Discipline without God

How do you discipline without God? A reader had mentioned that this would be a good topic of discussion. (Sorry it took me so long, Charity!)

No doubt it is easier to discipline if God’s got your back. You can tell your kids that, even when you leave the room, even when they are off with their friends, God is always watching and judging, ready to damn them to hell forever and ever. It sounds silly to you and me, but if you think of the behavior modifications made through the threat of “Santa’s watching you!” then you know that God can be used as a weapon, too. For a while, that is.

This is a weak morality structure, which exists externally rather than internally. It needs constant reinforcement and threats from parents, who have to mete out judgment and punishment on behalf of The Invisible Boss. It becomes even less effective when kids realize that they always have been and always will be dirty sinful things who will ask for forgiveness over and over and over again. And, of course, they’ll always be forgiven and saved because Jesus loves them.

With a little more effort, we can teach our kids to regulate their own behavior without using heaven as a carrot or hell as a threat. We ask them lots of questions like this, “Is that the way you should behave? Are you being fair? Does fighting with your brother make you feel good or bad?  Can you resolve this? When is being kind better than being right?”

We don’t try to shame them or judge how they feel—only guide their actions towards more appropriate behaviors. Unlike religion, our message is not: you need me because of your flawed nature. Our message is that growing up is about learning, and I will help you the best I can. As parents, we’ll make lots of mistakes, but what redeems us is that we love our kids and are trying our best to grow good kids.

Here are just a few suggestions—and if you have anything to add, please do. If you don’t have kids, or if your kids are grown, please feel free to jump in with your observations/feedback.

  1. Before we discipline ask, “Would I want to be disciplined for that?” If we accidentally broke something, we wouldn’t want our boss or spouse yelling at us. If we broke something because we were kicking a soccer ball in the house—and Mom told us to stop—then of course, reparations must be made through chores or through cash.
  2. Point out consequences of actions. “When you broke the rules, you broke one of my favorite things.” “When you fought with your sister, you hurt her feelings and made her cry.” Some of the worst offenses cause harm that cannot be seen.
  3. Let them help you decide on a punishment. “How do you think you should be punished for taking your brother’s toys without his permission?” “Do you think you should write a letter of apology for talking disrespectfully to me?”
  4. Remind them that responsible behavior warrants more privileges. And less responsible behavior warrants fewer.
  5. Parents have a hard enough time being honest, and it’s natural that, at some point, every kid will lie. You can explain how this affects you. For example, “I will have trouble believing you the next time.” You can tell them how it affects society, “You weaken the value of language.”  They also undermine their own self-image when they are not their words. One of my favorite tools to use was asking my kids to write a letter of apology or asking them to write a one-page essay on why one should not lie.
  6. For kids who seem to get into trouble a lot because they have so much energy, rather than send them to their rooms, send them around the block for a run. I learned this from another mom who has five boys. She’d stand outside like a drill sergeant, watching them run round and round the block until they were worn out. We’re animals. We were born to walk, to run, to move. It makes sense that, if we are bound all day long, we’re going to get rambunctious, even grumpy. I found that my kids ended up in a better mood when they exercised.
  7. Help teenagers set their own boundaries. What bedtime is a reasonable on a school night? How much sleep do you think you need? If they wake up tired, rather than say, “I told you that you needed more sleep than that, ask them what they can do so they are not so tired the next day.”
  8. Offer a lot of positive reinforcement by recognizing good behaviors. Thank them for doing the right thing, for helping their siblings, for being responsible in school, for helping someone who needed a hand.

These are just some suggestions we can do to put the responsibility of doing the right thing and of making good choices on our kids. No, God won’t love them and give them the fast pass to that place called heaven. Instead, they’ll love themselves because they are good people, and you’ll be proud of them for making good choices.

 

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90 responses to “Discipline without God

  1. This is sort of the same thing as asking “How do you discipline without Santa Claus?” As a non-religious person, it never once occurred to me that I couldn’t discipline my children unless I brought a higher, invisible being into the picture. I wonder how these people discipline their pets…..

  2. Hi Deborah,

    Another good and thoughtful post. I have some general comments to offer.

    The ideas of discipline and “doing good for goodness sake” are very interesting from various standpoints, be they political, sociological or biological.

