough.
Dad reminded me recently
You were raised with the rule (as was I) – “if you get a spanking at school, you get another one when you get home” – REMEMBER?? I know because I did get another spanking at home in the first grade.
Oh yeah, I remember. I remember hiding in my bedroom closet one time when I was very young, maybe six or so. Mom was fed up with my picking on Mark, my younger brother, and spanked me with a thin wood paddle. I laughed. She swatted me harder, enough that the paddle broke. I laughed some more. And I picked on my brother some more, so the punishment was upgraded to a spanking by dad’s thick black leather belt, to be administered when dad got home from work. I was terrified of that belt, enough that the back of my hands often were sore from trying to block the blows, blows that did not count if belt did not meet butt cheek. Looking back on it now, the punishment of that belt was 99% terror, 1% pain, although a spanking from dad always hurt more than one from mom.
I did learn to respect the discipline my parents gave to me, the fairness and the definite love, at an early age. Even when I reached my teen years and tried to resist that discipline. The discipline I received was not always physical, but always purposeful, given to me more often than not with plenty of forethought. Oh, my parents each made mistakes, but I also learned from the mistakes they made, including what it means to forgive them and see them for the human beings that they are.
Miriam is the youngest daughter of seven, born in Lisbon to Baptist missionaries. Her father was consumed with his job (still is even now), travelled a great deal. He told me recently that he left a lot of the parental duties up to his wife and Mir’s sisters. Mir’s mother was 46 years old when Mir was born. She can tell me of only one time she was disciplined, that being a slap across the face when she mouthed off to her father. From what I gather, Mir’s mother did not discipline her. She was more of a friend. Discipline was more of a negotiation than anything else. In a household full of girls and no boys, that was likely good enough. I can see that in the approach Mir has had with our children.
Her approach has been adequate for our sixteen year old daughter. But not so much for our now thirteen year old son. There has never been hard discipline in our household, largely due to the style my wife has asked me to agree to. I have. And we now have a teenager who does not respond to any kind of punishment well and does not respect any kind of attempt at discipline. It has never been required of him.
It doesn’t help that Mir and I have rarely been on the same page, something our son has been able to take advantage of. He did until last night.
Mir is a bit fed up with the teenage attitude. I have decided to take a softer line. When Mir and Nate butted heads last night, she came to me, frustrated, with a stiff upper lip tight with frustration.
“What should we do, Steve?”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Tell me what you think.”
So I did. The issue was homework, a failing grade in math that our son refuses to do anything about. Mir tried to get him to complete several math assignments but got nothing but attitude. My suggestion was to take away his main source of distraction, his video game system, until the assignments were complete, and do it together. Further resistance and a lack of improvement on the grade would mean I would contact his basketball coach to “suspend” Nate for one game.. something he would not be able to control.
Mir and I approached Nate together. He refused to cooperate, so I took away the game system. My wife had to tackle our 5’9″ 180 pound boy and hold him down while I took it away. When he followed me downstairs, then attacked me while I sat on the couch, trying to punch my surgically repaired foot, she tackled him again while I held him still in a choke hold. For ten minutes until our son agreed he would not try to harm me or any of my things.
And he couldn’t stand it that Mir and I were united. Oh, he targeted me but it was both of us this time that his anger was directed at. But it is going to take a while for the boy to learn to accept our discipline. Instead of studying last night, he spent three hours begging me to return his video game system and looking for it. So I made another proposal to him.
Accept the discipline, a rather easy punishment by any standard, and do your homework. If you don’t, I will call your basketball coach and advise him that you will not be at any games until your math grade improves.
And that is now what my son is afraid will happen. It may. We are giving him until Wednesday, when we will check his school work online for improvement. He knows what will happen. He knows that his mother is with me on this one, as I am with her.
I guess that is what it takes, no matter what parenting style each of us has brought into our marriage. We are learning. It took a while. Stay together. Never allow division with your partner.
Here is another quote from my dad, who I can now share a lot of things with (with some caution), what he said when I told him about last night – “You know, FAILURE should mean NO SPORTS, too. I can remember having to get sign-offs from ALL my teachers weekly to be able to play basketball, etc. I know you did, too.”
Why does my dad seem so right now? He may be a little on the harsh side, but he’s right.
I wonder what I will be telling my kids years from now when they are wondering how to discipline their kids.. or deal with the differences they have with their spouse!