Uh oh – the dreaded “spanking” post

father son holding hands

The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.

Prov 29.15

We spanked our children. Some more than others, but we did. I’d like to say at all times they deserved it, but I’m sure that’s not entirely true. I’d like to say I never did it in anger, but I know that’s not true. But did I always do it in love and with intentions to train – absolutely. God gave me these little people to raise and cherish, and honour and mold and shape the gift they are to the world. It’s a big deal raising a child. And as such, with the love of a father, discipline included hugs and chats, conversation and listening, but for us it also included spanks, time outs, or squeezes of the hand. 

This stopped for most of my kids by the time they reached school age, but sometimes extended beyond it – up to grade three I think. By those ages, reasoning and other consequences took precedence. Plus, they say up to age five you’ve done 80% of your work in disciplining your children. (Don’t be scared by that statement if it frightens you – it frightened me. I just kept calling on the grace of God and the love of God to cover a multitude of wrongs. Parenting choices included…)

Some people used different things to spank and some didn’t spank at all. We interviewed and observed a lot of families about this. In my own childhood I only remember being threatened with the belt. One time I remember making my mom cry, and when my dad came home from work and found out about it, he chased me up the stairs pulling his belt out of his work pants as he followed me. I still have vivid images of that moment, now with laughter. I’ve never run so fast in my life as that day. I’ve never been more grateful to hear him say, “You better stay in that time out until I come get you” in my life. I welcomed that time out in lieu of belt spanking. But I will say being chased up the stairs in jest by Ali still makes me squirm. But, my dad assures me that I was spanked as a child. I just have no recollection. That just tells me the other experiences far outweigh the memory of those linked to spanks.

For us, I’d say 95% was done with the hand spank or squeezing the hand. It was easier to gauge how much it actually hurt if we felt it too. On a few times did we use a wooden spoon, but that had a more convincing result. A quick, single whack worked wonders. But, Ali didn’t like us using any sort of implement and I agreed for the most part. She recalled an instance from her childhood where she stole the spoon from her mom and used it to whack her back. We peel with laughter now thinking of little Ali trying to “spank” her mom.

We had pretty strict rules about spanking. The most we were ever to give in one instance was three spanks, and that was usually reserved for lying or sometimes willful, repeated disobedience. I admit a few times I spanked 5 times for willful disobedience, but I always got disciplined by Ali afterwards and I would have to go apologize to the children as a result.

But overall, lying was the worst thing you could do in our home, and still is to be honest. No matter what the situation, if you were honest it resulted in leniency. Consequences were measured according to your honesty. Even to this day, I believe our kids are as honest with us as they are because we laid this foundation while they were children.

And to help with honesty, we’d always explain that we expected full disclosure or the consequences would be higher. And it’s also great that kids are horrible liars in general, so the “God gives mommies and daddies special ability to know when their kids are telling the truth and when they’re not” was an easy trump card to play. Our kids thought simple discernment was like a superpower from God to parents. 🙂 So this has allowed trust to grow exponentially in our house (in most situations). But I’ll talk more about disclosure in another entry (Proverbs 20:12).

But back to spanking – each child’s needs differed. With our daughter I just needed to speak sternly to her – I maybe threatened spanks but that was as far as it got. We rarely had to spank her for that reason.

In my own life, I’ve learned how being honest with the Lord because otherwise he allows my circumstances to discipline me until I’m honest with the Lord and honest with myself. Sure, grace and mercy are always available, but when you ask the Lord to refine you, there are some things that God can’t let mercy and grace do the work of in the fire. David had to endure hardship with Saul, Moses had to walk through some tough stuff – all to grow in their honesty with the Lord and with themselves. It made them better leaders. And, once I have been honest with the Lord and with myself, at the point when discipline has been received, he can reason and teach me so much more.

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He’s not a bad boy

wheat field_edited

Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul

Prov 29.17

Discipline is an interesting word. It’s from the same root word as disciple. Disciple is not as scary a word as discipline is. Discipline suggests heavy correction, negative consequences to bad choices. But disciple suggests teaching a better way.

