Learning about Discipline in the Context of Love
In case you missed it, earlier this month, we were fortunate enough to host Saul Fisher and Scott Daum as they discussed the developmental needs of children and the theological framework combined with several dos and don’ts to help parents engage and discipline their children mindfully.
First off, what is the context of love? Dr. Fisher explained this as “the manner in which we ‘hold’ the children under our care.” This consists of respect, recognition, and understanding. We need to treat children in ways that respect their capabilities, recognizes their unique personal strengths, and shows that we understand the child’s unique nature and can differentiate between who that are and what we project onto them.
In a New Church framework, we know that the Lord prepares a place for us in Heaven and it is tailored to us. Taking from John 14, verses 2 and 3, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, there you may be also.” Please note that none of the “many mansions” are the same. We have unique place available in heaven because the Lord respects, recognizes and understands that no two of us are the same, and He is working on bringing all of us to heaven; each of us on a unique path. Saul noted that we need to respect, recognize and understand the uniqueness of the children under our care.
Just like He does this for us, parents must do this for children. Understanding the child’s uniqueness, temperament, and how the child processes sensory information is all important so that we can better respond and handle problematic behaviours and set appropriate expectations. Both Saul and Scott talked about Attentional Dynamism, which they explained is essentially behaviours through which children get attention and is also defined by their affections.
Through understanding a child’s affections, we learn how we can provide positive attention and reinforce appropriate behaviours. With this, Saul went on to talk about how his daughter had a love of horses so they encouraged her affection and had her start riding horseback. Because she loved horses, she took on responsibilities as she grew. She fed, groomed, exercised the horses and received positive attention through it. With his son, Saul said that he also encouraged him to follow his affection: ice skating. Even though his son wasn’t good at ice skating, he kept with it. Saul encouraged him to follow his affection and rather than focus on the failings, Saul praised improvements and saw that his son really enjoyed being out there, even if he spent most of the time with his face close to the ice.
“Rules in the classroom are necessary to create the structure which make learning possible, not unlike the 10 Commandments which are necessary for a spiritual life.”
The differences between Saul’s children reinforces that there are differences between us. With that said, there are similarities between parents and children. Scott said that we are not all blank slates and that we inherit good and bad dispositions and natures from our ancestors. People are disposed to be self-centered and egocentric and that we must learn how to be spiritual, and part of that is following rules. Scott put it best when he said “Rules in the classroom are necessary to create the structure which make learning possible, not unlike the 10 Commandments which are necessary for a spiritual life.”
He said that it is up to us to provide order for children. Order is so important. In a classroom nothing productive can occur without some kind of order. Civil, moral and spiritual growth require order, too. Just as there is an order, a process, and essential elements for growing plants, the same is true for human growth. Plants need the heat, light, and cultivation; our children need love, understanding, and discipline to grow. Scott stressed, though, that order isn’t simply silence there can be volume and activity in a classroom with order.
He added that to achieve order though, we , as parents or teachers, need to silence our self, our personal perceptions, reactions, ideas, to allow us to understand the children and what they need to achieve order, to see what would be help them fit.
From here, the main challenge of managing children is actually one of self-reflection. We must think about what about we do, how we do it, and the impact it has versus the impact we hoped for. Scott went on the say that New Church teachings emphasize the importance of self-examination in the process of personal and spiritual growth. The challenges raised by children’s behavior provide an opportunity for discerning the genuine needs of the child and how we need to respond as teachers and parents. We want to use self-reflection to identify the motivation for how we manage the children.
Scott used a personal example of being annoyed at being interrupted reading a book versus actual concern for the child. In this, he recalled reflecting on how he was reacting and whether it was coming from a selfish place, his own annoyance at being disturbed, or if it came from love and concern for the child’s well-being. Without pausing for self-reflection, we can often overreact, skewing our disciplinary actions which will, in turn, skew the child’s understanding of cause-and-effect and disrupt their ability to self-discipline which, Daum mentioned is something we must help develop in children.
Self-discipline in this context consists of self-control, frustration tolerance, and emotional regulation. Being able to maintain one’s discipline is to control one’s desires, impulses, and reactions. This is learned behavior and something we, as guardians, need to support and help develop. Helping a child understand themselves will allow them to regulate themselves emotionally and encourage them to manage their emotional reactivity. From there, they can also understand the effect that environmental stimuli have on them and can learn tolerance, patience, and the ability to delay gratification, or, in other words, their frustration tolerance
New Church theology teaches that we all have the ability to reform our behavior, and it charges us to discipline our children. The ultimate goal is to teach children self-discipline. From Married Love 202, even though we all have tendencies that can lead us to make bad choices, “it is Divinely provided that corrupt inclinations may be rectified, and that a capacity for this is also implanted” in all of us. “Resulting from this capacity are an ability and power in people to mend their habits, under the direction of parents and teachers, and afterwards by themselves when they come into their own right and judgment.”
From here Dr. Fisher and Mr. Daum went on to discuss 10 Do’s and Don’ts of discipline which can be read in our next blog.