life.on.bonita what it looks like from our side of the rock

life lessons – teaching boundaries & discipline

April 23, 2013 / by lifeonbonita

Words taken from the life history of my mom.

On Boundaries & Discipline
Along with the love and nurturing, children need boundaries.  Discipline needs to be done with respect and clarity. Children are truly gifts from our God, and He has entrusted them to us to teach and also for us to learn from. No parent is perfect and mistakes will be made, but apologies, love and forgiveness will change many negatives to our good.  This is about lessons I have learned, and I wish I had been softer and kinder and more loving. I believe in giving limits and boundaries, but it needs to be done gently and kindly, and sometimes I have been neither.

Feeling special does not mean feeling better than others. It does not mean being entitled.  I think we teach boundaries and responsibility at the same time we teach being special.  Being special means we have responsibilities to do what is right and to help others. The phrase that comes to mind is where much is given, much is expected but with a much softer feeling. Perhaps, where much is given there will be a greater need and where there is much given there is an equal or greater need, and the responsibility to use the good to help others.

A couple of examples of discipline are 1) Reverence in church and 2) Family meal time.

Discipline with reverence in church:
In our family we required our children to sit quietly in church.  Now with little ones “sit” and “quietly” and “required” are all relative terms.  We explained that we need to be quiet in church.  We took them out when they made noise and would not be quiet.  When we took them out we did not let them run around but they were required to sit on our laps or on a chair next to us. If they made too much noise in the foyer seats, we would go to the mothers’ lounge or a classroom that had the speaker piped in over the sound system. We would always give them the option that when they were ready to be quiet in the chapel we could go in.  They were not given toys or anything else to play with, the object was to make it better in the chapel than anywhere else.  My philosophy at church was “to make it less fun to go out then to stay in church.  So if they were in church they could have little Cheerios, toys, paper.  If they went out, they didn’t get anything.  I didn’t talk to them except to say when you’re ready to go in let me know.  They weren’t spanked, poked, talked mean to, pinched, they were treated with respect.  Most of the time they got the idea. When they said they were ready we went back in.  Sometimes it took several times in and out to get the message, and if it was too much I would warn them that the next time we went out we would not come back.   This needed to be done in a kind and friendly manner, but without much conversation or attention, so that the child did not feel rewarded in getting attention.  If the trips out were too often or the time in the chapel was too hectic, we had practice sessions at home during the week.  I would take a book and ask all the children into the living room for quiet time practice.  They could each bring one thing that was church appropriate and everyone had a separate place to sit.  We would put on quiet music and I would read and they would play quietly with the Toy they had brought in.  Occasionally we would put on a timer and if there was too much noise we would add time.   When we first started, or if the children were really small, we would start with less time and work our way up.  The purpose of this was to strengthen our “quiet muscles”.  The children really did better, and the quiet time required in church was not as long for them.  President Heber J. Grant taught this principle “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but our power to do so is increased” applies to this lesson.

Family Meal Times:
The second example is our family meal times.  We had quite a few rules for family mealtime.  Such as not answering the telephone during family meal times, everyone sits down at the table for meal time, everyone had to try at least one bite of all the food on the table, we were to stay seated at the table until everyone was done, we had to ask Dad to be excused from the table, we had to use good table manners, Mable Mable strong and able get your elbows off the table, was one of my mother’s sayings that was repeated many times.  Today there are many articles about the positive effects of family meal times and how pivotal it is to the success of a family.

How do I teach principles to children?  In teaching these principles we would do the following things:
First, Explain what was required and why it was important.  For example, Dad and I both had families who answered the phone during meal times.  Dad’s family ate at a bar, telephones had cords, and telephones had cords interrupting a meal.  Our phone had cords and it usually was in the next room and several people had to get up to leave the table.  In todays world everyone could be on the phone at once and have no conversation could be going on.  No phones at dinner, is still a good rule.  Even as adults, my children apply this rule in our home and typically there is no phone at meal times.  Second, be consistent (consistency makes it easier over time). And third, as you teach you need to be firm, kind, unemotional, pleasant, and matter of fact when you are teaching children.  I didn’t always do this but this is what I learned and when I did it, it worked.  

When children were really small I would sometimes help them do what I asked. For example, if I said please pick up you toys and they didn’t do it I would say I’d help you pick up your toys.  As they got older, I could say, when you are ready to pick up your toys, you may: go out and play, have a snack, get off the time out chair, come out of your room etc.   I think being clear on what you expect and express, giving rewards for obedience and letting them know what the consequences could be go along with how Heavenly Father teaches us.  He doesn’t always tell us what the reward will be, or for that matter what the consequences could be, but we do know there are rewards and consequences. Being clear and consistent helps children make good choices and helps them see how to control the outcome in their lives; Often we need to think about how to help them to be successful in situations that they are in.  This requires unemotionally, lovingly, and logically steering them down the path to success.  Sometimes children can be left on their own to work out solutions to situations in their lives, and this is a great thing.  But if a child is struggling we need to give them guidance on how to successfully navigate through the situation so they can get the outcome they most desire.  Discipline and training helps to guide children to be good, responsible, productive adults, and gives them understanding and opportunities to practice discipline and govern themselves.