Dignity In Discipline

Our podcast on justice this week and it got me thinking about something that was said. We talked about how, once we understand the justice we owe and is owed, then we can be free. That made me realize that justice is a two way street, a concept that I had never considered before.

I think my initial understanding of justice is really around being wronged and requiring a rebalancing through punishment. As a dad, this is almost exclusively how justice is managed in the house. One kid is a turd, that kid gets in trouble.

That, I don’t think is actually justice. That is really just punishment to correct behaviors. That is a part of justice, but kind of like how your foot is part of your body. It is important, but not quite the heart of it.

Justice starts with the dignity of the human person. That is the heart of it

It makes me think of a lesson my dad shared with me around a campfire. Our family is firm believers in spanking but my dad told me to never hit a kid in the head though. I looked up at him confused because that is not something that ever even came into my brain when talking about how to discipline as a father. What I didn’t know is that my dad had been on the receiving end of that kind of discipline when he was a kid and it reduced his dignity. He didn’t use those words, but that was the essence of what he was telling me. Discipline needs to be done, but don’t do it in a way that takes away from the child. That experience stuck with me, even though I didn’t think I would ever need to apply it.

Then I had kids…and kids do weird stuff that normal people don’t do. Namely, bite…hard. It is instinctual swat in response. If your puppy were to playfully bite you, you would swat it away. If you got bit by a bug, you swat it away. I got bit by a kid and the instinctive response was there. Please rest assure I did not swat my kid in the face, but it took the lesson from my father and drove it home.

Kids will do things that make us furious. We all have that kid in which we are so much alike that they push our buttons like they’re playing Beethoven’s 5th. Some of this is behavior that needs correction. Kind of like teaching my kids to walk heal-toe instead of up on their tip-toes the whole time (did you make that foot connection there?). Then there are things that are deeper than just being a turd on the playground. There are issues of the heart, like greed and selfishness. These need correction, but these are deep inside. When addressing behaviors that connect to the heart of our children we have to operate in clear view of their dignity and protect it.

For example, if we are to get mad at our little kids and just put grab them up and put them in time out (because often times that’s easier than fighting with them a second time), we risk damaging their dignity. When we manhandle them, it takes their power away. It makes them a bag of meat and bones and not a Child of God. That is not to say I would never just pick her up and force the issue if things got bad enough. I would just need to center myself so that I am not doing it out of anger or pride, but out of love and respect. If those are in place then the discipline will result in more love, not less.

This is a tough line to toe because it has more to do with our disposition than it does our action. The assumption there being that there is a clear line is the sand as to what is too much, such has hitting a kid in the head. That, as my father advised, is always crossing the line.

Sometimes this is the kid and sometime this is me

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