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I’m sharing an article written when my children were in elementary school.
Many years ago, when I was just out of college, I felt I knew a great deal about many things. I was quite free with advice on the subject of rearing children.
To me, the formula for disciplining a child was quite simple — you tell the child what he should do or not do, and if he doesn’t obey, you administer punishment. Telling him once should be sufficient or there are consequences. The child would learn quickly, and the parent would not have to discipline again on that issue. Of course, I had no children then to daunt me or test my ideas.
As years have passed and four children have been added to our family, more than one of my many ideas have had to be thrown out. The farther I go in this business, the less and less I know about it. So, before I don’t know anything at all, I thought that I had better give you what remaining thoughts I have on the subject.
Seriously, the years have helped me see more clearly some important guiding principles in rearing healthy and happy children. I can also see what is desirable in a parent, though I fall so very short of the ideal that there are many days I feel like handing in my resignation (if I only knew to whom to give it).
Because we see so many fine people these days rearing problem children, I feel compelled to share my remaining wisdom on the subject even though I realize that to do so will put me in quite a vulnerable position. If I were really smart, I would wait until my family is grown and we move to another town before sharing these “pearls of wisdom.” It would be less easy for people to point at me and show where I haven’t succeeded. It’s said, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” So here goes.
Be consistent with what you say. If you tell him to do something, see that he does it. Many parents ignore their children’s offenses because they’re too lazy to correct or punish. When the parent gets very annoyed by the child’s behavior, the parent may get angry and punish too severely. I believe this is when much child abuse occurs.
Another valuable principle is to give your child responsibility. All of us learn best by doing. Completing a job and doing it well is a great character-builder. When my children were in high school and I was teaching school, when Saturday rolled around, each child had jobs to do. Each one was responsible for cleaning his or her room and taking turns cleaning the general areas — bathroom, living room, family room and Mom did the kitchen. (Dad was in his office finishing the church bulletin and sermon preparation.)
We who are trying to teach our children how to carry out jobs find it hard with all the modern conveniences to find something for them to do. With electricity, modern heating, cooling and numerous appliances available, there are not as many necessary tasks around the house.
Often, we parents would rather do the jobs ourselves than be bothered with helping children learn how to do them. In fact, it takes twice as much effort on my part to get jobs done than to do them myself, after having to listen to the complaints and excuses from the particular child and checking several times to see if the job is being done. But I know that he is not doing me a favor to help me with the work. Instead, I am doing him a favor by teaching him how to work. When a mess is left by a child who is old enough, have him help clean it up for he needs to take responsibility for his actions.
Ruth Justice Moorer, a resident of Las Cruces since 1996, is a former public-school science teacher and United Methodist pastor.