This is Joel’s story so I’ll let him start by telling what happened.
When I was ten years old a villain entered my life. Her family started coming to the church where dad was pastor.
She was bigger than me and loved to bully me. At an after-church social event she and two of her amazon-girl friends pinned me against a wall. They held my arms while she slapped my face over and over.
I warned her twice but she didn’t stop.
In a surge of fury I broke loose from the two amazons and punched her in the face. She dropped to her knees. Her friends ran away.
You know that my-life-is-over feeling? I had it.
I stood there thinking What have I done? Dad is going to kill me.
A crowd began to gather. The girl’s dad stormed up to my dad and demanded, “What are you going to do about this?!”
Half the church stood speechless. I knew it was going to get ugly for me.
What happened next is an example of why my father is an extraordinary man.
He calmly asked me what happened. With tears in my eyes I told him.
He nodded, patted my shoulder and said, “Sounds like she had it coming.”
Everyone knows that punching girls is a no, no. It’s clearly a crime punishable by spanking or at least grounding. Lord knows we can’t have people running around punching girls. Society would go haywire. Dad needed to make an example of me in front of all those people. But he didn’t.
My dad is really good at not falling into the trap of simply reacting. Though he can be quite emotional, he always carefully evaluates every situation on a case-by-case basis. He never seems fazed by what other people will think of his action or in-action. He never punished me because I embarrassed him.
Let me first assure you the outcome of this story would have been different if Joel had been older. I am appalled at the thought of a man so weak and impotent that he would try to establish his masculinity by inflicting any sort of pain – physical or emotional – on a woman. Real men protect women – no matter what! – rather than flaunt their insecurity by releasing their junior-high-ish fury on them.
But the same insecurity that drives an abusive spouse can also drive us as parents. I could have easily reacted in this situation. All eyes were on me. The “audience” contained several people who had mastered the Christian life. They always had the answer – often before they understood the question. (Proverbs 18:13) Though most of their children were running from God they knew exactly how I should raise mine.
I was the pastor. My son had committed one of many unpardonable sins. You could almost hear some raising their mental gavels to render a ruling on how effectively I chastised this hardened ten year old criminal.
Out of insecurity I could have offered to hang the boy and five of them would have run to their pick-ups to grab a rope. But in my heart I knew this was not a hanging offense. I didn’t have to tell Joel it was wrong to hit a girl. He knew it was wrong. He did not need to be brought to a point of repentance. He was there.
I could please the crowd or I could do what I sensed in my heart would please the Lord – let my son know that even when he messed up royally I was on his side.
Even when we do have to take unpleasant actions to discipline our children – and Joel earned plenty of “unpleasant actions” – it is important they know we are on their side. We are doing this because we are for them, not against them. If I have to spank, ground, remove a privilege or whatever, it is because I genuinely love them. I am not releasing my frustration. It is all about them – their behavior – not some unmet need in me. Then we can genuinely grieve with them that we have to do what we have to do.
It is far too easy to punish based upon how their misbehavior made us feel or made us look in front of our peers. Isn’t it weird? We seem to never grow out of being concerned with what peers are going to think of us if we don’t meet their expectations.
Make sure that whatever you do you do because it is genuinely what is best for your child. You have no obligation to make the oglers happy and 25 years from now you won’t even know where most of them live. But the relationship you are building with your child will – hopefully – be 25 years stronger and sweeter by then.
… God disciplines us for our good …. Hebrews 10:12