The Curries

The Curries
Keith and Patricia

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Discipline Mistake #2: Our consequences don't fit

    Sometimes in the process of disciplining their children, otherwise sane and sensible parents suddenly lose their grip on reality.

    Sixth grade Kati had a moment of weakness during a math test; she peeked at her neighbor’s paper to see problem number twelve. She had never cheated before, and on her first attempt to cheat, she got caught. Her dad wanted to come to the school, so the three of us met in my office. She admitted her wrong, and sat with her head down. Dad announced that she would not spend the weekend with her friend Megan. A tear ran down her cheek. Obviously he had hit home. Then he went on: “and you are off the softball team, and you are out of the class play, and you probably won’t get to go to camp this summer.”

    Whoa! Dad. I think you made your point and then went too far.

    Here are several factors that we need to consider when we discipline, so that it fits.

A.    Age
       Making a four-year-old sit for thirty minutes in time-out or a twelve-year-old sit for four minutes in time-out are equally inappropriate—one too harsh and one too easy. The rule of thumb is one minute for each year of age. If that doesn't fit, "time-out" probably doesn't fit.

B.    Offense
       The punishment must fit the crime. In Kati’s story above, the dad overdid it. He went beyond correcting a problem to seeing how long he could make his list. Kati’s welfare was lost somewhere in that list.

C.    Personality
       Each child is a different person and consequently requires more or less severity depending on her unique personality. While some children require only a firm tone, others need a two-by-four. The standard can be the same, but the consequences can differ.

D.    Wrong reasons
        The right reason to discipline a child is for his benefit. The wrong reason is for our convenience, because we are embarrassed, because we are angry, or more. In other words our discipline can be focused on what we get out of it, not what the child gets. That's a mistake.

E.    Takes too long to unfold
       Discipline that drags out over a few weeks often lacks punch. It loses its effect because the child adapts, and we parents tire of playing bookkeeper and change the consequences.

    Would you like to add to this list? If you have any examples of discipline that just does not fit, simply make a comment below.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011



    Patricia and I looked at one another and asked, “What are we doing wrong?” I know what some of you are thinking: Six kids within ten years was the mistake! But that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that they were bickering. They were obeying very slowly and with some pretty sorry attitudes. They were not putting their things away, they were not pleasant to be around. The list could probably go a little longer.

    This was just not our vision of a happy family, because we were certainly not happy parents at the moment; and our kids (ages 2-12) were keeping one another from being happy.

    So we asked, “What are we doing wrong?” We prayed and took a look at ourselves; and we discovered that we were the problem: we were not backing up our words with actions. We had forgotten that we were in charge; we were allowing them to set the agenda while we reacted.

    It was time to regroup. We put our heads together and reviewed our fundamentals: first time obedience for them and decisive follow through from us. Expectations would be clearly stated (not requested) and consequences would be immediate. Within twenty-four hours, peace and joy had returned to the household. The parents and the kids were happy again. God’s plan for parents to be in charge worked. Amazing!

    Over the years, this scenario happened several times. Each time, we had to regroup and retake our roles as mom and dad.

    Exodus 34:7 winds up a seven-layered description of God as He proclaimed Himself to Moses. It ends with this characteristic: “by no means leaving the guilty unpunished.” It is in God’s nature that the guilty ones get punished.

    When Patricia and I talked, negotiated, cajoled, and threatened—but failed to justly punish—things went downhill. It was out of order, out of sync.

    A big discipline mistake occurs when we simply fail to do it.

(A special thanks to those of you who took our recent survey!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guilt, loneliness, low self-esteem and Jesus

    When our children were very young, Patricia kept a journal on each one. Here is an excerpt from Billy’s (Will’s) journal:
Praying with Billy the other night, I was thanking the Lord for him, telling God what a blessing he is and thanking God that he loves his brothers and sisters. After a minute, Billy interrupted my prayer: “Mom, I do naughty things.” He didn’t want me to continue. “Well, that’s why Jesus died for us, son,” I explained. In all of it, I see the Lord preparing his heart for salvation, and I am so grateful.
    Shortly after that journal entry, his K4 teacher gently led him to Christ. A few weeks after that, he lay down in his bed but then came into our bedroom and said, “Jesus spoke to me and told me that he wanted me to be his disciple.”

