Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Parenting in the Information Age

You’ve probably all seen it, but if you haven’t let me set up the video for you.  15 year old girl was just recently grounded for posting something her parents didn’t like on facebook.  After it was over she posted a rebellious rant, but blocked her parents from seeing it.  Her dad, who works in IT, saw it anyway and posted his video response to her on her facebook wall where she can’t see it but all her friends can.  Warning: there are curse words used.

After watching the video, I have to say, I have mixed feelings.  There is part of me that joins in with many other “old-school” parents in saying “Amen!”  That girl’s got it easy and here’s a lesson she has coming to her.  But then there’s another part of me, who, at 26 still remembers not so dissimilar journal entries written (but definitely never given) to my parents at that age.  I’m I proud of it?  Definitely not, I had it good, and I had no idea.  Would I have posted it on facebook?  I don’t think so, but I can’t say for sure because I didn’t have any sort of online accounts back then, but I know for sure my parents would have bruised my behind and made all my “stuff” disappear.  And I would have spent every single Saturday morning until I moved out getting up at the crack of dawn and doing manual labor.

Many people attribute the saying “spare the rod, spoil the child” to Scripture, but it is actually more of an axiom based on many proverbs.  The rod, of course, is the rod of correction, discipline.  I don’t think it needs to literally mean a tool for spanking, but metaphorically discipline that proves painful.  Pain reminds us not to do something again.  I still remember as a child the first time I carelessly grabbed the pan on the stove.  My mom allowed me to cook with her and told me time and time again to be careful it was very hot.  And I tried to remember to be careful, but then I forgot, but the moment I burned my arm on that hot pan is etched in my memory.  And I have had little trouble remembering to be careful of pans on the stove ever since.

The burn from the hot pan hurt me, but it did not harm me.  I have no scars from it.  Thus, I believe is the same with healthy discipline.  It is painful to remind us, it trains us, but does not harm us.

“Young people are prone to foolishness and fads;
the cure comes through tough-minded discipline.” 
-Proverbs 22:15 (Msg)

“Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;
A spanking won’t kill them.
A good spanking, in fact,
might save them from something worse than death.”
-Proverbs 23:13-14 (Msg)

And here’s the kicker…

“Wise discipline imparts wisdom;
Spoiled adolescents embarrass their parents.”
-Proverbs 29:15 (Msg)

Scripture is clear that we are to discipline our children.  I often tell Laurelei, “If you can’t remember to obey what mommy told you to do, then I will give you a spanking to remind you.” 

It’s pretty clear that the older generation agree and believe this, and trained up their children on these beliefs.  So why did their children turn from it?  Why have their children trained their own children differently?

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast.  It is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”   - 1 Cor. 13:4-7

…or The Message Translation says it this way…

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
Keeps going to the end.”

This man in the video is clearly ticked that his daughter behaved this way.  And rightfully so.  I’d be ticked too.  And I think he’s a bit embarrassed.  But I heard something when Laurelei was young that’s really stuck with me – if you are capable of being embarrassed by someone else’s behavior then you have your own issues to deal with, and you can’t fully love.  Meaning that we must recognize our children as separate from us, and not become reactive when they misbehave.

It is human nature to be self-centered and lazy.  It is our job as parents to train that self-centered and lazy nature out of them.  And that is just what an older generation did…but in many instances it seems to have left their children feeling cold toward their parents and seeking out a warmer way to raise their children.  They “threw the baby out with the bath water” so to speak.

Love, compassion, warmth must be present for our discipline to be a helpful hurt and not harm.  I still remember my own feelings of frustration as a child having to do things I didn’t want to do.  And so when I tell Laurelei to do something that she doesn’t want to I have compassion on her.  And when I discipline Laurelei (not because I enjoy it but because I believe it’s essential to her healthy development) I don’t think it’s funny, and I don’t do it in response to my anger or embarrassment.  Sometimes I even tell her that I’m sorry that she doesn’t want to, but that she can either choose to obey or suffer the consequences. 

“We do not have a High Priest (savior in Christ) who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  -Heb. 4:15

And we can also sympathize with their struggle.  We have sinned.  We have been selfish and lazy and irresponsible.  We can love them though they are flawed.  But we must make their misbehavior their problem so that they will learn from it.

My thoughts on this video are that his daughter is probably behaving this way because she’s been allowed to, and this dad is probably mad (rightfully so) and probably a little embarrassed.  Instead of recognizing that human nature just is what it is and if you don’t place boundaries on it, it’s likely to play out in stubbornness and rebellion, he’s acting a little vindictive toward her for daring to behave this way.  We all have a selfish human nature, and some of us a little more human nature it seems than others.  That’s just the reality of our fallen world.

But the Bible says that we have a Savior that can relate to our struggles.  He has compassion on us.  But his compassion doesn’t change the law of sowing and reaping until we have a clear heart change and submit to his grace to cover us. 

I think this girl’s behavior warrants her having her computer taken away and her learning to “earn” the things in her life, instead of them just being given, but shooting her computer is money down the drain and just a way, I think for the dad to vent his anger and sock it to his daughter.  Threats are not discipline.  And parents that think that giving their children a look or stern tone or promises of consequences will be effective in training their children, I believe, misunderstand how human nature works.  For some children this may make them try to look like they are obeying, but it fails to cause the pain that trains the heart. 

Instead, the daughter coming home to her computer being removed and having to take over the “cleaning lady” duties without yelling or arguing on the part of the parents, but having these tasks until there is clear evidence of a total heart change, a gratefulness, I think is a more effective solution. 

I know that at 26, with only two children at home, ages 4 ½ months to 3 ½ years, I am not a seasoned parent by any stretch.  I am, as always, open to your comments and thoughts, even if you disagree!

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