    In society, we have laws, and when you break a law, you’re punished by having to pay a fine, go to jail, etc. So the question of internal vs. external drivers of behavior extends beyond only religion. It makes one wonder what society would like if we didn’t have religion. Would these systems of power be unnecessary or maybe just less so? Would crime go down.

    As a teacher, when I hear my students bemoan an approaching exam or due date for a paper, I ask them, “If I didn’t require you to perform these tasks, do you think you’d still learn the material?” They most often admit that they wouldn’t, and I wonder …. Can these patterns of thought and behavior be undone or altered?

    I like the essay strategy that you offer. It would make the child have to think through some things and articulate ideas.

    One thing is for sure: rational discussion about actions and consequences is infinitely superior to relying on a secret police of angels or divine version of the NSA.LOL!

    • @deosullivan3 Hi. I hope I didn’t make too many grammatical errors as I didn’t take the time I should have to review that one.

      I’ve wondered that, too. If we didn’t have religion, would crime rates go up or down? If I remember my coursework and reading correctly, religion came first (before secular law), with god-kings warning of punishments in the after-life for certain behaviors–and promising rewards for those acts they encouraged.

      That’s funny about your students. When I taught, the kids came to class either prepared to succeed or fail. The ones who showed up late, missed assignments and complained usually didn’t last the semester. They had to be internally motivated already. I guess you have to either get them while they’re young or they are just born with certain dispositions or both.

  3. The biggest issue I have with parents using the carrot and stick of *any* fictitious authority figure is that it inevitably undermines their authority later on when the child has the presence of mind to realize that they’re being lied to. They’ll ask themselves why their parents would have to resort to such manipulation if the merits of their argument are so obvious. To this day, I never understood when my parents used “because I said so” as an explanation. True, they weren’t under any obligation to explain themselves to me – since my father especially saw this as a challenge to his authority – but it would have helped me think their behavior a little less hypocritical and arbitrary.

    I briefly wrote about this a few months ago, and admitted that I’d be hard pressed to avoid pulling some stupid fear-based tricks if it were my kid “going fusion” in the middle of a supermarket. In the end, though … and as they got older … it only makes sense to appeal to their sense of reason and empathy because it’s that which develops morality, not blind adherence to authority. I can see the beginnings of an “atheist” morality already!

    At an early age, it’s likely that the only effective approach would be some derivation of the “eye for an eye” / “carrot and stick” technique, since it’s unlikely they’d be able to understand anything more nuanced at that stage in their development. Plus, it would go far to form a good sense of empathy … “hey, I don’t want this done to me, so I’m not going to do it to someone else.” I think that coupled with wearing them the hell out through physical exercise is a good idea.

    I think the only other thing to add – specifically – is that kids learn from their parents’ examples, for good or bad. The mannerisms, sense of humor, prejudice, and everything else. Authority to discipline is undermined when parents tell their kids to “do as I say, not as I do”, unless it’s coupled with an admission that what they’re doing isn’t right or good (i.e. smoking, bad money decisions, etc.) and they’re trying to prevent their children from inheriting it. If parents teach by example, and show through their own actions that good moral behavior has real, practical benefits to one’s self and society, they are in a much stronger position to discipline their children when they do something that deviates from that.

  4. LanceThruster

    It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. … Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. ~ Albert Einstein, “Religion and Science”, New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930

  5. LanceThruster

    Though it might only work with the very young, I remember this from comic Steven Wright.

    He said if he had a child, he’d buy one of those dual strollers and tell the kid, “You know you used to be twins, but the *other* one didn’t listen.”

    xD

  6. LanceThruster

    “I am not even an atheist so much as an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful. Reviewing the false claims of religion I do not wish, as some sentimental materialists affect to wish, that they were true. I do not envy believers their faith. I am relieved to think that the whole story is a sinister fairy tale; life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually true…. There may be people who wish to live their lives under cradle-to-grave divine supervision, a permanent surveillance and monitoring. But I cannot imagine anything more horrible or grotesque.”

