Thursday, April 02, 2009

On Discipline

Those who know me, know I am a pretty self disciplined person. I am not sure when and where and how I learned this self discipline; I do know my childhood was formed by books, good books, with good characters, and that these provided me with examples to follow.

Those who know me also know that I believe strongly in providing children with good examples to follow.

My trouble is that when I lose my self discipline, when I lose it with one of the kids, then I lose it badly. I become a very good example of what-not-to-do and what-not-to say. I don't hit. I'm not violent. But I do swear. Ack!

So, there is my dilemma. I am not always a good example. I apologise and pray and move on but that doesn't erase the bad example, does it?

And because I am aware of my own failings, because I want my children to make their own choices, to make good choices, to have a childhood of good memories, I tend to rely on example, on prayer, on our sacramental and liturgical life, on discussion, on good books and movies to teach self discipline . Not consequences.

The wisdom of the Church in this matter is expressed with precision and clearness in the Codex of Canon Law, can. 1113: "Parents are under a grave obligation to see to the religious and moral education of their children, as well as to their physical and civic training, as far as they can, and moreover to provide for their temporal well-being."[23] DIVINI ILLIUS MAGISTRI ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI ON CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

So, in my failure to provide consequences, am I also failing to fulfil my grave obligation to see to the religious and moral education of my children ?

On Monday, one child had a meltdown over some writing I asked him to do. When I say melt down, I mean MAJOR melt down. I didn't get cross or angry. I encouraged. I provided examples of writing. Eventually, however, his actions and words seemed intolerable, so intolerable that I told him he would have to forgo his gaming sessions. I did this without anger but with a desire to end the behaviour, to teach something.

This did, however, make me feel bad. So bad that the next day, I relented and allowed gaming. I thought he knew, deep inside, how rude and over the top his behaviour had been. Thought we could move on.

Wednesday, the same child had another meltdown, over having to do his paper round, the round several others of us help with because we are family, but for which only he and one other brother get paid. He didn't feel like working.

Oh dear. This was like a red flag to a bull. We'd had lunch out at a Chinese resaurant with friends, we'd had fun and friends over all day, and I felt like he hadn't learned from Monday. I felt abused when he threw things and stomped around.

I lost it. I swore.

It is okay. I hope. I've apologised. I'll go to Reconciliation. But I am wondering if consequences may help. I felt bad because I felt I had been nice, that my niceness was taken advantage of - and, yet maybe a little bit of penance, for me and for the child, would be good.

Would it be better for me to talk and not require things like writing? I very rarely require anything from my kids... At least there would be no upset because he wouldn't be doing what he doesn't want..And example and our prayer life and the sacraments are there, to guide...Or is it better to talk and sometimes realise that we all need to do things we don't like , that there are consequences in life...and, again, our sacramental life can help here, as we learn, and, yes, suffer a little..

How did I learn self discipline? How do I continue to learn this, how can I be a better example, how can I share this with my kids?

In fact it must never be forgotten that the subject of Christian education is man whole and entire, soul united to body in unity of nature, with all his faculties natural and supernatural, such as right reason and revelation show him to be; man, therefore, fallen from his original estate, but redeemed by Christ and restored to the supernatural condition of adopted son of God, though without the preternatural privileges of bodily immortality or perfect control of appetite. There remain therefore, in human nature the effects of original sin, the chief of which are weakness of will and disorderly inclinations. (my emphasis)
"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child and the rod of correction shall drive it away."Disorderly inclinations then must be corrected, good tendencies encouraged and regulated from tender childhood, and above all the mind must be enlightened and the will strengthened by supernatural truth and by the means of grace, without which it is impossible to control evil impulses, impossible to attain to the full and complete perfection of education intended by the Church, which Christ has endowed so richly with divine doctrine and with the Sacraments, the efficacious means of grace. Ibid.

Now, the rod of correction does not refer to corporal punishment. I am anti hitting, anti violence! But I think it does refer to natural consequences, to discipline, in love.

God loves us. His love is unconditional. Can I, do I, love this son in the same way, as much as I am imperfectly able?

You can do nothing with children unless you win their confidence and love by bringing them into touch with yourself, by breaking through all the hindrances that keep them at a distance. We must accommodate ourselves to their tastes, we must make ourselves like them. St. John Bosco

Maybe consequences, natural discipline, can exist without hurting relationship, if surrounded by love?

One must have a strong foundation so as to stand firm at this time against the shock-waves of youth. St Theophan, on raising teenagers

Of all holy works, the education of children in the most holy. - more from St. Theophan the Recluse


Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

Similar things happening here too, including the swearing - on my part - and the need to go to confession.

One thing I've been trying to convey is the idea that the child has made the choice and so the consequence follows...I think has worked for my "moaning wonder" and has taught her that we have to work as a team and not just on whim - when she wants something!

Hugs, my friend! Pray for us!

Hopewell said...

I feel this. I have an awful temper and a tongue like a razor. I've hurt my son often with it. I didn't know I HAD this temper until I adopted him. Therapy, prayer, and time still have not totally tamed it. And, I too, hate it when he does it "my way" when he's angry. It's ugly. I don't like me in him. I'm not Catholic, so I do pray for and receive forgiveness. The hard part is forgiving MYSELF. I'm praying for you and your boys.

Leonie said...

Thank you both for being honest and letting me know I am not the only one who struggles with this..praying, receiving forgiveness helps...going to Reconciliation is an added grace...sticking to consequences is hard but I'm getting there.

Jo said...

It was very hard on me as a child to have perfect parents. They were very reasonable and never yelled, and somehow, I was always wrong, and my character was at fault, and they were always beyond reproach...

So I let my children see my not-so-good side. When I yell and have temper tantrums, I apologize, and we do yet more conflict resolution, and the same thing happens when the children tantrum. We all know that we are all human, and we have multiple chances to grow and change. Mind you, I can be philosophical about this now. It's not always so easy in the middle of conflict, especially because I am a lifelong avoider of conflict.

If you can, get hold of a book called 'Kids are Worth It' by Barabara Coloroso. It is one of the few parenting books I know of that presents a clear plan for parenting teenagers, based on the 'do as you would be done by' rule. Coloroso was a Franciscan nun before becoming a psychologist, then wife and mother of three. Some pretty powerful credentials!