The older I get, the more I think my parents and grand-parents had the right idea. There were times I didn’t think my father liked me very much. He yelled, he screamed, he grounded me, and as Bill Cosby put it, “he didn’t give whippings, he hit for distance.” That thin leather belt my father used to keep up his trousers wasn’t just indelibly imprinted in my backside, the impact was also indelibly inked on my mind. I knew if I crossed the boundaries he laid down, and got caught, that life as I knew it could end at any moment.
Like most young people I whined and complained about my hard-nosed father and often ran for mercy to my overly sympathetic mother. In truth they provided a nice balance for my childhood. Even as a young man on my own, my dad would get up in my affairs and offer unsolicited advice on how I should live. I still remember the day I drew the line in the sand and said enough – and that wasn’t long before a fatal heart attack took him away from me.
I think most of my family would probably agree that may parents had things a little out of balance at times. My dad was just a little too hard-nosed and struggled with a soft, compassionate side; while my mom was a great big softie. She had her moments of stern discipline, but they usually ended with, “I am so disappointed in you,” and that just broke our hearts. That being said, I am so glad I had a father who kicked my butt when I needed it. I have no doubts my father loved me. Looking back I realize that I had blocked out much of the love and compassion he showed (albeit in a very different way). I remember him crying at my wedding. I remember him teaching me how to find crawfish in a mountain stream. I remember vacations to Trenton, GA and Fort Myers, FL. I remember dad pulling out the checkbook more times than he should have because he wanted his boys to have better than he had. He did it all because he cared. From the hard-core discipline to the man who taught me to hunt and fish – he did it all because he cared.
Now I find at times that I am the mean, middle-aged man who has grown a hardened edge through the years. Most of my life I was the sweet one, the gentle one, the easy-going and patient one. What I realized is I may have erred on the side of charity a little too often (though my own childen would disagree). My parents mellowed as they aged, I have sharpened my rough edges and I think it is a pretty good thing too.
Our kids live in a wicked, wicked, world. For whatever reason God put me on this planet, one of the big ones is to look out for my children. I have been accused of not trusting them, of getting in their business, of being ridiculous (and worse), but I hope one day they come to the realization it’s because I care…
I spent some time this week reading articles, blogs, posts and discussion groups on how parents approach discipline today and I almost fell of my chair. Here are some of the more common comments I read:
- If you try to discipline your children, or set up boundaries they will just rebel and get worse.
- Children have rights too and you should just give them their space and let them figure things out on their own.
- Taking away privileges and other things from your children will just make them hate you more.
All I could figure is that the children had hijacked the internet and taken over all the posts. Kids need to feel loved. They need to know that you are there for them. They need to know that you are listening, but more than anything they need to learn the law of cause and effect. Every decision has a positive or negative consequence to it. The ONLY way they learn that is if parents impose consequences for bad behavior and rewards for good behavior. Don’t wait till they get on their own to have to learn that.
So thank you mom and dad for whipping my butt, grounding me when I disobeyed, and putting the fear of God in me more times than I can remember. I am confident that much of my youth was much happier because I acted out of “fear of punishment.” It kept me from attending wild parties, getting drunk, or sowing my wild oats. So to all you parents who are still doing it the old fashion way – God bless you for following the old paths.