    ― Christopher Hitchens

  7. I’ll not be able to out duel LT on the quotes, but I like this one: “On personal integrity hangs humanity’s fate.” -BUCKMINSTER FULLER, C

    Lately I have been following the credo that there are no right or wrong decisions, only consequences. I try to get my kids to think through that for big and small things, be it sex with a boyfriend or simply sharing a cookie with your sister. The choices you make, especially in close relationships, will affect you for a long time, and little things lead to bigger things if left unchecked. Hell, I’m *still* learning that myself.

    Finally, full disclosure and transparency in close relationships. It’s a risk sometimes, but intimacy can’t exist without it. Again, learning myself…

    Personally, the whole idea of Jesus watching me never prevented me from doing stuff I really wanted to. It just heaped extra guilt on when I did. Besides, I thought integrity was what you do when nobody is watching?

    • LanceThruster

      “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr. (American best selling writer, author of Life’s Little Instruction Book)

      • @LT – Thanks for the exact quote. I can always count on you!

        • LanceThruster

          @MichaelB – Check out this one that popped up in a thread here awhile back -

          “Goodness can lose, but it cannot be defeated. It can be balked, but it cannot be quelled. In every single moment of existence, the choice for goodness is there. Every single moment – the choice. And you can make it at any point, you can begin the process of accepting, enacting, igniting goodness at any point, even the darkest and most degraded.”

          ~ Chris Floyd from – http://www.chris-floyd.com/component/content/article/1-latest-news/2312-blues-for-tammuz-this-is-not-the-age-of-defeat.html

          • I am reminded of a conversation I had with some married Xian friends during a visit last summer. I have known both for over twenty years but hadn’t had a chance to talk to the wife in the year or so since my deconversion. Over lunch she asks the obviously leading question, “How has your morality changed?” Wow. Really? I gave an answer from the heart while she nodded along and I thought that was the end of the Inquisition. Nope. Later that evening, out of often field, she bombards me about the ills of homosexuality, her “Biblical” moral values, and a bunch of other stuff. I was floored. Unbeknownst to me, in becoming an atheist I had apparently also lost my moral compass and needed to be shown True North. Sigh.

      • I’m constantly telling my kids that it’s what they do when I’m not there to guide them that really counts. So far, so good. :)

    • LanceThruster

      This RBF quote holds a lot of meaning for me –

      If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

      Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/r/r_buckminster_fuller.html#Ya5Qxbpfa897lId7.99

    • @MichaelB Yes, love this: “Finally, full disclosure and transparency in close relationships. It’s a risk sometimes, but intimacy can’t exist without it. Again, learning myself…”

      • @Deborah – Thanks. I’m the first to admit it’s my biggest area of weakness. I’m terrible at intimacy because I’m uncomfortable with just being real. I learned to be a good little boy because Jesus is watching and/or mommy loves it when I behave. I was never allowed to be Me. Sure, God loved me…with the caveat that he loved me enough to want to change me. Um, what? Any wonder this article brought out so much emotion in me?

  8. You have written out a step-by-step on how I handle discipline with my kids. I don’t want them to do something because I told them so… I want them to make choices because they know those choices to be right. And in order to figure it out, they have to make some mistakes along the way…. and that’s ok. I teach them that life is a learning process… that you’re born only knowing that you have to breathe and eat to stay alive, and every day you learn a little more. I teach them that failure is not only inevitable, but necessary, and that by learning from failure and making our best attempts not to repeat mistakes, we are able to better ourselves daily. And I teach them that this process doesn’t stop until you take your last breath.

  9. LanceThruster

    Or how about this – God is a verb, not a noun. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

    Kind of like we are defined by our actions…not our “beliefs.”

  10. Thank you, Debbie, for writing this. I will probably earmark this to look at more thoroughly later. Thank you for the thought, time and effort you put into this post.

  11. Very much off topic but I just wanted to share because it is partially a result of your collective support – My co-worker just came up to me and said, “I just wanted to tell you I’m glad that you’re my friend.” She’s a wonderfully sweet Hawaiian national, who is Christian herself but knows that I’m an atheist. Her adult son (45) just died from a long bout with cancer (she was notified a month ago that he had 6 mos to live but he just passed last week). I’ve been friendly with her long before I offered support in this latest tragedy in her life but merely with the simple acts and gestures of human kindness and compassion. She’s been quite supportive of me with my own burdens. It is something so small, that can mean so much to someone. So many of you have given me those same feelings of warmth and human caring and understanding. Thank you.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is never underestimate the power that sharing love has (giving *and* receiving).

    Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s wet and round and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ~ Kurt Vonnegut

    • I lived in Hawai’i for over three years, and found the Asians and Pacific Islanders very accepting. Religion is a big deal over there, but there are many, many faiths and that is what seems to level out the playing field.

    • I see you guys have been having a good time while my back was turned. Haha! Love it!

      “I guess what I’m trying to say is never underestimate the power that sharing love has (giving *and* receiving).” Thanks for putting that into words, LT!

  12. At the risk of overdoing the quotes, I just found this from a new Vonnegut compilation I hadn’t seen before.

    It took us so long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved. ~ Kurt Vonnegut

    from: http://blog.gaiam.com/quotes/authors/kurt-vonnegut

  13. I have succeded in never mentioning a deity in my 18 years of parenting. I think (the current) me would be appalled if the former me had ever resorted to such a thing.
    We have bribed, threatened and extorted but never on anything intangible (…if you continue that, the gypsies come and get you…) does not count, does it?

    I believe strongly in honesty and that children are just as smart (if not smarter) than us adults. Just don´t lie to them – omitting something is just about acceptable – and tell that goodness always comes back to you. Also to form a strong sense of right and wrong a´la the Golden Rule is paramount. Not very much else is needed.

    What always cracks me up when I think of an all-seeing eye of Sauron…Yahweh, is that in the middle-age the nuns bathed in barrels covered with lids that had a hole for the head – so that God would not see their nakedness :)
    I

    • @saab93f That’s funny that nuns bathed in covered barrels to hide their nakedness from God. How can they believe that god would be offended by his creation in her most natural state? I guess the same way they can believe a talking snake brought man down.

    • LanceThruster

      [I]n the middle-age the nuns bathed in barrels covered with lids that had a hole for the head – so that God would not see their nakedness

      But what if He used his super-God vision to look through the earth from below?

      Did I just blow your mind?!?

      xD

      • @LT Houston we have a problem. “But what if He used his super-God vision to look through the earth from below?”

        • Sounds like Sky Daddy needs an intervention for chronic voyeurs. If He’s everywhere, it alse means he’s outside your window in the bushes (don’t even ask about when you’re “indesposed”).

          xD

        • The description almost sounds like when Lois Lane was behind the lead planter box where Superman (Christopher Reeves) could not tell the color of her underwear (should this be in another thread, I wonder?).

          I’m not normally a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me, Superman! ~ Homer Simpson

      • The lids had to be made out of the same gopherwood that made Noah’s magical ark possible or then they were reinforced with iron. You know the same material that was impossible for Yahweh to fight against (the story about iron chariots).
        I find your lack of faith disturbing… (in James Earl Jones’ voice).

        • LanceThruster

          I find your lack of faith disturbing… (in James Earl Jones’ voice).

          2 funny!

          In context that should have made me quite frightened but instead I found myself enjoying a hearty belly laugh.

  14. I don’t have kids, but I am pretty involved in helping raise my niece and nephew. My sister and brother-in-law took the “It takes a village” approach, although they are the final arbiters on what happens with their children (and rightfully so). Secondly, I was a teacher for a number of years, so I have some insight into helping raise kids.

    One thing we can’t forget is that kids don’t have a real good social “we” sense until they are about 11 years of age. Up until that point, it mostly the personal “me” stage. At the same time, their locus of control is not internalized. As a result, younger children couldn’t give a crap about the social contract. They tend to only be concerned with immediate results and what they get out of it. Starting at about 10 years of age, kinds begin to really internalize the sense that they are in a community. Remember, these are only general development points, and the when a specific child starts to move to a new stage varies.

    From their infancy I was given a pretty free hand at how I developed the relationship with my niece and nephew. Load with all this child developmental psychology, I charted a pretty clear path. I am the uncle they can have fun with, but they also know me as being very strict. I never used fear of god with them. They would tell you I used “fear of me.” When they broke the rules, I would be loud and bombastic in my reaction. I would be thunderous in my denunciations of their actions and clearly point out what rule was broken. I never had to resort to corporal punishment.

