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Embarrassed by children

By Jim Killebrew

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[January 16, 2014]  Parents are sometimes embarrassed by their children in public places because the child becomes unruly or "acts out" in those public places like grocery stores or malls. The child sees something that attracts him and he wants it immediately; the parent intervenes and the child reacts with tantrum behavior. In today's society one wonders who actually runs the household: the parents or the children.

A child learns from an early age how to gain interaction and attention. A newborn will cry or make other noises to attract the attention of the parent, who responds with something to mitigate the displeasure or discomfort the child is experiencing. That cause-and-effect relationship pairing is learned very early in life. Once learned, the child uses that information to their advantage to control situations to continue receiving pleasure by having things "their own way."

Modern childhood development theory suggests that children should be given the freedom to "think for themselves" and move toward what is "best" for them. To place too much control or guidance on a child, some believe, is to "thwart" their growth and development. The consequence of that ends with an emotionally disturbed child who grows into an emotionally disturbed adult. Christian living experiences tend to refute that theory and suggest that the parent should take a strong role in the development and growth of their child.

Solomon wrote in his Proverbs: "Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."  Proverbs 22:6

This suggests that parents should start early to establish the patterns of training in the right, moral path. It suggests that parents should begin early and dedicate their child to the Lord and establish a pattern of training that leads the child in the right direction. To teach knowledge and morality is very important beginning at an early age, but may be beneficial to begin at any age.

Solomon maintained that there were only two ways of seeking knowledge: the way of the wise or righteousness, or the way of foolishness. In modern society the trend is toward that which is "good" or that which is "bad." A better trend of teaching is toward that which is "right" and not that which is "wrong." A parent who sets his child on the "right" path early in life and keeps the child on the "right" path will have a child who will likely remain faithful to that teaching and learning.

To leave a child to find his own way is to abandon the responsibility and hard work in training the child. Solomon declares: "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him."  Proverbs 22:15

Don't repel at the sound of the "rod" and think it means beating the child into submission. This more likely represents using the open hand on the posterior, in a way that provides direction to the child in the way he should make right rather than wrong choices. It does add a facet of meaning of punishment to teach the child to give up foolish ways and develop the potential that is within him or her. The idea is to bring about a correction from foolish behaviors that if left unabated, will eventually lead to corruption and wrong practice instead of acceptance of the appropriate behaviors. Redirection from foolish behavior toward more appropriate behaviors, followed by gentle pleasantness, is an excellent teaching method. It teaches the child the skill of discriminating right from wrong and does so in a safe environment.

Earlier in Proverbs Solomon noted: "Discipline your child, for there is hope, but do not set your heart on causing his death."  Proverbs 19:18

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The time in a child's life when guidance is the easiest is when he is young; there is still hope for learning and change. Younger children have not yet established patterns of behavior that must be "unlearned" prior to learning new, more appropriate behaviors. When a parent decides to let the child "decide for himself" and do what he wants, the parent becomes an advocate for the child to misbehave. When the child misbehaves consistently and often, patterns are formed that are life-lasting. Later in life those "childish" behaviors become adult behaviors that are intolerable to those who work and live with that individual. In the end, as an adult, this intolerable behavior pattern is almost like experiencing death.

Discipline is not a bad thing. To some, discipline means to teach or the process of learning. Jesus had disciples whom He taught, guided and sometimes chastened. To others, perhaps wrongly, discipline always means a form of violent, corporal punishment. Evidence has demonstrated that is ineffective. It teaches the child what not to do but fails to provide direction toward the appropriate thing to do. Corporal punishment is more likely a reinforcement for the adult, with little effect upon the child.

The fact is that the youngest children do not know how to make decisions that are morally correct. They do not have sufficient knowledge or experience to have insight into their actions and the final outcomes those actions produce. Children operate on emotion and pleasure. They seek what is best in their own mind and pay no or little attention to how their actions affect others. They are impulsive and want the pleasure of having their own way immediately. They quickly learn to manipulate situations by starting to cry or engaging in a tantrum or other misbehavior. The parent should not let the crying avert the discipline; it only teaches the child to increase efforts to engage in behaviors to avoid discipline. The likely consequence of that pattern of behavior is that the child becomes more unruly and matures into an unruly adult.

Finally, Solomon wrote: "The one who robs his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and disgrace. If you stop listening to instruction, my child, you will stray from the words of knowledge."  Proverbs 19:26-27

A child who consistently refrains from listening and heeding the instruction of wisdom and righteousness will eventually become a "robber" by taking authority, reputation and family dignity from both parents. Of course the ideal is for the child to never stop listening to instruction and words of knowledge, but if he does, the likely result will be to stray from those words and suffer the consequences of that error.

In the Christian living experience, the education of the children begins with the parents, continues with the parents and ends with the parents. The so-called mandated, public education is only supplemental to parental guidance to learning life.


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