I still don’t know what possessed me to sneak out in the middle of the night to meet my boyfriend* when
I was 16 years old.
It was pure madness. Unadulterated hormonal insanity. I have no other explanation. You see, my parents subscribed to the old-school method of discipline: discipline now; ask questions later. And, I knew if I got caught, they’d most likely kill me.
While there’s much debate over methods of discipline, in truth: kids need it. The subject has become taboo. It’s not in vogue today. Most parents don’t want to talk about it. Some even see it as barbaric. But when done responsibly and properly, discipline has great benefits for kids.
Want to give your kids something that’ll guarantee their happiness?
Discipline them responsibly.
Discipline done right isn’t punishment. It’s about teaching lessons and setting limits. And, it and should start early on.
Kids who’ve been disciplined are happier kids.
Discipline is harder today. We applaud in-your-face attitudes and don’t put too much emphasis on following the rules.
When I was a kid, my siblings and I respected, and more importantly, we feared our parents, all eight of us. We didn’t want to disappoint them. We certainly didn’t want to make them angry. We absolutely respected their authority.
They disciplined us. They held us accountable for our behavior.
- We lived in their house.
- They made the rules.
- They enforced the rules.
- If you felt you were too old to obey their rules, they were happy to show you the door.
- One thing was clear: They were NOT our friends.
WHY DISCIPLINE IS KEY
Contrary to what some parents believe, discipline is key in raising children. It’s tough to be around kids who aren’t disciplined. They’re a pain. If you’ve ever been around undisciplined kids, you know what I mean. Undisciplined kids don’t share much, but here’s a list of character traits they do have in common:
- They’re selfish.
- They lack self control.
- They’re more likely to fall in with the wrong crowd and engage in dangerous behaviors.
- They lack social skills because parents do not have enough control to teach them.
- They aren’t team players.
- They’re likely to be bullies.
- They’re generally unhappy.
- They’ll lack skills to navigate society.
- They don’t respect others.
- They don’t respect authority.
Kids who’ve been disciplined are quite the opposite.
- They’re confident.
- They’ve learned self control.
- They’re accountable for their behavior.
- They respect boundaries and authority.
My parents didn’t mess around when it came to discipline, and, back in the day, no one would have raised an eyebrow at their disciplinary methods.
Discipline was not unusual. It was expected.
And, I’m not talking about “time-out” or counting to three. I’m sure they have their uses. I’m talking about active, hands-on discipline, which deters behaviors and changes hearts.
Effective discipline is fair and appropriately fits the crime. As parents, we don’t aim to create strife in our homes. But, a proper balance of fear and respect is healthy. Most kids today are missing a healthy dose of both.
My dad was the original Terminator. He used discipline to extinguish undesirable behaviors in us children. My dad is a 30-year Army veteran, and he and my mom ran a tight ship. If we broke rules, we met very unpleasant consequences.
- If I came home after curfew, an extremely angry woman, my mom, would be waiting for me.
- If I went to bed without washing the dishes, my dad got me up at 4 a.m. the next day before he left for work, and I washed dishes.
- And got extra weeks of kitchen duty. (Notice “weeks” is plural. And I said WASHED the dishes not put them in a dishwasher. When my sister once tried to persuade my dad to buy a dishwasher, he said he didn’t need one; he had 8.)
But, too many parents today do nothing. We don’t discipline our kids because we’re afraid of hurting their feelings or making them mad at us or somehow damaging their self-esteem. Sometimes, we just don’t want to take the time to deal with poor behavior. Take the time. You’ll be glad you did.
We aren’t doing kids any favors by withholding discipline. The Proverb says he who fails to discipline a child is a party to his death. When you put it like that, discipline takes on a whole new meaning.
Kids not only need discipline, they want it. They won’t applaud your wisdom at the time, but, believe me, they’ll thank you later.
I’ll admit society today makes parenting tough. We’ve all heard stories of parents who were reported to government authorities for disciplining their children. We’ve seen cases in which the courts have taken authority away from parents by not allowing them to take away their kid’s cell phone or car.
We’ve also seen cases where parents have gone too far in disciplining children and someone’s had to step in. (Taking away a cell phone is hardly abusive.)
