"I am the parent, you are the child. Now, do what I asked you to do."
I give her an instruction and she either gives ME an 'better' idea or continues on with whatever important 'tween thing she was doing at the moment, as if what I was saying was optional. Then, when she does take up my command, she does it at the slowest pace imaginable to womankind, and with the least degree of follow through. This means I have to go back, repeat the instruction coupled with a threat, and get the 'sighs' from her as she marches off to do the chore or assignment again.
Recently, I have made progress at being a good disciplinarian with my children. I don't mean that I beat them senseless, but that I employ methods of discipline which they will take with them through life to set boundaries and limits when they are outside of my authority. This practice will lead them to seek wisdom in the things they do.
Most who know me well, know that I am not naturally good at discipline. I have been talking to my kids since they were in utero and expect them to understand what I am saying, and move on that. As far as I am concerned, they knew my voice before they were born, so they ought to take heed to it. When my daughter was 4, if she whined I would tell her to use her words, because 'Mommy doesn't like whining'. She did, and all was well. This is the way I thought it should work. However, when my son came along, he did not follow suit. I would say "don't whine, Mommy doesn't like that." He would look at me with two fingers in his mouth, dumbfounded as to why it should matter whether or not I liked it. This was about him, not me. What worked so well with my daughter was now failing miserably with my son, and a mere glimmer of what was to come. Who knew they were not going to follow my ever command? I had to regroup, fall back, seek assistance.
The children of this generation are not moved by threats, only by action. I threaten my kids regularly. I tell them if they start to tell a lie I will hit them in their windpipe to cut off the air of the devil before his work can be done through them. I have made so many insane statements such as these, that they use some of them for folly now. When I have to repeat a directive I have given them, I usually accompany that with another preposterous threat of which there is no way I can or will follow through.
I wouldn't have ever warranted a repeat order from my parents, unless I was considering going toothless as a fashion statement. The funny thing is, I got one whipping in my full life that I can recall. All my Dad had to do was raise his voice, and I was done, and I somehow believe that my mother has both an evil eye and close ties to the black mafia. She didn't ever have to worry about us getting too far out of line. If worse came to worse, she could just say "I am going to tell your father as soon as he gets home."
Why, oh why does my child not have this same reverence for me? How have I failed to instill the fear of God into my children? Is it too late? How can I recoup lost ground?
My nephew told me I need to get the Jesus belt and bring all of this to a halt, a stand still, an immediate end. What is the Jesus belt? Oh, that is the wide and thick leather belt that Father's usually own that will make an errant youth cry out to Jesus in repentance with promises to return to the path called straight.
That got me to thinking about what was different between now and then. My Dad could carry his around his neck and we girls would get right on our responsibilities - it was just the mere threat. What was it about my parents disciplinary tactics that worked?
First, the rules were established. These were the rules of this house and it was not a democracy. I was giving my children to much power to vote and veto in my household. They don't work all day, worry and pray, provide and nurture. I do that - I am the head of this state, and there is no vice president.
Next, my parents had follow through. If they said they were going to do something, they did it. If my father wanted to punish me, and he told me I was going to clean out the hallway closet, I did it - right there and then. Not later, and not with his help. I did a thorough job, for fear of that Jesus built around his neck.
Finally, I feared the Jesus built for two reasons - because they followed through on everything else they said they would do, why would I doubt there would be follow through on that issue? Secondly, the reputation of the built proceeded it's coming. That is another reason it is named such that it is - I had heard of it even before I ever saw it. Oh, the tales of the tail that had encountered the Jesus belt - a lot of them mythical even until this day.
So, history had given me the formula: Authoritarian household, establish the house rules and the clear leader of the house. I am the parent and you are the child. Follow through - make promises I can keep. If I say I am gonna take the air out of a wind pipe, be able to back that up with a few breathless moments for an unsuspecting child (JK), but you get the idea. Prove that I will do exactly as I say. Leave no room for doubt. And, use what is already branded. The Jesus belt was branded long before my children were even a thought. The nieces and nephews lay the groundwork - they have told the stories of 'the belt', and I am ready to upgrade from my John the Baptist belt to one with full authority and the power of life and death in it's mere appearance.
Now the changes in my disciplinary tactics have not changed over night. I mess up sometimes, but I fall back and regroup. I remind myself that if I don't provide clear discipline and boundaries for my children at home, then the world is waiting to do so with all kind of unpleasant and some even fatal lessons of its own. I remind myself that education and discipline together are key ingredients to a successful life, and prime the recipients to be seekers of wisdom in all of their ways. I remind myself that it is my job to be the parent, and not the child, so I should have something to say if I am going to tell them what to do.
I was listening to Walther Smith's Street Soldiers on 107.5, and a caller suggested that we needed to go back to the lessons learned in the past from such groups as the Black Panthers. His point was not that we needed to become uber militant, but that we needed to become a cohesive working community of providers and nurturers, building an inter community socio-eco-agricultural network that will sustain. I agree with that caller - we need to take the lessons from the path, and as my Father would say "eat the meat and throw away the bone."
Follow me as I walk this path of discipline in my household. I am going old school on 'em...