The description of someone as a “disciplinarian” carries certain connotations. Typically, the “disciplinarian” in the family is considered to be the person who administers punishment, who is considered the more strict of the parents. You may remember when you were a child hearing your mother say (after disobeying her or talking back) something along the lines of “wait til your father gets home”. A certain amount of fear comes with those words. In most circles, that person, the person who causes fear, tends to be considered the “disciplinarian”.
Yet, we’d like to challenge all of us to take a broader view of discipline and of being a “disciplinarian”, a more Catholic view. Bottom line, all parents are called to be disciplinarians. As veterans of parenthood (not experts), we receive questions regarding “discipline” quite frequently. Usually, they revolve around asking for “tricks of the trade” that the parents could use to get their children to behave well at Mass, to share with other children, to pick up after themselves – that is, to do something that the child should be doing, but isn’t. Frequently, the parent wants a quick fix, which usually is assumed to be some form of punishment. However, discipline and being a disciplinarian means way more than knowing when, where, and how to use a “time out” or a spanking or a grounding.
Ultimately, a disciplinarian is a teacher. If God has given you children, then you are called to be a teacher, a disciplinarian. We get the word discipline from the same word that we get the word “disciple”. That word has to do with being a “pupil”, a student. Our children are our disciples, our pupils, our students. We are our children’s first and primary teachers – their disciplinarians if you will. In order to fulfill this calling, we need to know a few things that will make us better teachers, better disciplinarians.
1. Source – good teachers recognize that they are passing on something they learned from somewhere else. As parents, Christ and His Bride, our Mother are the source of all we need to be good parents – truth and grace. The source of our calling and of the strength to fulfill that calling come from Jesus. So, pray, read the Bible, draw close to the One who has called you to be a parent and disciplinarian.
2. Content – good teachers know the content. You cannot pass onto your children what you don’t have. Trey cannot teach Calculus because he hasn’t studied the content. So, get involved in an adult faith formation program, buy some CDs from Catholic Answers and listen to them in the car, or read the Catechism.
3. Delivery – good teachers learn from other good teachers on how and when to deliver the content. Join or form a group of like-minded parents to discuss your struggles and ask for advice. Find older parents who you respect and ask for advice. Then, take what fits you and your spouse and begin to apply it to your parenting.
4. Correction – good teachers allow their students to apply what they’ve learned and to make mistakes. So, look for opportunities to allow your children to practice what you’ve taught them. And, if they make a mistake, show them by modeling or doing it with them in order that they might learn. Make the correction with great love.
5. Encouragement – good teachers find opportunities to praise their students. When they do something well or when they do something they should without your having to remind them, make sure you notice and that you encourage them. This will go further than punishment or negative consequences. Never miss an opportunity to find them doing something well.
Our challenge to you is to pick one of these, one that you are not doing well or not doing at all, and make a commitment today to do it for the next 30 days. Embrace the role of disciplinarian and see the difference it makes in your family. God bless us all!