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Giving Discipline…it’s much more than my desire to be respected and followed

March 6, 2012

In our home fellowship group, we are reading the book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp.  I am very thankful to be reading this book, even though I am not a mother at this time of my life.  I am a teacher, which is experience with young’ins I am SO thankful to be getting before raising my own kids.

Key points that are strongly impacting Matt and I have to do with authority.  Authority, in our culture, seems to be a subject which doesn’t always get very positive rap.  After all, isn’t it part of another word, “Authoritarian” which has a quite negative connotation?

Yet, even though authority isn’t a commonly loved reality, it is actually an engine of love in its pure, unselfish form.  Here are some of the key points on authority from Tripp’s book:

1. A parent’s authority (and by extension, a teacher’s authority) is entrusted to him/her by God.  The parent is God’s representative. (I agreed with this position before I read the book, but this point is a premise to point 3, which has had the newest impact on me.)

2. Authority is necessary. (Also, something I agreed with that is a premise to point 3.)  We have so many bad examples of authority in our world.  However, the authority of God is benevolent.  He cares about us like a shepherd cares about his flock.  Tripp explains, a shepherd cares for his sheep with a staff and rod- a staff to guide him out of danger, and a rod to discipline when the sheep chooses danger.  What is more dangerous- a welt on the side or being smashed at the bottom of a cliff?  Clearly it is LOVING for the shepherd to use the staff and rod in such a circumstance.

It’s easy to apply this analogy to a child who needs to be disciplined for deliberately wandering into the street. (I’m having a flashback to when I pushed the limits as a 9 year old by deliberaty standing about on the road in Maine in front of Oak Hill Cottage, just to test my limits…my mom scolded me firmly!)  At the same time, I think adults need discipline – teaching consequences – from God too. It’s obvious that 20-80 year-olds do foolish, shameful, and wrong things. We daily have self-centered attitudes or motives, even though on the external we live good, honorable lives.  Would it be loving for God to allow us to wallow in such a way, without warning us through discipline?

3. It is the parent’s duty of love to rescue the child from a disobedient heart attitude towards God using firm, consistent, discipline (without selfish anger) and a relationship of communication and care.  It is my duty of love as a teacher to give my students consistent consequences for disrespectful actions.  If I don’t, I allow the heart attitude influencing behavior to step outside the circle of God’s blessing.  A heart that is disobedient to God is dangerous, because even though God made us in his image with dignity and intelligence and all the glories of accomplishment on which humanism is based, we are not wiser than him, and it is to our peril that we pretend to be!  And so discipline is about rescue from disobedient attitudes which cause separation from God in heart, and by extension, behavior.

The application for me: classroom discipline is not about my desire for respect or making the environment easy and convenient for me to share my love of learning with students. (This has sort-of been my mindset, and it is an important goal to have a good learning environment, but…)  At the core, classroom discipline is about intentionally exposing my students to their disobedient/disrespectful attitudes which separate them from God.  It’s about helping them see that they need God’s redemption in the cross.

I don’t need to be afraid to be firm in my classroom procedures and rules.  God calls me to be an authority and to love my students, in part, by disciplining behavior that stems from wrong attitudes. (The other part is showing kindness and genuine interest in their lives). By being consistent in procedures and discipline, I earn students’ trust.

If I want to make a long-term positive impact in the lives of my students, I can’t be soft to them because I’m afraid of losing their favor.  I am so thankful that Mrs. Tyvoll disciplined me for cheating back in 7th grade, and that my Dad had a stern talk with me about it at home.  It had a genuine impact on my spiritual growth and helped me to seek God.

Love Disciplines.

P.S. Tedd makes many other points in this book on parenting which, for me, have really ‘clarified life’…and I think could clarify life for many people who are not parents or teachers, because we are all affected by the way our parents raised us (or didn’t raise us).

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 7, 2012 12:40 am

    Thank you for sharing your summary of these teachings on authority, Kate. Glad the talking to in 7th grade played a role in your development as a Christ-follower and respecter of God’s authority over us all. Love, Dad

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