    I knew that younger children needed something real and tangible upon which to fix their attention. Since kids are generally in a concretist stage from about 5 to middle teenage years, they need real examples of cause and effect. I would also make certain the lines separating good from bad behavior were very clearly drawn. Both positive and negative reinforcement were immediate and real. My goal was not to be an authoritarian who demanded subservience, but rather to help them understand their actions carried consequences. Thus, they needed to experience real and instantaneous cause and effect. It worked like a charm.

    My niece and nephew quickly internalized the rules with “Uncle Dric” (my nickname came from my nephew’s early inability to fully pronounce my name). The first rules were simple and easy to understand. Those became the foundation upon which new ones were introduced and sometimes constructed. I also kept choices I presented simple, clear, and at their level of understanding. One of the big choices I gave them, and they experimented with it from an early age, was “Do you want Uncle Dric to happy or angry?” This often lead to conversations about what made me happy or angry and began the process of helping them think outside their own immediate wants (although keeping Uncle Dric happy was definitely in their immediate wants).

    Since they are now both teenagers, I find the old habits and patterns still work. The operating rules they have with me are so fully ingrained as to be invisible (almost Pavlovian at this point). I can get them to behave with a look or by changing the tone of my voice. My sister and brother-in-law get angry with me because their kids behave with me. Their kids also know that Uncle Dric has definite rules with definite consequences that were consistently delivered over time.

    The funny part is that I used the same tactics in the classroom when I was a teacher, and it worked just as well… albeit with a slightly altered format.

    The end result is that kids don’t need god to get them to behave. They need consistent rules with consistent cause and effect relationships. It takes work. It takes time. It takes commitment. It also takes a healthy dose of good acting to become angry when what you really want to do is laugh hysterically at what happened. I figured out very quickly that my niece and nephew needed me to be the adult, to model behavior they could adopt, and to help them develop a set of rules that worked for them and for others. I take great pride in having helped them construct their social contracts.

    • LanceThruster

      Great appraoch. I’ve always said “loaner kids” are the best. They’re fun as hell, but at the end of the day I’m exhausted and I get to give them back. How do parents deal with that expenditure of energy 24/7?

    • @Derrick I will say there is definitely something to your story. My brother is a big guy–around 6’2″ and he is loud. When he raises his voice, my kids have always listened. They look up to him, being another male, and he seems to “shock” them into attention. I think kids get used to hearing mom and after a while she sounds like: blah blah blah.

      That’s interesting you asked them if they wanted to see you happy or angry. Although, do you think it encourages them to behave just to make you happy, to people-please, and if you turn your back, they will do as they wish?

      • LanceThruster

        I think kids get used to hearing mom and after a while she sounds like: blah blah blah.

        I’m picturing the adults in the Peanuts/Charlie Brown shows where they sound like a muted trumpet (wah, wah, waaah).

      • @Deborah I am not a big guy, just average. My goal was never really to inspire fear or terror, but rather to have first hand experience with cause and effect. I think, and time may have proved me out, that giving kids a clear-cut choice about how you want people to react to them begins the process of developing the social “I” part of the personality. It teaches them that their actions are important and impact others. It also helps with the logic process: If I do X, then Y happens. Family dynamics and social interaction are incredibly complex.

        The fruit of my approach is borne out by my niece and nephew asking me if I am happy. They ask not for their own purposes (e.g. to see what they can get away with), but rather because they now understand happiness is a state of mind and is very individualistic. They have both learned to think outside of themselves in regard to their social interactions. Although he tries to hide it, my nephew is an incredibly sensitive kid when it comes to other people’s feelings and, perhaps more important, perceptions. Granted, he can still be awful toward his sister and parents, but he is quick to change his dispostion once the dialog begins. My niece tends to be more passive, but there is a steel will behind that seeming passivity. She is slow to anger, but once roused… wow! I have actually heard her ask friends if they want her to be happy or angry. She gets mixed results.

        In the end I am pleased to say they are good kids and I had a hand in helping shape that.

