As I was watching television one night, I flipped through the channels and saw a primetime episode of the Dr. Phil Show that promoted his new book, Family First. Dr. Phil has become a known expert on family and children in American society, and he “tells it like it is” to parents seeking advice. His guests tend to be on the edge of extreme, and the primetime version was no different.
One mother had no idea how to control her daughter’s selfishness and spoiled behavior. The daughter, only 4 years old, had her own room plus three spare rooms filled with her toys and dresses! Tantrums would erupt when her mother would not buy her something new each outing. A second mother had a 2-year-old son addicted to television, and spent nine hours a day glued to the couch and the TV. Any time she tried to take him outside to play, he would cry and scream until she took him home.
In today’s era, where we are told to do what feels right, it is no wonder that we are seeing an upward trend in behavior problems with children and teens. Where has all the discipline gone? I would submit that parents now worry more about offending their children and triggering temper tantrums than teaching them the basic values and virtues of life.
“Discipline is part of the character you build into your child that will give him a way of life. When you discipline your child, you are really teaching him to be a disciple,” says Mrs. Beverly LaHaye, founder and chairman of Concerned Women for America, in Understanding Your Child’s Temperament.
Although I am only in college and not yet a parent, I have seen the destructiveness of inadequate discipline through experiences with family, friends and sometimes complete strangers in supermarkets or on Dr. Phil. Parents who are too permissive raise children who are spoiled either materialistically or relationally (they crave the attention and need Mommy around all the time). Parents who are too strict breed resentment and their children act out of spite. I believe there must be a happy medium.
First and foremost, we should consult the advice of the True Expert, and raise our children how God commands. Mrs. LaHaye agrees, “You can pick any kind of helps you want, but I believe one of the best sources on training a child is from the words of the Creator Himself.”
Proverbs 13:24 “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Ephesians 6:4 “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
These and other examples in God’s Word make it clear that discipline is a must. Many, however, are unsure of how to go about it. Authorities on children have different opinions, but essential tools include:
Prevention: Begin showing your children who is boss during their preschool years, says Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, and situations like those seen on Dr. Phil will not develop. Boundaries, to learn right from wrong: Mothers and fathers also need to be firm in these boundaries. Nothing will undermine your leadership more than waffling under pressure from your children. Reassurance and teaching: Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller of www.effectiveparenting.org say that a positive conclusion will give the child a chance to reflect on his/her actions and also not create tension in the relationship. Love, regardless of their behavior: Mrs. LaHaye’s equation is: Instruction + Love + Insistence = Effective Training.
Utilizing Biblical guidelines for discipline and taking into account the considerations above are the best method of leading a child. Mrs. LaHaye urges parents to “commit your children into His care and loving but tough discipline.”
Parenting and discipline are not walks in the park. Good, effective parents, however, will take their families through the hard times with love, strength and, above all, faith. If we follow the true Instruction Manual of God’s Word, and raise our children with good morals and values, we will see a trend of happier children, stronger families, and a better society.
Eva Arlia, a student at Central Florida University, is an intern with the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank of Concerned Women for America.