The D Word: Discipline, the Best Solution for Your Child
by Jami Amerine
At the moment, it is purely laughable that I would sit here and write to you about discipline. If I am to be entirely truthful, our two youngest sons, Sam and Charlie, who we lovingly refer to as “the vandals,” just doused my dining room chairs with a gallon of my art glue.
In their defense, they “forgot that wasn’t allowed.” In my defense, I don’t call them the vandals for no ostensible reason. They vandalize. The toilet, the walls, the screen door, and the out-door air conditioner, have all fallen prey to the mischievous tendencies, and on more than one occasion. Tendencies, I am facing at the ripe old age of 46. This is our second round. We originally had four biological children. In my optimistic and fragrant style, I convinced my husband that we should dip our toes into the stream of foster care and adoption. That stream turned out to be a raging river of hope, calamity, laughter, tears, joy, and redemption.
We met Sam for the first time when he was just ten days old. He is now six. We met Charlie when he was three months old, he is now four. They were both adopted by our family in infancy. We are their parents, and they are our sons. However, biological or otherwise, they are nothing like the originals.
Perhaps, it was because Maggie, our oldest, now 23 was such a docile creature. John (now 20 and a Marine) and Luke (now 19 and a yoga/wellness professional) were not pugnacious. They did in fact have major lapses in judgement, but they rarely fought or destroyed property. Sophie (now 16 and a junior in high school) was very much the darling. She was compliant, intelligent, and frankly, easy.
Recently, I asked my husband, “Have you every had to punish Sophie?” And he shot me a wicked glare and fumed, “NO! She’s perfect!” And isn’t it grand to have someone who truly believes that about you? Someone that invested in your defense and completely in awe of your “perfection?”
And we are not pushovers. Luke was sent to military school for seven months when he was 14. That season was the hardest of my life. But, at the time, we would have done anything to protect him, from himself. Sometimes in parenting our decisions are ones we never would have believed we were capable of. Often, they are made in an effort to protect our most beloved.
On the other side of that decision, I revel in the young man Luke has become. I wish it could have been different. But as much as these beings are a part of us, they are every bit as much apart from us. They can and will make decisions we cannot support, ones we heartily reject and utterly horrify us. And this, this is the unadorned simplicity, somethings are completely out of our control. At the end of the day, vandals tucked in, glue scrubbed off chairs, a woman child making dinner for she and her husband, a man-baby at sea with his company, a hippie-baby teaching Vinyasa, and a teen watching Star Trek with her daddy, this much I know, I love.
And love protects, but it is not prideful, boastful, jealous, or impatient. Furthermore, we discipline from a place of love. We correct from a deep desire to carve out well adjusted human beings with boundaries and a strong foundation in decision making. What discipline is for your family may be entirely different for mine. So, this won’t be a to spank or not to spank article. This is more permission to be you and at the same time, remind you, you were chosen for this gig. And the beings you are raising are fully human, fully capable of sin and atrocities with glue.
However, with 23 plus years under my belt, allow me to give you some reminders about the D word.
There is no but in a good I love or an apology. I love you, but… is banned in our household. Contingent love is not at work here. I love my children. Their behavior doesn’t change that feeling. And this is critical in their understanding of Jesus’ love. He loved while we still sinned. Not I will die for you because I love you so much, but… No. Jesus said, “I love you still.” I love you unto my brutal death on this cross. No buts. And for me, this is true of a good apology too. Early in our marriage this was a huge battle. Our fights all ended with, “I am sorry, but you…” Which is in the same camp as, “I am sorry that you…” That’s an accusation, not an apology. A sorry is just a sorry and an I love you is simply an I love you.
Legalism is never the answer. Look, we have had as many as eight children in our home. They require and respond as uniquely as they were created. John could listen to correction for hours. He wanted all the information and he wanted to be wholly different from the experience. I recall once I was talking to him about texting a girl that was manipulating him. We had asked him to not text her and he was doing it anyway. His school work was suffering, and he was in a “dark” place. I spoke my piece and then said, “I love you. Thank you for listening to me and speaking openly about this. We want you to have healthy relationships and while we cannot control your every move, I appreciate your heart and mind. I trust you. Now, go let your dog out.”
He did. And then he came back. He sat on my bed for two hours, talking about the issue. Two hours friends. Luke? No way. We have maybe four minutes. Get it out and get on with it. Sam? Time out and he is totally reformed. Charlie… catch him if you can. Justly, when it comes to boundaries or rules with the originals, they weren’t allowed to watch Sponge Bob, because it was too crude. The vandals? They have Sponge Bob sheets and a shower curtain. Frankly, we are doing the very best we can, also, we are old. And yes, the originals frequently complain we are too easy on the vandals, but in our defense, we haven’t slept a full night since 1995.
You know what to do. Okay, maybe not all the time. Yes, seek wisdom from others who have gone before you. But I submit, you know your kid. Give yourself a break when it comes to bad days, blow ups, and the complete loss of your mind. Parenting is a tough gig. You pour every ounce of dignity and humanity into these people and they turn around and betray you and join the Marines. Just kidding, of course we are proud. We had just hoped he would grow up to be a feather pillow stuffer instead of a Combat Engineer. We might breath a bit easier. But that was John. Maggie is Maggie… Luke is… obviously I could go on and on. But I will say, I am their greatest advocate. I know these people. I love these people. They may make bad decisions but nothing they can do will change my heart for them. I propose this is where we most misunderstand God. Nothing can separate us from Him. Parenting well is actually best executed when we identify with the Father who parents us perfectly. Do your best, let God do the rest. Comparison is a natural companion of parenting. But slow down for a minute, just because it worked for the pastor’s kid doesn’t mean it is the same formula that will for yours.
In short, have a little confidence and courage in discipline. Know that your love is the steady part. It is unshakable and powerful. Trust your instincts and follow through with empathy and love. You got this friend. You really do.
Jami Amerine is an author and blogger at Sacred Ground Sticky Floors. She and her husband, Justin live in north Houston. They have six children ages 23 all the way to four years. They are advocates for foster care and adoption. More information can be found at sacredgroundstickyfloors.com.
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