COMMENTARY: Teach Or Punish, That Is the Question 761.4

As Greg paces the floor, waiting for his 17-year-old daughter Sandy to return from a school event, he feels two conflicting emotions: fear and anger. Fear that something terrible has happened to her. Anger because he thinks his fear is probably unfounded and Sandy is not hurt, simply irresponsible.

Finally, Sandy calls. She’s all right. She just lost track of time. Greg’s fear disappears, but his anger grows.

The love that motivated his worry is overwhelmed by a growing sense of outrage. He begins to rehearse what he will say and what punishment he will inflict. Unless he intercepts his anger, it can easily turn to rage, an emotion likely to produce foolishly impulsive conduct that’s likely to alienate Sandy and widen the rift between them.

Here’s the character challenge: Can Greg stop his runaway train of anger long enough to think about his objectives? His immediate goal is to vent his fury and frustration and teach Sandy a lesson. His long-term goals are to strengthen — not weaken — his relationship with his daughter and to help her become more responsible and respectful.

If Greg stops and thinks about his broader goals, he will want to turn this event into a positive teaching moment. To do that, he will have to choose his words and tone carefully.

Good managers don’t yell at or demean employees because it would be ineffective and unethical. Parents have no less of a duty to be tactful and respectful when dealing with their children.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 7

  1. Depends on number of times the event happens. Honey is great for 1st time violation of a minor nature but to much and a person will start blowing you off and feel they are getting away with it. Multiple or serious violations for the same thing need the book thrown at them. Yea I know, it is not kindler and gentler. Another thing to consider is the effect it will have on the rest of your company or family members regardless of path taken.

  2. One of the toughest time to exhibit the “Golden Rule” – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I think we always appreciate when someone can correct us with calmness and also teach us a valuable lesson. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be consequences; there should be- just be sure to match the punishment with the crime. Remember disciplining our children shows them we really care about them and love them.

  3. Teach or punish? The answer is both. As a Heavenly Father God still chastises us for disobedience. He has made it clear in His Word the boundaries we should not cross. However, His judgement (or natural consequences) are tempered by His mercy. I have always tried to emulate that when raising my children; and I was an angry young man. As a result my children (all 5 of them)
    have maintained a close relationship. They still come to me for advice while raising my 9 grandchildren. Once a father, always a father. I don’t feel you gave enough info in the situation presented. However, if there were established boundaries, and they were crossed, it should be a learning experience for the child and parent; a chance for both of them to strengthen their character – the parent disciplining in love and the child acknowledging the transgression and acceptance of the consequences.

  4. The key is to be both kind and firm, to be both demanding and emotionally responsive. This is what is called the authoritative parenting style and it has been proven to produce the most self-disciplined children.
    The difference between discipline and punishment is that discipline, from the same root word as disciple, means to teach. The goal of punishment is not education, but justice.
    Authoritarian parents are concerned with justice, primarily. They are demanding, but not emotionally responsive. Permissive parents, who get the worst results of all, are only concerned with how the child feels.
    My children are grown and I can testify that being both kind and firm works. I am also convinced that parents who never show anger at their children’s bad choices teach them, perhaps unintentionally, that they will approve of whatever their children do. Unconditional approval is not the same as unconditional love. If you love your children enough, you will be firm in your discipline and will make sure they know when you disapprove of their behavior. You must show your disapproval through tone of voice, body language and through meaningful consequences.

  5. Once in a marriage seminar with Gary Smalley and John Trent. They told of a situation where the wife had run the car into the garage wall causing damage to both the car and the wall. Kind of the same thing. It really made an impact on me. They said that the husband could blow his top, or he could be calm. Either way the car and the wall had to be repaired, but one would damage the relationship and one would strengthen it.

    Any time you let your anger take over, you are no longer in control of the situation. Loss of control is rarely a good thing,

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