  15. Why is fear a stronger motivator than love? I know its old fashioned…you can all scoff and that’s fine… but I grew up believing it was wrong to have sex before marriage. This was the right decision for me and as a married adult I’m so grateful I made it. But love (i.e. love for my parents and respecting what they had taught me, love for God and what I believed He wanted, love for MYSELF and wanting to make the best decision for ME and my future) didn’t seem to pull NEAR the weight in prohibiting me from having sex that fear did… fear of getting pregnant, fear of getting an STD, fear of getting hurt, fear of being a “slut”, yes, even fear of sinning. I mean… its sad, but its true. Fear is powerful. I want to teach my children to “not” do certain things that I believe could really harm them or could have grave consequences, both emotionally and physically… but how can I motivate them, how can I instill this control and discipline in them using LOVE and not FEAR? When you are 15 years old, and you are “indestructible” and “immortal” by your own admission, is fear the only thing strong enough to motivate the right choice in the face of difficult decisions? Is telling your 15-year-old when they go out with friends “if you make the decision to drink, and you get caught and get an MIP, that will be on your record and impact your future for a very long time” or “if you are driving and drinking, and you kill someone, you could get charged with manslaughter and be in prison, and moreover you will have to live with the responsibility of taking another life”… is that “instilling fear in them” or is that just being honest and being a good parent? Sorry if it scares you kiddo, but its the truth. Should you be scared of the consequences of poor decisions? Yes you should be scared! Maybe I am not giving children enough credit here… but I know how short-sighted they can be. And I don’t even think this argument is God-specific. I mean God existing or God not-existing, fear is one hell of a motivator. I am a trader (I know, right? An intelligent believer. Crazy)… and the saying we always use is “two things motivate the markets… fear and greed”. I think this applies to more than just the markets. I guess what I’m saying is… I don’t want my daughter to have sex when she is 13 years old. I hope she won’t do that because she loves me, loves herself, loves God (I know, gasp), and can think ahead about her future. But if she doesn’t have sex SOLELY because she’s afraid of getting pregnant, or afraid of sinning… does the end justify the means? Are those not legitimate reasons to avoid promiscuous sex? I guess I feel like I’d try anything to keep my kids on the right path, and if that means scaring them with REALITY and ACTUAL consequences that could come of bad decisions, then I am going to do that. Maybe I’m wrong, still something I certainly need to ponder. Thankfully my twins are only one year old so I have a few years to figure this one out. :-)

    • LanceThruster

      Maybe replace the concept of fear, with that of consequences (good or bad). Teach them about pros and cons of the long and short term. Everything in life is a trade-off of sorts.

      General contractors have a gag business card that says “Good-Fast-Cheap — Choose any two.”

      Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love. ~ Butch Hancock

      from: http://www.quotegarden.com/sex.html

      • @LT The Hancock quote is priceless! I’ve been to Lubbock on more than one occasions, and I can see how the place inspired those words.

    • @Molly – A legitimate fear of consequences is vital. I think Deborah’s point was that using a fear of God (or punishment from God) as a sole motivating factor is ineffective in teaching kids to be responsible adults. For example, why are teen pregnancies generally higher in Bible Belt states? Is it because kids are simply taught, “Don’t do it because it’s a sin”? I can speak from personal experience here. There are many things I didn’t do growing up simply because I was taught they were “sinful”. Did that keep me from doing them? Often, yes. But it also made me ill-equipped to think of practical, consequence-based reasons for not doing things as an adult. I’m not solely blaming Xianity: my overprotective mother had a lot to do with it, but my childhood experience short-circuited that stage of internalizing my locus of control that Derrick mentioned and it is negatively affecting my relationships to this day. I hope to prevent the same anguish for my kids.

    • @Molly First, I’m not going to scoff at you. We’re all just trying to do the best we can. Our ways might be different, but our goals are the same.

      What MichaelB said is correct: “….using a fear of God (or punishment from God) as a sole motivating factor is ineffective in teaching kids to be responsible adults.”

      Having said that, and having two different children of the same gender, I can tell you that their hardwiring has more to do with who they become than my parenting. I can help shape them, but I won’t change the material they are made of.

      The biggest benefit I’ve seen to giving my kids so much “control” of their lives and defining their morality is that they really know themselves well–better than I did at their age. And they are very open and forthright. As long as they are responsible, they get a lot of privileges. (My more difficult child has fewer privileges because he has not shown the necessary maturity.) As for the sex–I’ve always told them to be highly selective and to wait until they are very serious AND, of course, when they do become involved, to take precautions so that they don’t limit their future or end up with an STD. I don’t think waiting until marriage is practical nor a good idea. You have to be sexually compatible, too.

