Kindly, permit me to submit that this is the last piece (at least for now) of my series on CHILDHOOD and preservation of same. Also permit me to also warn that it is the longest. I appeal to you to please bear with the uneasy infirmity of long reading in the best interest of our children. Thank you as you read to the end…
Concluding my short treatise last week, discussing on Childhood as the cost of ‘raising’ today’s African Child, I shared, ‘I think one sure way of preserving CHILDHOOD is through discipline.’ I promised, ‘right here next week, I will share my researched perspectives on DISCIPLINE as a tool of preserving CHILDHOOD.’
I am here today to keep my promise. Permit me to declare that CHILDHOOD, a gift bestowed on a child for his her existence, dominion and difference in life must be preserved by all means. In employing discipline as a tool to achieve the foregoing, I think there are 5 fundamental questions every primary and secondary caregiver must ask and answer appropriately…
The sad thing is that many caregivers have robbed the child of CHILDHOOD in the name of discipline. In fact, the concept of discipline is the most misunderstood and abused in the relationship between the caregivers and the child. Another one that is very much misunderstood is communication with children. It may shock us to find that only few caregivers ever communicate with children, yes very few…
Let me attempt to ask and answer the 5 questions:
1. Who is a child? We cannot discipline a child we do not know and until we learn of and from the child, we cannot know the child. Until we know the child, we cannot know his needs; until we know his needs, we cannot meet them or help him to meet same through discipline. I describe a child as a person, who is made in the image of God, fully endowed spirit, soul and body to DISCOVER and FULFILL a DIVINE plan through the handlers’ discovery, understanding, preservation and nurturing of CHILDHOOD, which main characteristics include CURIOSITY, FREEDOM, PEACE, JOY, INNOCENCE and FEARLESSNESS.
2. What is child’s discipline? The term “discipline” comes from the Latin word “disciplinare,” which means “to teach.” Many people, however, associate the word with punishment, which falls short of the full meaning of the word… A renowned author says and I verily believe: ‘discipline has nothing to do with punishment. Punishment is imposing something unpleasant on a person in response to behavior deemed wrong by the punisher. Discipline comes from the Latin verb to teach or guide, as does the word Disciple.’
3. Why do we discipline? I think the only reason why we discipline is to preserve CHILDHOOD. Put differently, to preserve the dignity of human person of the child as created by God. When CHILDHOOD is preserved, the child is prepared to fulfill divine purpose. If we agree that the purpose of child discipline is to preserve the child’s dignity of human person, we cannot abuse the child in the process. Why? Abuse robs the child of his dignity of human person. Abuse dehumanizes. Therefore, parents must first be strict with the example we set before we are strict with the child. And even when we are strict with the child, it is possible to still preserve CHILDHOOD. Billy Graham recounted in his autobiography, ‘Just As I Am,’ that ‘in all the strictness of my upbringing, there was no hint of child abuse.’
Through discipline; children are able to learn SELF-CONTROL, SELF-DIRECTION, COMPETENCES, and a SENSE OF CARING. The foregoing are known as inevitable LIFE and SOFT SKILLS, without which a child does not have the capacity to take hold of the present and the future. SOFT SKILLS are behavioral competencies. Also known as Interpersonal Skills, or people skills, they include proficiencies such as communication skills, conflict resolution and negotiation, personal effectiveness, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, team building, influencing skills and more. LIFE SKILLS are behaviors used properly and dutifully in the controlling of personal affairs. They are a set of social skills acquired through observation, teaching or direct experiences. They are necessary for handling problems and question, which we confront daily as human beings. Paramount in the mind of an informed caregiver why he/she disciplines are the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, ‘we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.
4. How do we discipline? I think this is the most contentious as it regards child discipline. This where abuse kicks in. this is where CHILDHOOD is most threatened. I think if we accept the answers to our first 3 questions, we will automatically find answers to this question. If we understand who the child is, what discipline is and the purpose of same, I believe we will get our method right. As far as I am concerned, MOTIVE of child discipline is superior to the METHOD of same.
Permit me to however conclude here that the number one factor in how we discipline child, with a view to preserving and nurturing childhood is EXAMPLE. It is important to note that teaching and guiding begins with example of the caregivers. According to John C. Maxwell, ‘a good example is worth a thousand sermons. What you do have more impact on your child than all the lectures you could give.’ Long before John C. Maxwell, Abraham Lincoln had aptly concluded, ‘there is but one way to train a child the way he should go, and that is to travel it yourself.’ Zig Ziglar says, ‘if you live by example you make few rules!’ That is why I always say that anything a caregiver complains about in a child today, he/she puts it there by his/her example or that of the people, he/she engages to take care of the child. Example is one true area of discipline, we have all neglected today. Every caregiver must first be sober and look inwards when they find their child exhibiting behavior(s) he/she does not like.
5. Who can discipline a child? The only person, who can truly discipline a child, is a person, who has a relationship with the child. Relationship with the child, when motivated by LOVE creates INFLUENCE. LOVE to children means APPRECIATION /ACCEPTANCE and ATTENTION/RELATIONSHIP. What is INFLUENCE? It is when a person willingly submits to the leadership of our values as caregivers and defends same both in our presence and more in our absence. INFLUENCE is the key to SUBMISSION. SUBMISSION is the key to DISCIPLINE. According to Mike Murdock, ‘your absence diminishes your influence.’
Susan Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley drove the point home thus, Susan Wesley as follows: ‘I am a woman, but I am also the mistress of a large family… I cannot but look upon every soul…under my charge as a talent committed to me under a trust. I am not a man nor a minister, yet as a mother and a mistress I felt I ought to do more than I had yet done. I resolved to begin with my own children; in which I observe, the following method: I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart. On Monday I talk with Molly, on Tuesday with Hetty, Wednesday with Nancy, Thursday with Jacky, Friday with Patty, Saturday with Charles…’
Nelson Mandela further hammered on the importance of relationship thus, ‘when your life is the struggle, like mine was, there is little room left for family. That has always been my greatest regret, and most painful aspect of the choice I made. We watched our children grow without our GUIDANCE…TO BE THE FATHER OF A NATION IS A GREAT HONOUR, BUT TO BE THE FATHER OF A FAMILY IS A GREATER JOY. But it was a joy I had far little of.’
As I round up today, permit me to submit that discipline as a tool of preservation and nurturing of CHILDHOOD is impossible without our full attention as caregivers to the last question and the answers provided thereof. Without genuine relationship with the child in the order discussed above, discipline is IMPOSSIBLE! Where discipline is IMPOSSIBLE, CHILDHOOD cannot be preserved.
I thank you all for reading and comments on this series and most importantly, I thank you for you tarrying with me here as I remain sober on my knees on this LORD’s Day pouring out my heart in the defence of the African Child’s CHILDHOOD.
Do have an INSPIRED week.