With our kids, we were careful to not call them “Bad boy” or “good boy” when we spoke to them about an action they undertook. Their inherent goodness was unrelated to their actions – they were always good children – they just made good or bad choices. Their identity, first and foremost, was that they were good kids. We wanted them to know they were loved and important and a joy to us. But when they did dishonourable things, they made bad choices, we recognized that this was what we were needing to deal with, not who they were to us. WE were disciple-ing their choice-making ability, not who God made them. They are made in His image.

But there were definitely days I struggled with discipling our children. One of them was particularly strong willed and he was a tough nut to crack. He was a biter, a poo-smearer (yuck!), extremely jealous of others – so much so that he’d bop anyone whom he felt encroached in on a close friendship. He was sent home several times from school for bullying behaviour in kindergarten for that very reason. Man that was a tough season.

But we called on the Lord, we asked for help from Him. We sought out families who raised kids who seemed to be tackling life successfully (this is so important to do) and we talked ad nauseum with each other so Ali and I knew we were on the same page (equally important). We attempted to be consistent in our discipline so our child would know cause and effect. It worked well sometimes but to be honest it was exhausting. There were moments, days, weeks that we would want to throw in the towel and just let him do what he wanted.

But, God never gives up on us, and so we didn’t either. Now, there were times when we consequence our son and we saw he was backed into a corner by us and he couldn’t see anyway out. Even though we were consistent and clear in our expectations, he somehow couldn’t break the cycle of behaviour. As a result, we realized we had to have jubilee moments. Jubilee was an old testament term that meant debts were forgiven. Ali and I would see he was unable to get himself out of a predicament he’d gotten himself into. You could see in his eyes that he didn’t know how to break the rebellion. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” was our safeguard in those moments. We’d pull him out of his never-ending time out (he’d cross the line every time he was given a reprieve so back he’d have to go into another time out). We’d sit him down and tell him we loved him and we’re only giving him consequences for his wrong choices and that life would be much easier if he simply honoured us (Exodus 20.12). And, we’d explain that he needs to know how much more enjoyable life is when you listen to your parents’ instruction. Then we’d share about the mercy of Christ in words understandable to a toddler, and tell him we were letting him off because God loves to bring mercy, but also know that our son will continue to struggle and not enjoy this area of his life until he heeds our discipline.

With our kids, we were careful to not call them “Bad boy” or “good boy” when we spoke to them about an action they undertook. Their inherent goodness was unrelated to their actions – they were always good children – they just made good or bad choices.

It was a good reminder for me that God will continue to allow things to happen to me to discipline me. And, until I learn those things, I won’t have let discipline change me. Disciple-ing will continue until I give up and give into God’s love and better way for me.

I’m grateful to say that my son now enjoys much freedom, no longer poo-smears, no longer bites, and loves life. He’s strong and loyal, but in the right ways. He still has issues but life’s like that. Always an opportunity to experience the grace, mercy and love of God.

There’s always a backstory…

“Ears to hear and eyes to see – both are gifts from the Lord”

Prov 20.12

backstory

there’s always a backstory, uncommon ways

Whenever we ask our kids about circumstances and situations that we know they are wrestling with, we’ve found the most effective way to deal with it is through the eyes and ears of the Spirit. What’s the backstory? What’s their body language displaying that we need to observe? What they aren’t saying is often just as important as what they are saying.

The Holy Spirit prays through us in the Spirit because we often get in the way with our words. They are often inadequate or only tell part of the story. So, the same is true when we listen to our kids. Sometimes their words get in the way, wittingly or unwittingly. It’s our job to let their guarded speech to run its course – that’s when the words that really carry meaning follow.

When we do this, through open ended questions, allowing for uncomfortable pauses and silences, we get to the heart of the matter much faster.

Perhaps your child has a real desire to please you; the last thing they will want to admit to something they think will displease you. For example, my daughter might say “I got my test back – a bunch of people failed.” I know she didn’t do well and she’s attempting to cough it with a “it could have been worse.” The test mark isn’t what’s important here – it’s her self-worth and how I want to value her willingness to tell me anything, no matter how she thinks I will feel. Because in 10 years, it won’t be a poor test mark she might be coming to me with. It might be something much more important. So, I’m setting the ground rules now.

allowing for uncomfortable pauses and silences, we get to the heart of the matter much faster.