      Funny. At first I thought you meant that you were a “traitor,” not a trader, when you made that comment about the market and “fear and greed” motivating people. LOL. Women traders tend to be different. We tend to be more conservative, making fewer trades and holding our investments for longer periods. Fear causes people to make bad decisions. When people are afraid, that’s the time to buy. I think someone else said that once…probably Buffet!

      • @Deborah Mitchell thanks for the response. I am a “trader” not a “traitor’, haha… although somedays maybe I feel like both. And you’re right, I think in some ways women are better at the job b/c less testosterone and adrenaline play into my decisions versus my male counterparts. Re the discussion at hand, I think believer or non-believer, discipline is HARD. Raising children is HARD. And both believers and non-believers, regardless of the motive, want their children to be “good”; i.e. moral, kind, rational, responsible. What is the best way to achieve this? I don’t know that there is one right answer, or as you indicated with your sons, that nurture can ever outweigh nature. Therein lies the challenge.
        @MichaelB I agree with the thought that good decisions need to come from an internal source, and I also don’t like the “shame” that can come from REALLY fear-based Christianity. If my children do make mistakes, and consequences come of those, I want them to feel forgiven – by themselves and by whatever higher power they may believe in – and like there is still a chance for a bright future for them. I guess I just feel like I’m kind of grateful, in some ways, that my mom scared the shit out of me about sex before marriage… it saved me from making many mistakes with the wrong men at the wrong time.

        • @Molly Amen to this: “I think believer or non-believer, discipline is HARD. Raising children is HARD. And both believers and non-believers, regardless of the motive, want their children to be “good”; i.e. moral, kind, rational, responsible. “

  16. And sorry… cuz that was a wordy post…. ;-) Guess I got carried away in my own analysis. Very thought-provoking topic though! Just interesting.

  17. LanceThruster

    Thought I posted this yesterday but it seemed to fit (sorry about the quote overdose).

    It took us so long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved. ~ Kurt Vonnegut

  18. LanceThruster

    The topic made me think of Julia Sweeney’s comment in her one woman show, “Letting Go of God” (see: http://juliasweeney.com/letting-go-of-god/ ).

    She said people responded to her atheism with comments like, “If there is no God, then that means Hitler got away with it!” to which she replies, “Well then, we better make sure that doesn’t happen again!”

    • Seriously? This does not sound like a wife talking about punishment. I think it’s a fetish for them…and then she comes back with a diaper and a bottle for him, right???

      “I did, and he did. When he stopped at first I was still feeling a little meh. I did something crazy then. I told Bucko I still felt meh. You heard right. I didn’t pout and poke the bear. I talked. Try to contain your shock people, stranger things have happened. Well back we went for a bit more. This time there were tears. (He’s getting really good at spanking me to the point of tears. Not entirely sure how I feel about that). Well that seemed to work and Bucko held me for a long while, before ordering politely requesting that I go finish my blog. So being the wonderful wife I am, I did.’”

      • This was all over the news last week. There are handbooks and “getting started guides”… there are methods for finding the “right kind of woman” and “breaking her” to the “lifestyle.” I don’t think it’s actually meant to be a featish thing, because there is no safe word. There is no stopping it. It’s abuse, pure and simple. Yet because they are consenting adults, and because it’s considered a religious doctrine, it’s abuse that is protected by law. Lovely, eh?

  19. What’s the safe word, eh?

  20. I think this is an excellent topic to talk about. Frankly, I think that people who use “God” in their discipline are only doing so for power. I think adults feel like they have to exert some sort of power and fear over their children. It’s not ok. I know that kind of punishment. Anytime you do something your parents don’t agree with, you are told you are going to Hell. That sticks with a person. It sticks with a child for sure. It’s another form of brainwashing.

  21. My mom’s dad died when she was 5. When she was a little girl (in the 1930′s) she was told that when she was naughty she made her daddy and Jesus cry. Not kidding.

  22. I wish my mother taught me all that, but unfortunately I was raised strict Christian. I had to teach my self, once i left home and thought for myself. You are a great mother.

    • LanceThruster

      Welcome, Zip Alegria.

      Sometimes the self-taught lessons are the ones best learned.

      Happy trails to you…

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