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Zen And The Art Of Discipline

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Most people are physically capable of parenthood. It takes no talent and very little effort to produce a little miracle. The surreal experience of bringing home a new life is so awe-inspiring that it almost defies description. What I don’t understand is why so many carry their initial awe into upbringing. Their children forever remain miraculous and perfect to the point of excusing all misbehavior. These parents equate unconditional love with unconditional tolerance. Unbelievably, they are unaware of the disservice to their children. They either don’t understand or don’t want to accept their responsibility as parents.

I believe that there is no greater responsibility than parenthood. Becoming a parent is the most important decision one can make because parenthood relates to the formation of a human being who will assimilate into society. It is the parents’ responsibility to mold a child into productive adulthood--not only for the child’s sake, but for the sake of future generations produced by the child. To be a competent parent requires, at the very least, an understanding of the role. I don’t think that most people stop to consider the implications of the role and the necessary sacrifices involved. These necessary sacrifices are extremely mentally and physically taxing.

I was thirty-one when Lauren was born. Over the past eighteen years, I have spent most of my time raising her. I entered into parenthood with an understanding of the personal sacrifice involved. In other words, I had no illusions about parenthood and realized it would be difficult. I purposely waited as long as I did to enjoy and learn from my life as an individual and from my marriage without children. When Lauren was born, I was ready to put her first, no matter how unpleasant or difficult it might be.

While observing other parents, I was surprised to see that most were unwilling to deal with the disturbing aspects of parenthood. Discipline is as unpleasant for parents as it is for their children. It is endless and interferes with adult life most of the time. From my experience, a child will flourish in a disciplined home and is actually relieved of stress by the process. However, the process takes endless mental and physical energy, whether the parent feels like it or not. I have observed that most parents just don’t feel like making the effort.

Time and again I have seen parents deal with their children’s feelings and not their actions. I don’t understand the indulgence, but I know it’s easier. Discussion, rather than action, is required to deal with feelings. You have a talk with the child and your job as a parent is conveniently finished. However, the child never seems to learn because her actions remain unaddressed. There has been no discipline.

A child’s actions are the indicators of the person she is becoming. I must say that I never could crawl inside my daughter’s mind, but I did know what she said and did. If her words and actions were unacceptable, she was disciplined to learn that they would not be tolerated. The discipline was usually inconvenient for me. There was crying involved, my presence was necessary and my routines were disturbed. So what? I thought my daughter’s lesson was more important than my sense of peace and my need for relaxation. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I think that many of today’s parents prefer to relax.

It is easier to selfishly avoid discipline and be a pushover rather than a parent. This self-indulgence ignores responsibility and the child. It effectively ignores the child as well as the behaviors that will carry into adulthood. Discipline is the key to development. I have experienced it as a child and have implemented it as a parent. It was my parents’ duty and it became mine. Someday it will be Lauren’s.

I have found that child rearing is one long succession of disciplines. In fact, I believe that child rearing is synonymous with discipline. Child rearing is assuming the role of teacher to child. To confirm my understanding of discipline as a teaching, I decided to look up the word’s definition. I found that my understanding is now labeled as “obsolete” and that discipline is primarily defined as punishment. I don’t agree. I have always regarded discipline as authoritative and punishment as authoritarian. I don’t appreciate the negative spin of the primary definition and the emotional response it probably evokes. However, the definition may somewhat explain the current trend of parental permissiveness.

Perhaps today’s parents are afraid of the negative connotations of discipline. I can only speculate on the premise, because I can’t relate to it. Here is my experience:

I have been insulted by today’s parents. They have called me a mean mother and have inferred that I was abusive and inconsiderate. Because of my actions, I would create a rebellious child who would hate me.

Early on, I punished my child with spankings when she misbehaved. Outsiders mistakenly likened a spanking to a beating. In their opinion, I should have not only understood, but accepted the feelings that caused Lauren to misbehave. I should have reasoned with her regardless of the immaturity of her thought processes and her inability to communicate them to me. I thought they were foolish and didn’t care what they thought of me or my efforts to maintain parental authority. I was never afraid of rebellion



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