    This series of events: feeling bad about himself led to receiving Jesus at age four. He continues to follow Jesus at age twenty-four.

    As a principal of a small Christian school, I have had parents come to me concerned because their children say they do not have friends. I have watched their children play on the playground and have loads of fun with different children. I have learned that the issue may be spiritual and not social. 

    This “left-out feeling” often is a signal from the Holy Spirit that He is working on a young heart and drawing her to Jesus. Her sense of guilt or loneliness or of being left out might be something much deeper than the playground, but might be the tug of the Holy Spirit wooing her. Something is missing; there is a God-sized hole in her heart that only God can fill. Other people can never satisfy that longing.

    Perhaps sharing the simple gospel will solve the “friend problem” for your child. The Friend he is longing for is near, as near as his mouth and his heart.

    The next time that your young child expresses one of these symptoms of low self-esteem, explore the possibility that the Holy Spirit is at work and point him to Christ. It might not be a self-esteem problem; it might be conviction that he needs the Lord.  It is worth investigating; it could be the best day of his life. After all, most people receive Christ between the ages of four and fourteen.

    You could say to her, “Did you know that Jesus died on the cross for us because we are all sinners—even little guys. If you ask him to forgive you, he will. He wants to live in your heart because he loves you. Would you like to ask him to forgive you for your sins right now?”

    If the Holy spirit is working, she will respond with an open heart.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Waiting on Dad

    Throwing rocks at puppies is probably not a good idea. Throwing rocks at puppies when you are standing by a large window is definitely not a good idea. I looked up at the window and surveyed the damage. It didn’t shatter the glass, only made a rock-sized hole. Oh, yeah, and a noise. Oh, and one more thing: my mom was in that room.

    So I did what any guilty, rock-throwing, panicking eight-year-old would do. I ran. That was mistake number one. I ran to the back corner of the house, took a hard right, to the front corner, and then headed straight for the front door.

    By this time I had a plan: get inside the house so quickly that my mom would not suspect that I had anything to do with the broken window. That was mistake number two. If she had been eight years old like me, I probably could have fooled her. But she wasn’t eight, she was . . . older . . . and smarter. Somehow she knew that I was coming in the front door and there she was, drying a plate, and looking me over.
She asked, “What was that noise?”

    Looking as innocent as any guilty, rock-throwing, panicking, panting eight year old could, I remembered George Washington and the cherry tree. George told his dad the truth and things worked out. But I was no George Washington, and this was not my dad. So I decided to try a different strategy--I wiggled around the question. “What noise?” I asked. Mistake number three.

    She didn’t take the bait. She simply said, “Go sit on the couch and wait for your daddy to come home.” No pirate walking the plank could have felt more dread than I did. I walked to the couch and sat down, knowing it would be the last time I might sit down for a while. I said nothing. I sat in silence. I aged ten years in that few minutes. In my own little mind, I was spanked a thousand times. I thought, I prayed.

    Then I heard the car coming down the driveway, gravel crunching under the tires. I heard dad shut the car door. I heard his footfalls on the steps, and then he entered the house.

    The spirit of George Washington came upon me, and I threw myself on the mercy of the court, crying and confessing in a torrent of words and tears all mixed in with snuffles and sobs, “Puppies . . . rock . . . window . . . scared . . .  ran . . . mom . . . couch. I’m sorry; don’t spank me.”

    Surprisingly, he didn’t . . . spank me, that is. He listened, he understood. He called it an accident.

    He was just.

    I loved him; I respected him.