My wife and I were treated a week or so ago with the opportunity to babysit for a few hours with our granddaughter. Tana is two and a half now, and it is not always nursery rhymes and giggles and kisses for Meme and Poppa. Yes, even this angelic, adorable bundle of life and energy is starting to explore the power that she has, the ways to get what she wants and to order the world to her own hand.
Discipline, as an activity and as a word, has fallen out of favor with the experts in child rearing. Discipline is seen as harsh and retributive and having no place in the raising of a child. When I talk about discipline, I am not talking about any sort of physical force brought to bear on a child. What I am talking about is teaching children, at a very young age, that they are responsible for their actions. Their actions, even as children, have consequences, and those consequences can affect a great many things.
Every one of us has watched this drama play out. The child that will not play nice with others is gathered up in the loving arms of its parents and put in another play group, and another. The child that will not do his homework gets a tutor, or is moved to another class, and another. I believe a case can be made that when these children grow up, the lack of discipline as a child can result in an adult with a paucity of self discipline.
We know that some children have developmental problems, and those children should be given all the professional help and support their parents and doctors and the community can provide. But we too quickly take the responsibility off the child and the parents and look to other reasons for what is happening.
The result of this is often sad, and frequently tragic. The conflict results when this individual begins to operate, as an adult, in a world that demands structure and discipline. And the world can be a very harsh teacher.
We have witnessed what happens when the orbit that is set for us by the laws, rules and regulations of a civilized society is upset by the lack of self discipline. We wring our hands and moan about a terrible automobile accident. The three reckless driving tickets and the two DWIs are overlooked. And we search for something to call it that does not reflect a lack of self discipline.
To repeat, there are many cases that do not fit the bounds of the proposition stated in these few paragraphs. But we quickly jump to alternate conclusions at our own peril.
I continue to believe the words on a small picture that hangs in my home. The picture shows a little girl in a dark print dress, looking down a long dirt road, framed by a white board fence. The words are simple: Children are really the only future the human race has. Teach them well.