My response is not one of anger. I may be disappointed and may even tell her so, but I need to take her to a place where she has hope and expectation that next time will be better. Here I would share an experience in my own childhood when I knew I had failed or done poorly, and how disappointed I was in myself. How I knew I could have done better and how I was afraid to let my parents down. I’d speak of learning to be honest. Taking the consequences are second to knowing the better way, the love of my parents that will help me move on.

As I share my experiences and my own feelings, I’m teaching my daughter how to evaluate the circumstance herself – recognize triggers and disappointments. I share experiences with her that her dad – her hero still – survived bad tests, and remind her that parents are people who understand.

That means when she goes through her first break up or her first tough problem, she’ll be more likely to tell me, evaluate it herself in a mature fashion, and get through it that much faster.

There’s always a backstory – our children’s and ours – that the Holy Spirit will lead us to as we open our eyes and ears.

Father, teach me by your Spirit to have ears to hear and eyes to see – help me to embrace those gifts as a parent and allow my children to learn from my example.

Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without the advice of others.
Prov 20:18

Uncommon Ways - Raising children

It takes a village to raise a child

Why reinvent the wheel? Every time Ali and I encounter a new phase of life – marriage, first car, first home, first child, debt, toddlers, school and teachers, teens, the first one leaves home, we would inevitably look to those who’ve gone before us and ask them what they did. We listen, we talk, we ask questions, and then…
…we synthesized. We listened to each other – what had we taken from all the counsel, what does the Bible say, what do our leaders recommend, and then we act.
It saved us from a lot of unnecessary battles and failures. Sure, we still made mistakes – loads of them – but I can only imagine how many more we would have made if we hadn’t taken counsel.
Counsel doesn’t mean just in times of difficulty. We constantly amass good strategies for tackling life in our home. At one point I thought we’d eventually have our lives running on all cylinders, but each season seems to upset some aspect of our groove. There’s always need for adjusting, and realigning, so good counsel never goes out of style.
There’s an old adage that says “It takes a village to raise a child.” I think we have lost some of this over the decades with the prominence of individualism, political correctness and pluralism. We are largely for “what is good for me” marriages and families. As a result, we’ve seen people foray into ubiquitous partner swapping and infidelity. We’ve seen the rise of the child as the centre of the family – where the child’s needs and wants outweigh what’s best for the family. Heaven forbid if social standards for manners and socially acceptable boundaries are thrown aside – tried and true standard of respect and honour are abandoned. This leads to unbridled and undisciplined children who are free to speak unruly to their parents and other adults, have temper tantrums that are left unchecked, because we as parents have encouraged our children to think we’re equals and they are not in need of discipline.
We have such a wealth of knowledge in those whom have gone before us. People who have walked the walk and learned which way to go and which way to avoid.
As a result, Ali and I – since our children were babies – have fostered extensive interaction between our children and those in our church. We are grateful for the families who said they wanted to take our children for an evening or afternoon, or even overnight. We knew that our children were being parented by other adults we trusted and we knew that they would grow with a healthy respect and honour of those in our community. And, they would recognize their part of a bigger community than our nuclear family. It has helped shape them to be very comfortable seeking counsel from many advisors now. They reach out to people in their 20s to 80s for insight, advice and to listen to their stories. But that would not have happened, I don’t believe, if we hadn’t started with them when they were young, exposing them to our wider community and trusting those individuals with our most precious possession – our children’s well-being.
It is true that it takes a village to raise a child. And I, for one, am grateful.

 

Wise lips and protected ears

Keep their ears from harm

#grace #discipleship #parenting #tenderhearts

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is incredibly powerful. The ultimate desire is to teach my children to value and honour the gift in others, the life that others have lived. This requires a laying down of hurts or failed expectations that I have for myself or others, and walking out in understanding and compassion. Heaven knows that they must have compassion for me. So, who am I to judge someone for failing to meet my expectations when for sure I have failed to meet someone’s at some time in my life. This is sobering.

