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Question Before Discipline: Wise or Foolish

kid listeningThere is that moment as a parent in which your child is standing in front of you, they’ve just demolished something and you just don’t know where to begin.  For me, my mind races to say all sorts of unhelpful things like, “Are you insane? or How many times do I need to tell you….”  I want to pounce quickly but if I hold back long enough I get past those damaging impulses and but then end up indecisive about where to start.

It isn’t just with kids that I hit that point where I know we need to step in and help but I’m not sure how.  Do we talk it out, time out, use a consequence, or threaten with what Mom is going to do?  Do I take away keys, have a heart to a talk or call the police?

At Project Patch we tend to see two primary extremes when it comes to dealing with a kid’s mistake or rebellion.

  1. Over react with a focus on punishment
  2. Over talk without consequences

The first has a tendency to create fear in kids and while their behavior may change, they end up with a lot of heart ache and hidden rebellion.  For example, some parents create all sorts of consequences when they discover their son looked at pornography on the computer.  Yet they fail to ever have a meaningful conversation about the boy’s thoughts and reaction to the pornography.  Parents that smash the cell phone the daughter took inappropriate pictures on but fail to talk about how it feels to have attention and be sought after.  Consequences are good but don’t produce lasting change without meaningful conversation.

The second group or parents just talk and talk and talk.  Nothing seems to change except the parent becomes more pleading or tries to bribe the kid.  There might be some great conversations that end in tears and hugs but nothing seems to change.  Promises are made but seldom kept.  Parents have these sorts of talks all the time about boy friends, excessive game playing, bringing up grades, cleaning rooms, and getting along with siblings.  A lot of talking but not much change.  Their kids aren’t being helped.

Several years ago I came across a business book by a Henry Cloud called “Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships that All of Us Have to Give Up in Oder to Move Forward.”  This book changed how I interact with my employees and has become a pivotal section in our Parenting in a Hostile World seminar.  It’s one of those things that seems too simple to work but I’ve found it to be amazingly helpful.

Henry Cloud from his study of Proverbs breaks people down into three categories; wise, foolish and evil.  I’ll provide a quick summary but please, read the book,, it’s focused on business but will impact every relationship you have including your kids.

Wise people respond to words and don’t procrastinate needed change.  They might not like to get this feedback but they put aside their own comfort and are shaped by the insight of other people.  The wise aren’t people pleasers who change with every opinion but they actively engage in improvement based on feedback.   This group responds to words and so the best way to approach discipline is to use words.

The foolish may be very intelligent but don’t tend to change based on words.  They tend to deflect or push back on criticism and have an excuse or person to blame for everything.  Their reasons and thinking may seem very believable but the reality is that they never change.  The fool may also show great regret and agree with everything you are saying but they procrastinate change.  With a fool, you end up being stuck in the same place even though you talk and talk.  The key for fools is that words don’t cause change, only consequences and introducing them to the realities of life.

Finally there is a very small group called evil.  I’m not going into detail about this group since it is so rare but you should read Henry’s book to learn more about how to deal with evil.

As a parent our job when getting ready to discipline our kids is to determine what is going to be most helpful for our kid.  Is it time for a heart to heart talk or a time for timeout.  Do I need to take away their use of the car or can he change without me needing to drive him around for the next month?  The key question is, “Am I going to use words or consequences” and the way to decide is to determine whether you are dealing with a kid that is being wise or foolish.  The other key is to determine when consequences have been effective enough to start using words again.

In the next blog, we are going to explore how to discipline a child who is being wise and then I’ll follow-up with a post on disciplining a child being foolish.

I’d really appreciate hearing from you by commenting on this blog.

Could you answer the question, “Which tendency do you have, to “over react” or “over talk”?  What tendency did your parents or teachers have?”