There’s been plenty of disciplining my son Malaya recently. As a toddler, he now knows how to express his likes and preferences—which is great in general! This means that he now knows how to say “no”, pick what clothes to wear, and refuse my request for occasional hugs.
But many times, this also means he now knows how to break rules, and willfully disobey his parents.
As I think about our reasons for why we believe disciplining is important for our little boy, I am reminded that they apply to adults too. Two stand out below:
1. There are no excuses for bad behavior.
That includes age, gender, mood, what time of the day it is, and whether you’ve already had breakfast or not.
Whether you’re 40 or 4 years old, bad manners are terrible things to have. Just because you woke up on the wrong side of the bed doesn’t give you a hall pass to be cranky all day. Disobedience is disobedience whether or not the baby has gotten his milk, whether or not the Christian has gotten his prayer request.
Even if a church kid took a toy from Malaya by force, that does not give Malaya an excuse to hit back, be rude, or throw a tantrum.
There are no excuses for bad behavior. Not when you’re a toddler, not when you’re an adult. Proper discipline is a good reminder for that.
2. Temporary pain today is better than deeper pain tomorrow.
Real discipline involves some level of pain. It would not be real discipline if it were not so.
But the pain of a spank in the butt, or a 5-minute time-out is tiny compared to future real-life consequences of bad behavior and poor choices that could be prevented with proper discipline. Because we love our son, we discipline him today even when it might sometimes be painful for him.
For adults, this is akin to delayed gratification. Because I want a better life in the future, I discipline myself today even when it might sometimes be painful for me.
My wife and I are not raising a child; we’re raising an adult. And as he grows we hope for discipline to be part of his life even through adulthood.
Discipline never really leaves you. It just transitions from being externally initiated, to being internally motivated. And people who consciously carry it through become the most productive, high integrity, character-strong, effective adults I know.