Discipline can conjure up a variety of images in our mind. But the root of the word just means “to learn”. A disciple is a follower, or learner. And our role as parents, is to train our children.
My daughter is capable in school. What she lacks, is effort. Laziness is a hard quality to train out of a child. Especially when the child is stubborn.
As a mule.
You know when a cat jumps onto a shelf. You see it and yell across the room at it. Then the cat looks you straight in the eye and paws at the porcelain figurine, knocking it to the floor. Then proceeds to stretch in the now vacant spot in exaggerated non-sorry fashion.
That’s my daughter.
Sassy. Stubborn. She is a delicate mix of sugar and spice. Fire and ice. Sensitivity and absolute viciousness. Which makes discipline an art form as much as a scientific study.
Anything too harsh causes tears and meltdowns. Anything too soft causes an indifferent shrug of her shoulders as she flicks off the discipline like an annoying leaf on her shoulder. She drives. Me. Crazy.
So, back to the school. She’s capable. She’s smart. She’s lazy. The amount of effort it takes ME to stay on top of HER to do her work well could equate to a full time occupation. Anything she can get away with, she will.
So last night, I graded the last three lessons of math work. She got D’s or F’s on all three. I stomp into the dining room and announce that she has earned the privilege of doing all 120 problems again. She spent two and a half hours of her Monday night with no TV, games or books, just math, which she earned. But, I got to spend my Monday night, regrading her work. Okay, no biggie, right. Twenty minutes tops. But after her grades are still C’s (stubborn remember. Even redoing work doesn’t make her want to do it well), I take two hours from MY evening to go over every problem she got wrong, to make sure she is understanding all the concepts before the next day’s lessons propel her even farther forward on the ladder of math learning.
As we go over these problems, my frustration continues to mount as we go through her flimsy excuse of showing her work, because 80% of them are silly mistakes or her skipping steps. So my time just got poured into a girl who didn’t really need it if she would just keep her work neat, orderly and in proper steps. Summarize? A little. More. Effort.
It takes so much commitment to discipline. Sometimes it’d be so much easier just to skip it. Less drama. Less anger. Less frustration. Less tears. Less attitude. Less consuming of my time. Discipline is hard work. It costs my time and energy. But so, so worth it.
As a parent, my job is more than keeping my child safe. It is more than having fun and making them happy. I am responsible for making them responsible. I am the one who is to teach them the lesson that laziness doesn’t pay well. And to teach them that lesson, I cannot be a lazy parent. Especially if they’re stubborn. (Have I mentioned her stubbornness. Oh, yeah, I did.)
Forget the fact that kids don’t like discipline. I don’t like it. I don’t like that it takes so much mental energy. I don’t like that it is emotionally exhausting. I don’t like that there are moments that my child sees me as the enemy. I don’t like how much of my time it takes to actually follow up on the disciplinary measures I meet out. I’d much rather have spent my Monday night relaxing than going over math problems and seeing my blood pressure rise.
Our love for our children is shown in our willingness to temporarily become their enemy in order to teach and guide them into lifelong lessons of hard work, respect, honesty and integrity. If we just focus on keeping them happy, we are actually just showing how much we love ourselves; our own comfort and ease and peace. Sometimes it reveals our own desire for them to like us instead of hate us. Sometimes it reveals our guilty conscience for whatever else we feel we aren’t giving them that we feel they deserve.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t produce anything good. Invest into your kids. Invest into their education. You are their teacher.
Join me in banging my head against the wall on a Monday night, groaning and muttering inside my own head. You’ll be glad you did. It may take years, but you’ll be glad you did. (You may have to remind me of this the next time I want to scream bloody murder. Are there parent support groups?)
As the saying goes, “I’m not raising my kids to like me…I’m raising them so I’ll like them.”