But, as much as I can, I live the life I want my children and those I lead to aspire to. When my children were young, they saw things but their grace and forgiveness level was enormous. But, as they get older, their opinions about how I live become more developed. They see how much time I spend away from the home supporting others. They see how often I have my device in my hand. They see the way I touch and care for Ali. They see the way I speak of others when they’re not around.

That’s a perfect example – a community is built not through disharmony and strife but through acceptance and encouragement. I am grateful that Ali and I have worked incredibly hard to speak well of others around our children – even when we struggle with their actions or intentions. We may cry in private, but in public we honour the person. We want our children to make their own judgments about people, and not be held to their parent’s feelings or emotions. We can do more damage to their development. If they take on any of our hurts or failed expectations, then we are asking them to make mature decisions to walk that out as we would as adults. That’s not fair to their psyches. They are capable of a lot, but having to walk out our issues with people is not one we should put on them.

Thus, my children have wonderful relationships with people young and old. They speak well of others, and if there is offense or misunderstanding, they assume the best of the person and come to us to understand why something went south. And, as safe as we can be, we walk them through their emotions and help them recognize that each of us has an opportunity to bless and cover other people’s weaknesses. That doesn’t mean we excuse them, or don’t put up boundaries when we need to, but it does mean that when something does go wrong, we recognize that this is where humanity meets grace.

So, as I walk through my day to day, I recognize that I have four little people in my home, and countless others around me who are watching me as I act and react. It’s not to put pressure on me to be perfect. No, not at all. But what it does remind me of is the desire to “shine like stars in the universe.”

Discipleship 101

“Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future lies before those who love peace.”

Psalm 38.37, NLT

#uncommonways #discipleship #parenting #relationships

#followtheleader #uncommonways #discipleship

Getting married or having children can be daunting to consider all the things we don’t know. There were many times Ali and I could have been overwhelmed at the prospects of what to do. What if we make mistakes? What if we are absolutely clueless on what to do? We began to talk, even before we were married, about what kind of life we wanted to build. But, how were we going to learn how to do it? Our parents had taught us things, but there was so much more to learn.

So, one of the first things Ali and I did when we spoke about our relationship was finding people – couples and families – that emulated what we wanted in our home.

We spent a great deal of time watching – observing families and couples to see how they interacted, how they showed love to each other. Not only how they loved their kids, but how their kids loved them back.

As we saw what they were like in private and in public, we began to describe what we saw. We found this the best way to determine what hallmarks we wanted for our family.

Discipleship can be as simple as that – making yourself known to others in authenticity and vulnerability, allowing others to learn from your successes and mistakes. And, for those who want to be discipled – the best way to be discipled is to offer to serve those who can disciple you. Run with those who are running because if you want them to stop running to take time with you, then you aren’t seeing them in action.

Cheers!

Defining moments

Ok – I’m going to need some amen’s here.

God is all seeing. God is all present. God is all knowing. God is everywhere.

God has always been. He is now. And He always will be.

There is nothing that can be hidden from the Lord.

God orders my steps. God orders your steps.

In Him we move, we live and we have our being….

Being = existence, purpose, experience of life.

When God chose David, he chose him as a boy but he saw him as a King. When God gave Hannah Samuel, He gave him as a son, but called him as a Prophet. When God called Joshua and Caleb, he started them as scouts, but He made them to be warriors. When God called Joseph, He was rejected but God made Him powerful.

What makes these men amazing? Their start in their life? Their end in life? No – that God called them to for His purpose and His purposes alone.

But, if David had listened to Saul and his army or even Goliath, I would venture he wouldn’t have become King. If Hannah had accepted her plight in life as being barren, then she would never have prayed a prayer for fertility. If Joshua and Caleb had seen the giants in their scouting expedition more than they saw God, Israel would never have crossed over. And if Joseph had accepted rejection by his brothers and being jailed unjustly, he never would have been made senior advisor to Pharaoh.

