Discipline: The Four-Letter Word

Savvy parents who buy into “Progressive Child Rearing” go all out to ensure that their offspring, spring as high as possible in this life. Concerns of developing their kids’ self-esteem consume them, so they try out all the latest child-rearing theories and buy all the latest early learning tools to ensure that Junior and Missy hit the academic ground running. Certainly, nothing is wrong with equipping our kids with tools for success, so long as those tools are of the best possible quality.

Education, and the Preparation Thereof

When considering such high-quality tools, most parents think of post-secondary education first, and then prepare for that financially grueling process. Yes, we save our pennies—millions of ‘em—for Junior’s and Missy’s tuition and boarding, while constantly nagging them for report cards laden with A’s. Of course, accumulating said millions of pennies leaves little time for Dad, and often Mom, to spend quality time with the young’ns.


Unfortunately, kids spell love, “T-I-M-E,” and if they don’t feel loved they feel as though they’re not worth loving, and that, in the proverbial nutshell, is the definition of “low self-esteem.” Ironic, isn’t it?

What happens when kids feel worthless? Some are strong enough to survive, albeit with emotional issues. Many of them get sent to kiddie-shrinks to learn all about their neuroses. Others “act out” with self-destructive behaviors that are also destructive to others, with the “Corrections System” as their final destination. It’s as simple as that. They say, “A bad apple spoils the bushel,” but in the Juvenile Corrections System, most of the apples are spoiled. The truly tragic thing is, the evil kids abuse and corrupt those who wind up there because of wrong choices with no nefarious intent.

Discipline vs. Correction

Confusing discipline with correction is one of the great errors that parents, teachers, and other people in charge of children make. So I’ll create a distinction between them that might help you separate their functions:

Discipline is preventive, and involves example, instruction, mentoring, and verbal admonition. Most people find no problem with self-discipline, but that begins with discipline training.

Correction is responsive, but not reactionary. Your first corrective steps don’t necessarily need to include physical punishment, but can involve verbal admonition—as contrasted with verbal abuse—and restricting privileges. Punishment should be reserved for when the first steps go unheeded.

Tragically, many parents have lost the distinction between correction and abuse, inflicting blows and demeaning words with a fury that is truly cruel and unusual punishment. Even more tragically, bureaucrats feel compelled to interfere with everyone’s correctional practices, whether or not they are, in fact, abusive. Such bureaucrats even count Biblical instruction as child abuse.

Correction vs. Abuse

Now we’ll bounce back to the Good Old Days, when child-rearing “authorities” claimed correction was tantamount to
. Wait a minute; that’s today. Believe it or not, some circles think permissiveness is the humane child-rearing method. These “compassionate” folks somehow fail to connect the dots of self-discipline and success in life. To them, “discipline” is a four-letter word.

What was academically correct child rearing in the quaint, olden days, is now mandated under “Political Correctness Doctrine,” which deems spanking and hitting as synonymous. Admittedly, the two can look similar, so I understand the confusion, but the distinction between correction and abuse is not the action, but the corrector’s attitude. If it’s a controlled response administered with instruction, it’s correction. If uncontrolled, it’s abuse, and often involves physically injuring the child.

I mentioned example as one of discipline’s key elements, along with instruction, mentoring, and verbal admonition. But example also works from the opposite end of the moral continuum. Kids who suffer physical and verbal abuse become students of that destructive behavior, passing it on to their kids, and anyone who gets in their way.

Abuse By Any Other Name Is Just As Obnoxious

While physical abuse is one extreme, fear of impinging on children’s “rights” to do whatever they darn well please is the opposite extreme. And the notion that rights and responsibilities are inextricably linked? Fergetaboutit! Let ’em learn the hard way. If their folly kills them, why, that’s tragic, but not as bad as trying to teach them something before they hurt themselves, or worse.

Those nameless, faceless, bureaucratic “authorities” pin violent behavior on any kind of corporal punishment. There’s that example idea again. Their mantra is, “Spank your child, he/she learns to hit.” That’s one of those lies that sounds good because it’s part truth.

The whole truth is, discipline and correction by the terms I’ve laid out are essential for kids to learn positive, constructive life-habits. Ignore them, and they are just as sure to develop self-destructive, or even violent, antisocial, behavior. What form of abuse is worse than that?

The Secret

Remember, either path perpetuates itself. If you’re the product of the wrong way, but willing to break the cycle, it’s never too late to change. If that’s what you want, you have two choices:

The one most people choose is to doggedly, painfully, modify the negative behaviors one at a time, hoping for the best. Have you ever tried to stop breathing? That’s the magnitude of reformation’s boot-strap method. Lotsa luck.

The other way is the only sure way to change. Let God do it for you. If you want it badly enough, all it takes is dying to yourself as the Bible says, through the powerful blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and rebirth in his Spirit. If you won’t do that, you’re obviously okay with the downward path, for yourself, for your children, and for generations after them.


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