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. =)

3 responses

  1. Oh how I agree and yet disagree with you!
    Discipline is such an important part of parenting. I can say this from experience. I will also say though, it is very much individually based. In other words, you really have to customize your discipline to your child.
    Olivia is stubborn. Stubborn, persistant and curiousity up the wazoo. Its a tough combo to manage. We have tried saying “No” sternly. HA. As if that even hardly works. We tacked on a smack to the fingers. Yup, that doesn’t work much either. And I’m not talking about a barely tap either. I’m talking about one that she feels, but isn’t overdoing it. Doesn’t work either. Because Olivia is so small, spanking isn’t an option. With Olivia, we really have to be insanely consistant (which is extremely difficult) and removal of items.

    I personally believe as well, that kids deserve to discover things. Without being afraid of repercussions. Honestly, sometimes the best discipline is natural consequences. She doesn’t eat = She goes hungry until the next meal. Or she’s tossing around blocks…one hits her in the face. Yup, it hurts. But you gotta learn. I think self-discovery is a huge part of growing up and being able to test boundaries is just part of that.

    My 2 cents.

    • Thanks for sharing! Yes customize! My parents disciplined each of us differently. I agree with you…there is definitely encouragement to explore…but for us it was within bounds…..like “you can explore here but not here or not at this time”. We tested boundaries all right…and there were consequences of crossing them. =)

  2. I like the quote about how you can’t wait for someone to drown before you teach them how to swim. I think discipline (doesn’t have to be physical) is a good thing and we can’t underestimate what babies can understand. I think boundaries are a good thing. They allow you to let the baby explore and they learn what is off limits. In life, God gives us boundaries too, and we learn that they’re not there for us to see how close we can get to them, but they’re there because He loves us and wants to give us the best and protect us. As well, we need to remember that being disciplined is a Christ-like quality. Jesus was never late for anything. He didn’t miss out on healing someone because he was tired and sleeping in after being on the Internet too late the night before. As adults it’s a good reminder!

    With Joe Jr, I found that because she is a highly active child and loves to touch everything (plus she’s more the type to be bratty), we had to introduce boundaries early. She knows not to touch the decor (glass pumpkins for eg) on the coffee table and not to touch cords. I put up the Christmas tree and she’s learned that it’s off limits.

    I actually find that because we’re in new places in rural Alberta all the time, this is a very good thing. I can’t freely baby-proof every place we stay in, so she needs to learn boundaries. For example, the place we live in now is a loft upstairs and the stairs are steep! As well, there’s a railing around it with big gaps she can fit through, fall through and be seriously injured or worse. Not very baby-friendly. Once we got here though, we taught her that going near the stairs or railing is off limits. She’s not 1 yet and doesn’t understand the dangers yet, but she knows cause and effect. She obeys and doesn’t go near them. She do let her freely explore other safer areas. As well, there is a Christmas tree here in this suite too. She’s never gone near it, because we’ve taught her not to go near the one at home. It helps when we visit other homes with Christmas trees!

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