“Don’t punish your kids.”
As a dad, my reaction to this one-liner I heard recently was a thoughtful, “Uhhh …..what???” But months later, I find I am still fascinated by this point….and the significant counterpoint that follows.
As I have meditated on this, I have come to believe that punishment of anyone is a poor idea, and it is especially bad for children. Often the discussion of child discipline revolves around spanking. While spanking may be a useful tactic in some circumstances for some children, our discussion should really be what strategy should we use to raise successful children. And I believe that strategy should always be child discipline, and never child punishment.
Never Punish Kids….Always Discipline Them
The point of this concept is that we should never punish kids, but instead we should always think in terms of how to discipline kids. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary makes the distinction more clear:
When put that way, the differences are obvious:
Punishment looks to the past.
Discipline looks to the future.
Punishment is about settling a wrong.
Discipline is about keeping wrongs from settling in.
The heart of punishment is to scare people out of bad behavior.
The heart of discipline is to love people into good behavior.
Do I Punish Others, Too?
It’s easy to think of children when we think of punishment and discipline, but we do well to consider how we relate to others. Do I emotionally punish my friends, my employees, or people I interact with at the store? If I do, how can I use the heart motive of discipline to change how I interact?
Punishment of Self is the Worst
Punishment of self is the worst of all. Maybe you have you have spoken words of punishment to yourself, “I always act stupid like that.” Or, thought something like “I’m a no good dirty, rotten worm.”
The reality is we cannot improve our lives by punishing ourselves.
Jesus told us to “love your neighbor as yourself”. If my self love is really more self loathing, or self dislike…..how can I rise above that level in the loving of my neighbor?
But if I love myself as God loves me…..and if I lovingly discipline me instead of punishing me…..THAT love propels me on the pathways of Heaven to do the deeds of the Kingdom of God.
And it can work the same way for our children.