Sunday, May 8, 2016

Loving Discipline

Two little boys are sitting in the church pew in front of us. One is the older brother, maybe 12 years old, and the younger brother, who might be eight years old.

They are wrestling.

I hardly notice because I'm used to wrestling children.

A woman moves into the boys' bench. Her voice is firm and when she speaks, I check myself to make sure I'm acting and sitting in accordance with church behavior.

"You can either sit politely or sit with your mom," she speaks. When she slides in between the boys,  I'm a little nervous for them.  But right away she puts her arms around the boys and within her encompassing arms, the feeling is distinctly love.

I look around for the mom. I guess she is the woman sitting up on the stand, waiting to lead the music.

The intervening woman stays the entire service with the boys. Not only does she stay between them, but she tickles their necks, helps the younger boy to focus and keeps her arms around them. She's doing so much more than just keeping the peace: she is showing a deep commitment and care to these young wrestling brothers--and I suspect it is the reason they listen and behave. She's disciplining with love and it is the only discipline that ever works, that has lasting effects.

Discipline of upperclassmen is non-existent. I treat them like the adults they are on the verge of becoming and they respond to the responsibility. But there was one time in Quito Ecuador when two of my students went late at night to an internet cafe before bothering to ask for permission. Their failure to do so was proabably planned, as I would have never allowed  the adventure. When I first noticed their absence on my rounds to make sure everyone was safely tucked in, visions of the the movie Taken horrified my head.

The girls needed to be disciplined. I told them the dangers, the consequences, the possibility of being sent home if it happened again, and of course I would notify their parents. And then I took them both in my arms and told them how much I loved them, which backed my sincere worries for their safety.

I worried I had lost two friends.

Because the just discipline was built on the foundation of love and care, they remained my friends.

They were angelic the rest of the trip. The discipline with love had worked.