Children's Emotional Health and Behavioral Problems, Part 4

The Importance of Proportionate Discipline

By Christopher Schwinger

The Series

Part 1: Causes of Rebellious Behavior
Part 2: Problems with Cohabitating
Part 3: Redeeming a Difficult Standoff
Part 4: The Importance of Proportionate Discipline

In April, I was assigned a mind-numbingly difficult question about what a parent should do if a son who has recently come of age takes overnight trips with his girlfriend. The mother who asked me the question said talking about Biblical morality hasn't made much difference with her 19-year-old son and that his girlfriend has a 3-year relationship in her past. She wondered what I thought about cutting off financial support for college and almost everything else under such circumstances, concluding with "I think we should limit our financial support and ask him to help pay for some things like car insurance since he has enough money to pay for vacation as a deterrent."
Most importantly, I told the mother to make sure her son feels like he's getting something out of the whole discussion, like he's winning by not getting bullied, and that the stipulations she and her husband give him are limited in nature. In other words, don't escalate your pressures and punishments on him just because he is initially resistant, another lesson I've learned the hard way from watching my dad engage in power play with my brothers when they were growing up.

Also remember that financial and moral matters shouldn't be completely mixed. Just because a kid spends money with some friends who aren't godly people doesn't automatically mean all financial support from parents should depend on the kid always making the right choices. Parents who trust their kids to be wise with the car, but then the kids crash it from speeding or drunk driving, should make the kids suffer some consequences, as they endangered theirs and others' lives and wasted a lot of hard-earned money by their carelessness. On the other hand, spending money on a short trip with some non-Christian friends is temporary and will not have the same long-term financial consequences as crashing a car, buying cigarettes (which is a huge drain on money because it's addicting), gambling, eating expensively, or going to parties and buying drinks. A short trip is a more benign use of money and also more temporary/short-term. Even if there are some moral concerns, you have to keep some distinction between the morality of the type of activity and the financial effects.

If it's not that big of a cost and her son is responsibly thinking toward the future, then I told her to do everything she can to encourage his sense of self-empowerment and give him as much freedom as possible, but give him stipulations on the things she feels most strongly about. I concluded, "I don't think an extreme kind of money blackmail like you are considering would be in order if the financial drain from his trips is relatively insignificant. Some degree of restriction might be needed, though." I also recommended to her a good article called "The Cohabitation Revolution."

This was a very challenging question to answer, and my Blogos articles have been closely adapted from my characteristically thorough answer. The main thing I hope people get out of this is that just because a child is obedient and seems happy doesn't mean he or she is growing up with a good emotional foundation. The secular experts consider James Holmes, the mass murderer at the Aurora, Colorado theater, to be a victim of mental illness. But he was a normal lad who was quite sociable until around age 10-12. Something happened which led him astray, and it wasn't just natural development. Experiences shape us, and we often have to look further back than we want to in order to find the roots of behavioral problems. We also need to focus more on winning others' loyalty through kindness than pressuring them to submit to us. I hope these posts have been a beneficial way of "stimulating one another to good works" (Hebrews 10:24).

Image Credit: chin1031; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Family-Life  | Personal-Relationships  | Sin-Evil

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Published on 6-13-16