When my kids were little, I wielded a wooden spoon. (They affectionately referred to it as “Woody.”) They knew I meant business.
- I didn’t hesitate to climb over the seats in the car to discipline a child in the third row of an SUV
- I didn’t hesitate to pull the car over to deal with a child
- And, I followed through on my threats to “take care of them” when we got home
As they grew older, I had to come up with more creative ways to discipline my kids. Here are ways I discipline my kids now:
- assign extra chores for poorly done work
- take away, throw away, or give away their stuff if they act irresponsibly or disrespectfully
- send them to bed without dinner
- ground them
- allow natural consequences to take place (unless it involves a car and the road)
- make them work for extras
- and use whatever means necessary to show them I care about their well being
- encourage positive behaviors with rewards
- deter undesirable behaviors with negative consequences
Ultimately we want our kids to obey us because they love and respect us.
Fear is a great motivator when they’re young, but it won’t have a lasting effect. My kids know, without a doubt, I love them. Part of the reason they know that is because I discipline them. They know they’ll be held accountable for their behavior.
And, as a kid, I trusted that my parents knew best. In our house, we faced consequences for undesirable actions:
- If you talked back, you got a hand across the mouth.
- No one in their right mind dared swear, sass a teacher, or disrespect authority.
And, sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night? You had to be crazy.
My “you know you’re wrong” radar was going off big time the night I sneaked out.
Which is why I was with my boyfriend for about two and a half minutes before I came to my senses and headed back home. (He was scared of my parents, too.)
I was gone 12 minutes tops, but when I tried to get back into my house, the door was locked. We had one of those glass screen doors that could only be locked from the inside.
After several minutes of lightly rapping on the window to wake my little sister, I heard the front door unlatch. Relieved, I ran to it, opened it, and very, very quietly tip-toed into the dark house (expecting to see my sister) but was met by my dad instead.
He was not happy. My dad rarely disciplined the girls in our house. (Probably because he was lenient with us.)
So our discipline was left to our mom (who showed no mercy).
He looked at me with a mixture of disappointment and controlled rage and pointed towards my room motioning me to go to bed.
But, as I slithered past him, I softly suggested that it might be best if he didn’t share this information with Mom. (I had a lot of nerve; I know! Hey, I was in self-preservation mode.)
When my mom found out, she was going to kill me. I knew that without a doubt.
I was a wreck the next day. I expected my mom to show up at one of my classroom doors and execute me on the spot.
Surprisingly, my dad didn’t rat me out to my mom, which was unusual. To this day, I still don’t know why. Maybe he felt sorry for me. Maybe he thought I had temporarily lost my mind. Maybe he knew if he’d told my mom she really would’ve killed me.
(In fact, he didn’t tell my mom that story until 20 years later after I was married with three kids. Maybe he was playing it safe for my sake, making sure the statute of limitations had run out on parental prosecution of teenage offenses.)
I was gone less than 15 minutes that night, but I still faced consequences.
But, no matter how terrible they were, I still shutter to think of what would’ve happened if my mom had known at the time.
I’m okay with admitting how my parents doled out discipline.
- We knew they loved us.
- We learned respect for authority.
- We learned how to treat other people.
- And to re-think dumb decisions (like sneaking out to meet your boyfriend in 10 degree weather in the middle of the night in your pajamas).
Today, all eight of my siblings are contributing members of society.
- Three of us have masters degrees.
- Six of us have healthy marriages (two aren’t married).
- And none of us has ever been involved with the penal system, which is the fate of about one-third of kids raised in black families today.
We need to take our households out of the hands of our kids. Kids aren’t wired to be in charge because they lack experience and wisdom. And, you as a parent, aren’t wired to be a sissy. We’re expected to discipline our kids because we’re supposed to have experience and wisdom.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
How do you handle discipline in your home? Do your kids suffer consequences for disrespectful behavior or breaking your rules? Do you insist they respect you and other authority figures? Or do they run the show? As parents, we have a responsibility to protect our kids. Discipline your children. Discipline teaches kids how to be responsible, to respect authority, and to re-think poor choices like sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night.
*That boyfriend is now my husband.