Chapter 1 Post 14

Discipline and the Rules of Engagement:  What Every Parent Needs to Know about the Use of Force

Chapter 1: Values  (micro) versus The Rule of Law (macro)

1. Values

        What do you already know about your own values?  For the first fourteen years of their lives, your children will have no other choice but to adopt your values—or fight them, because the adoption process is never smooth or 100%.

Here’s the catch.  If there are conflicts between what you say you value and how you behave, you are going to be in trouble.  You will believe your own words and thoughts, your children will believe how you act.   Without thinking, you will have set up a four-way values conflict situation.  (1) Your beliefs and your actions are conflicting.  (2) You will fight your children to uphold your beliefs, and your children will fight you as they follow your leads in action.  (3) You will struggle to believe there is no conflict, within you or with your children.  And (4) your children will only experience the whole mess as some sort of battle between you and them that they can never win.

So therefore, they will conclude, you do not love them.

If your children get as far as fourteen believing that you do not love them, any chance you had to influence their thinking and behavior is toast.  The drive for love and acceptance will take your children anywhere they think they need to go, and that will be away from you.

There is no doubt in my mind that love for your children is high up there on that list of the things you value, or you wouldn’t be reading a book for parents.  You may be a teacher or a friend, or you may simply be trying to understand your own experiences.  We may not all have children, but we all have parents and people who have put energy into raising us.  Some of them weren’t very good at it, and we want to grow beyond them.

In making the list of your own values, don’t think about what you would die for.  Even the biggest martyrs for the holiest of causes turn out to be genuinely surprised if they are misused, hurt, or, God forbid, killed.   Don’t think about what you would die for, think about what you would live for.  Think about what you would live for if you did not have your children to live for.  Think about that.

Think about the fact that no one’s life is improved if they are the sole purpose, the sole focus, of another person’s life.  Even a caring mother, even a devoted father.  Parents who love their children, love life.  Thoughtfully—or with no thought at all—parents pull their children with them through life, showing them in words and in action what is important, what needs to be tended to, what has to be done, what is worth doing, and by fourteen, children are pulling along with their parents or are they are wild things, sailing off on their own.  It is your values–mother, father, caregiving brother, sister, uncle, aunt, teacher, friend—and your behavior, that children mirror.

Love, peace, kindness, thoughtfulness, intelligence, curiosity, strength, helpfulness, wit, humor, fun, joy, happiness, beauty, grace, skill….  What do you value?  Character?  What makes for good character?

All I know is that you  already have values that guide your thoughts, conversations and behavior every hour, every day.  Great and wonderful serious books on parenting are already in print.  They are already best sellers.  Right.  Look for more Academic Fixes[1] to introduce the best authors I know.  We’ll examine some of them in more detail later.

But now you’ll just have to take my word for it that the best of the authors have pussy-footed around the one issue I am interested in helping you to understand: The Use of Force.

Discipline.  Deprivation.  Spanking.  Switching.  Beating.  Time out. Isolation.  Confinement.  Restraints.  Pain compliance.  Physical discipline.  Abuse.  Misdemeanor behavior.  Felonious assault or neglect.  The use of force.  The threat of the use of force.  Imprisonment.

The big question: how can a list of values that begins with Love be reconciled to a list of Disciplinary measures that ends in Imprisonment?   At the very least, don’t we practice discipline, for ourselves and for our children, in order to avoid situations that would put us crossways with the law, that would open us up to the use of force against us outside the family?

Is love forever yielding?  Can force be used with love?  These questions cannot be answered with testimonials in affirmation of personal values.  They have to be examined within a framework that takes into account the rules of engagement in the use of force as any interaction expands from the family, to schools, neighborhoods, and churches, to towns, cities, states, and nations.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

[1] “An Academic Fix” is borrowed from the slang developed by drug users.  “A fix” is the ingestion or injection of the drug that immediately reduces the craving for the drug, until later.  The author, Dr. Franny, is a confirmed academic, so her work not only requires footnotes, but the occasional academic diversion she’s calling “a fix” (See Author’s Preface Post 13).