It was hard to be consistent. It was so much easier to sit down and let it all go on. There were times I was tired beyond being safe or nice. At times I was too harsh. Sometimes I was too lazy. Thoughts like, “They’ll turn out alright. They’re just kids. Let them be,” came and went.
They went when we thought about what our kids would be like if we left them to their own devices. Those thoughts made us get off our butts and deal with the situation. We knew that being consistent would give them the boundaries they were asking for. We knew that being firm about what we expected of them, gave them the freedom to love the things that were good for them. We wanted them to learn to obey. We knew it would help them in the future: school, college, church, careers and then the raising of their own kids one day. How we raised them was of great consequence.
Of course we wanted them to grow up to be responsible members of society. Yes, we wanted them to be kind and to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Of course, if they were running towards traffic and we said, “Stop,” they would do just that. We didn’t want them to end up in jail because they didn’t learn how to obey our simple family rules.
We knew our parenting would determine these things. If we didn’t teach our children to be responsible, they would struggle with it when they grew up. If we didn’t insist on them greeting people when they were greeted, why would they do that as adults? Teaching them to treat everyone in their lives with absolute respect, no matter what their class or colour would instil in them a love for the “whosoever.”
What if God told them to do something and they just didn’t feel like listening? What if one day they couldn’t submit to godly leadership because they weren’t trained to do so? What if they grew up thinking they were “God’s gift to the world” because they were never pulled up about the bad stuff?
A manipulating, sulking child is not a pretty sight. A manipulating, sulking adult is ugly. We knew of too many adults who huffed off at the slightest hint of challenge or difficult truth.
Disciplining our children was hard work. It took every bit of energy we had to keep vigilant at all times. To not let them get away with things. To make sure they were safe and happy. It took a lot of patient teaching, talking and explaining. There were times when we were exasperated with them and on the verge of “losing it.” We had seen parents allowing things to build up. They allowed their kids to get away with murder and didn’t do anything about it; until they had enough. Then all hell would break lose and the poor kid would get it for no apparent reason and without an explanation.
We learnt to send them to their room so we could calm down. We never wanted to discipline them in anger. When we had calmed down, we went in for a chat. We put them on our lap, facing us; eyeball to eyeball. We talked about what had happened and made sure they understood what they had done wrong. We told them how many woodies they were going to get. That depended on the seriousness of the “crime” and their age at the time. They would go over our knee and Bum Woody* would come down. It was important that they felt it. They would sit on our lap again and their tears would be wiped away. There would be hugs and kisses. They would say “Sorry” and “Thank you” and that would be that. No more crying, no sulky face; all happy again. All over.
Jordan’s sense of humour made it really difficult for us to be serious during a woody session. His expressions and body movements were so funny it was hard to keep a straight face. He would stand there gripping his bum and getting the shivers. Sometimes it was so bad, I had to say, “You’re making me laugh, but you’re still getting a woody.” One day, after a long, “Do you know why you’re getting a woody?” chat, he got the shivers and said, “Mom, I have just had deja-vu.” I had to call Tony in to take over.
* Bum Woody was a small, thin wooden spatula. Not a baseball bat.