Vanishing parental discipline

Published September 6, 2020, 12:00 AM

by Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP



A survey of 2,000 parents, conducted a few years ago and published by the Daily Mail Reporter, showed that one in every four parents openly avoided disciplining their children because they wanted to be seen more like a friend than a parent. Very few of them admitted having taken away a mobile phone or a laptop, or having reduced the time they allowed their children to use the computer. Most of them were afraid to correct their children who misbehave.

But a majority of them also admitted that they wished they were braver and more consistent at disciplining their kids because their children no longer take them seriously. Their corrections often fell on deaf ears.

When parental authority is weakened or displaced, children transfer their allegiance and obedience to the media, their peer group, the Internet, or social networks. They seek guidance and rules of behavior from these virtual “elders.”

It is now, more than ever, when parents should take seriously their task at disciplining and correcting their children. Our gospel today (Matthew 18:15-20) reminds us that a timely fraternal or parental correction is indispensable because, once a child grows up to be a man, it is very difficult for him to unlearn what he has learned, undo what he has done, and un-know the bad things that he has known.

One day, I saw a girl hitting her little brother which made the latter cry. When confronted by her mother, the girl shouts: “It’s not my fault.” Without even trying to know what really happened, the mother sternly told the boy: “Stop crying! Boys don’t cry! “At that, the girl began to taunt her brother: “Sissy, sissy!”

The girl will probably become an expert at blaming others for her misdeeds. She will master the art of scheming and jockeying for advantage to convince the world that it is other people who are defective, not she. Attention will then shift away from her inability to govern herself to her self-appointed role as a social influencer or critic.

The boy, on the other hand, will grow up obsessed with the wrong notion of masculinity, emphasizing toughness and brutish power. He will most likely acquire a distorted understanding of male sexuality based on a macho stereotype often glorified in movies.

Another time, I saw a boy bullying his playmate. The mother glared at the boy and asked: “What’s wrong with you?” Then she patted him on the back as if to comfort him.  That boy would probably grow up thinking that whenever he acts badly, he should not be held accountable or be punished for it because there is something wrong with him anyway. Being bad is beyond his control.

Zig Ziglar, in his book “Something to Smile About” tells the story of  David Lofchick who was born with cerebral palsy. When he was 18-months old, his parents put metal braces on his legs every night. This caused him great pain especially when his parents gradually tightened the braces as prescribed by his doctor.

Ziglar ends the story thus: “Many times, David cried and pleaded with his parents not to make him wear the braces. But his parents loved him so much they were able to say NO to the tears of the moment, so they could say YES to the laughter of a lifetime. David grew up to be a successful and healthy businessman with a wife and three beautiful children.”

In raising a child, love is never enough. Love does not mean always giving a child what he wants, but doing what is best for him. There is no true love without discipline.