Motherhood Monday: The Necessity of Discipline / by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

“Mommy, what can I do?” she asked.

I replied, “Play with your toys. Color. Read. Play a game.  Do something that doesn’t involve a screen.”

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This exchange happened the day after our first major breech of trust and first real doling out of discipline. On late Saturday afternoon I learned that Big Girl has been doing something she is expressly forbidden to do. I was livid. One, she disobeyed us after I stopped checking up on her because she demonstrated that she could be trusted with the responsibility. Two, if continued, this behavior could prove wasteful of resources and harmful to her health.

I took her to her room to talk. Her sister didn’t need to be involved or aware. Big Girl  sensed something was wrong. My face likely gave it away. We talked about trust in general. I asked her about the behavior. Before I finished my question, she was bawling. She was sorry. Through her tears, she explained. Peer pressure. Ugh. That made it worse. I stressed to her that she is an individual, that our family operates differently than her friends’ families, and—most importantly—her worth and value is not tied to popularity and others approval of her. 

She seemed to get it. But I needed to make sure she really got it. She had to promise not to repeat the behavior, she lost screen time for the week, and she will pay back the money. I’ll put it in her piggy bank, but she won’t know that.

Promising not to repeat the behavior—easy.  

Paying back the money—her idea.  

Losing screen time—whatchutalkinboutWillis? 

Unlike her sister, Big Girl loves her television time and we just started letting her play games on her tablet. We’ve graduated from time outs; This is a big consequence. To be clear, the breech of trust is minor in the grand scheme of things. In fact, it’s something I did as a kid, which my sister reminded me of, laughing. Even though it’s minor and even though I did it, the behavior requires correction lest it become a pattern.

I have to admit. It was tough. She bawled when she lost her screen time. Bawled. I had to comfort her to calm down. I understood the parental adage, “This hurts me more than it hurts you!” Everything in me wanted to give her screen time back immediately. But that wouldn’t be helpful for her growth. So I hugged her until she calmed down and we went along with the evening. A few times she asked to watch/play something and I would remind her that her privileges were suspended. 

On Sunday after church it was just she and I at home. Baby Girl was at a party and lunch was cooking in the oven. She asked what she could do. I responded and she invited me to play cards with her. I agreed, got down on the floor, and we had a great time.  

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lordʼs discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
— Hebrews‬ ‭12:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In that moment I was reminded that there is a difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline corrects. Punishment hurts. I was also reminded of the discipline of God:

We disobey God.  

God nudges us. We become acutely aware of our disobedience.

We experience the consequences of our disobedience.

God’s grace and mercy rest with us assuring us that though we suffer consequences—because God loves us—we will never experience condemnation. And that, dear readers, is good news.