I have a theory….untested….that children who are undisciplined growing up have a more difficult and less enjoyable life. It might seem more fun at first glance, but it’ll be less fulfilling. That’s a HUGE and bold statement to make considering I’m not yet a parent. But I do have some observations based on my own upbringing as well as in children and people I’ve met….so humor me.
My parents were strict…I daresay most Asian parents are. My after school time was fairly regimented with various lessons through the week. There were music practice times, homework times, times for house chores, meal times with the family (none of the “I’ll take food to my room” or wander in and out of the kitchen to get dinner while the family was eating together), and what else….oh yeah, play time too. We were pushed to get as high a grade in school as they saw in our potential…which was high. And it wasn’t just in academics or extracurricular activities. We had to learn how to do dishes well, fold clothes well, hold chopsticks well and address our elders properly. Acting out was swiftly clamped down on. Whining was silenced. Rewards were mainly words of praise which weren’t liberally given unless it was a job impressively well done. (It’s not so dire, one time we did get a trip to Disneyworld.) Time to “explore my individuality” was allowed after everything else was taken care of first. Learn to be self-disciplined or be disciplined by parents. That’s how it went.
At first glance, it doesn’t sound like a very fun childhood…but I assure you, I had fun growing up. I climbed trees. I hid in clothes dryers. I gave myself numerous bloody noses from the stuff I’d get into/onto/fall out from. But I really appreciate and respect the disciplined upbringing I received! Even as a child and teen I respected my parents for their strictness (I may have complained to my friends otherwise but inside I respected them). Now as an adult, I’m still trying to be more disciplined with how I spend my time because I see the benefits of it.
From observations, those who weren’t regularly disciplined and taught to be self-disciplined while growing up got used to getting what they want, when they want. Life’s difficulties were removed and seems pretty easy. When reality hit, life suddenly really sucked. Often they could easily bail and find something “better” but the grittiness of Life catches up. Again and again. The reason isn’t that they’re victims to a sucky life…but that they have an undisciplined life. A pastor recently said this in a sermon relating to child discipline:
You don’t wait until someone’s drowing to try to teach them to swim. A child throwing a tantrum at 3 or at 16 is a child that’s drowning in an undisciplined life. They don’t know how to deal with not getting their way.
Like training for a race, discipline is training for living Life. I know most are willing to struggle through for something they really really want. But how about when it’s on the more mundane side, like most of Life is? A successful Life is built on ALL the mundane things being well done. To a child, most things are mundane and outright not fun…but we were pushed to do it for our own good. We couldn’t get what we wanted when we wanted it. We had to work for the reward. We had to do it ourselves. We had to struggle. We had to wait. And sometimes the wait was loooooonnnng. (I’m actually still waiting for the puppy they promised me when I was six. JK. Okay maybe I’m not joking.)
This translates into adults who don’t feel entitled and who aren’t inclined to bail when things get hard. Adults who are willing to push through the hard/boring/mundane work for the reward of a vacation or promotion or item of self-indulgence. Adults who’ll be mindful of not getting into situations they can’t get themselves out of. (Debt crisis anyone? Average consumer debt in BC is $38,000!! That’s not including mortgages.) Adults who’ll take a hand up but not a hand out.
This article in RelevantMagazine.com states “it’s more difficult to appreciate the value of something that cost us nothing.” While the article is about charity, I think it captures what discipline does — it costs us immediate gratification. But the value of the reward is much greater afterwards…which is as true for adults as it is for children. This process of being denied the immediate gratification builds my character and I learned a lot of about Life along the way…that it’s supposed to be hard work! That shortcuts are costly. And that reaching my goals is SO fulfilling!
So, that’s my theory. Thoughts?
And if anyone cares to ask, I heartily encourage discipline being introduced to children as young as possible. You’re welcome. =)