In all of these examples, God took the faith of each man to overcome the enemy. God saw each man, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient – he knew everything about these men. He saw them and he called them. Whe he spoke to each man, they were in their most challenging place emotionally – Gideon was hiding in a wine press, hiding from the enemy; Moses had run away from all that he was because he murdered a man, David was was a man who was an adulterer, Peter was a man who put his foot in his mouth countless times! And yet, God chose them to turn their worlds upside down.

This year, I don’t care if you have had or are going to have trials or tribulations, if you are knocked down, pressed down, thrown into the fire like Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego, or thrown into a well like Joseph was thrown into one like his brothers. In the most unlikeliest of locations, God calls us into greatness. God delivers us, takes us out of the wells, takes us from the battles we face in our lives, and he makes them the very stepping ground for victorious living. David became king, Joseph became the administrator of all of Pharaoh’s kingdom, Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-Nego lived in favour in their land, Peter preached the word, full of the Spirit, and thousands came to salvation in that one moment, Joshua and Caleb led the people into a land of promise, of giant slaying and great signs.

And yet, each of these men had qualities and character that led them into a lifestyle of victory – attitudes that God saw within them even when they were in their darkest hours. I would like to suggest to you that these were qualities that God honours in each of us:

  1. Embrace the promise
  2. Be quick to repent
  3. Discipline yourself
  4. Live in a holy dissatisfaction of anything less that the best you
  5. Have faith in the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God

You were formed in your mother’s womb with God’s eternity planted in your heart. He has plans and purposes for you – plans to raise you up, give you a hope and a future. His destiny is not to destroy you or bring you down. So, if you are down, are feeling slighted or knocked around, just know that God’s still delivering you into your purposes. And perhaps your purpose right now is to hold fast to him, just like Daniel did in the lion’s den, as David did in the cave, as Joseph did in prison. In their very darkest hours, God delivered them. God’s best for you is nothing short of deliverance into purpose.

In the eye of the beholder

The fear of success can be a struggle as real as the fear of failure.

Take me, for instance. In writing, with the intent to publish, I am effectively throwing out my ideas and thoughts to not only those that know me but those who have no idea who I am.

So, what if my writing funds great success. What if my writings reach more than a few hundred people who know me and love me and are willing to humour my musings.

What if it reaches thousands and friends refer it to friends? And what if those people come to my church and meet me and listen to me. This is where the fear of success comes in:

What if people don’t like the real me? What if they think I was actually disingenuous in my writings after they see the real me? Would they want their money back? Would they write reports of how I’m not actually the person I purported to be?

My fear is that people will think I’m a poser, an imposter, and won’t like the “real” me. What if they think I’m not worth all the hullaballoo?

But do you know what God’s response is to me? Love yourself. How about you take the perspective that you are made worthy by me of the success? How can you hope to love others through your writing if you can’t live yourself.

And so I write. To not is to no one’s benefit. But to write means I believe that old saying that “God don’t make no junk.”

Above Reproach

Phrases

above (or beyond) reproach

Such that no criticism can be made; perfect: his integrity is beyond reproach
In the circles I travel in, this phrase “Above Reproach” is often referred to when discussing propriety in pastoral care. It references the fine line between getting yourself into a situation where others may question, or perhaps even accuse you of unethical or immoral behaviour.
But I am finding I want to concern myself less with what I should be avoiding in favour of what I should be pursuing. If I am always concerned about being above reproach in my relationships and my thought-life, then I am focusing on what could potentially go wrong or what appearance I might have, and it might paralyze me from taking action.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for being appropriate and above board – but rather than worrying if I’m escaping the fires of hell licking my heels, I’d rather be reaching forward to the pursuit of being the best person I can be with the talents and skills God has given me.
How much more fulfilling is it to fill my thoughts with the what if’s of success than the what if’s of failure. One perspective has me continually looking over my shoulder for my accusers, whilst the other has me pressing forward looking for fellow pursuers of excellence.
What if we changed Above Reproach from being a negative to a positive. What if being above reproach was an exciting dynamic of “Look over here, world – God’s doing something amazing. You’ll want to see this!” rather than “Don’t look my way in case I’ve crossed a boundary I shouldn’t have crossed.
Keeping your eye on the pursuit of excellence is a pursuit worthy of my time.