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How to Discipline: Way Beyond “Sorry”

(a.k.a. My Most Expensive Lesson Yet)

Red and blue flashing lights?!  Come on!

The sandy SUV behind me turned out to be an unmarked cop car and I was so BUSTED.

My crime?  Waving my cellphone around expressively while driving, which is very illegal and I should know better.

As a student of life and self, when these things happen I go into a certain mode…

One can either open or constrict, lead or be led, react or make room for revelation.

I let myself feel the feelings.

Shame, hot eyelids, bitter expletives, pleas for mercy.

No mercy.

Just one sizzling indictment — my first ever $287 ticket.

I am by nature a Pollyanna; silver linings are my bling-thing.

So I do automatically seek meaning in the midst of my misdemeanors.

But that doesn’t mean skipping over the pain.

Feeling the feelings is a crucial step — and oh the remorse!

I am so frugal and waste is agony.

In one moment I wiped out my entire summer budget — just flushed for nothing!

If I don’t authentically enter into the feelings now, I will go home and lash out at my kids, hide from my husband, and squirm around in self-torment until further notice.

So while he’s writing up my ticket I let the waves of contrition wash through me, head to toe.

Dammit.  It hurts to be wrong.

To deserve punishment.

It hurts, it hurts, but I let the conviction do its work.

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The anguish turns, surprisingly swiftly, to gratitude.

A complete 180, from toe to head.

“Thank you for exacting justice upon me.”

These are the words that come.

Thank you for hard lines and consequences.

Thank you for protecting our children.  I value what you are doing to me.

Thank you for holding me and everybody else accountable.

Thank you for not letting me get away with it.

That would be worse.

Contrition becomes a delicious, cleansing word that fixes my hubris of invincibility.

Why should I expect to be above the law?  Why should I grovel when I’m so clearly guilty?

Yes it stings so brutally, but I’m thankful —

Grateful that in this moment the raindrops on my sideview mirror are blinking with red and blue for this reason, and not a more fatal reason.

Grateful that I am so deeply and easily convicted — and so easily reformed — that I will honestly go buy a bluetooth-thing this very day.

Grateful for the lesson, that:

Navigating through this life successfully is not about evading consequences.

Which makes me think about my children…

And how I discipline.

I think about the last episode we had — about a week ago — when the two boys weren’t getting along and one thing led to another….

A guitar accidentally fell on Brayden’s head and he was down, crying.

Davis probably didn’t know what to do, so he did nothing.

Actually, he sat there and played the guitar, while his brother cried.

This occasion warranted a rare execution of justice on my part.

The crime:  Dave was guilty of not caring about Brayden’s feelings and not coming to get help.

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My words of judgement:  “Davis, I know you didn’t mean for Brayden to get hurt, but you still need to make it right.  It hurt his feelings that you didn’t seem to care he was crying.”

The sentence:  “I need you to find a way to make it right with Brayden.  You either need to say sorry or give him a hug or come up with another way to show him you care.”

He took the third option…

After 5 or so minutes alone in the bedroom Davis came out to get me, pulling me by the hand.

He wanted to show me something — the side table where the boys kept their special things.  We were staying in a cabin and the boys each had only a handful of treasures and toys — each had a blob of fun tac, a fidget spinner, an army guy, and a brand new pack of 5 hot wheel cars (their first ever brand new fresh out of a package cars, ever).

What Davis had done to exact justice was this:  he’d taken his own cars (which he had wanted so badly) and his fidget spinner, and put them beside Brayden’s.

“You’re giving him your things?” I asked incredulously.  Davis nodded, and crumpled into a heap of tears.

It was a beautiful thing.  He wept freely in my arms with that same bittersweet contrition I had felt on the side of the road, owning my mistake.

Rather magical isn’t it?

When I left my son the space and creative license to find his own genuine apology (instead of scripting the typical “thou shalt say sorry” story), Davis self-administered a most meaningful consequence for himself.

He considered how much he loved Brayden and basically gave him everything he owned in that moment — a massive sacrifice for a 5 year old.

Discipline is a fascinating thing.

In fact, it’s something I love.

I practise it as an artform…

and I call it Flow Discipline.

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I could write a whole book about it and the way it gently carries our family along.

But for today I just want to simmer in my deep, expensive lesson….

Oh the parallels between children and adults when it comes to discipline!

Don’t we want this very same kind of experience for them —

feel the feelings

I want my kids to respond this way when they are caught guilty and so this is how I take my medicine — I look the officer in the eye and thank him for catching me.

I’m not a docile, spoon-fed, play by the rules, mainstream, white sheep citizen; but I love the law.

I actually rejoice in the rules that keep us safe and I have enormous respect for the authorities that uphold them.

Cringe if you will, but it is an unavoidable principle of life — children become what their parents exude.

Do you have a subtle distaste for Authority?  Are you a rule bender and breaker….a white lie teller?

Who do you answer to?

If there’s a streak of lawlessness in you….don’t be surprised if your kids balk at your rules.

If I had badmouthed the police officer or tried to dodge my consequence, what kind of respect should I expect from my own kids?

This is an intimate inquiry, I know.  But it is always worth an inward check.

You may think it’s uncanny, coincidental, or unfair that I have never seen defiance in the eyes of my children.

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But I believe this is true —

One of the reasons my children are truthful to the core, defenders of justice, obedient to a fault, and genuinely remorseful over their wrongs…

Is because I am.

My heartbeat is that of the psalm writers: “Lord I LOVE your LAW!”

It isn’t a religious thing.

Quite the opposite!

I don’t strive to “be good.”

I just love the sweet justice and precious wisdom that makes life work well.

I love how it forms me — how it pierces and convicts me so that I can grow.

I walk away with this stupendous $287 ticket and so many priceless lessons:

-I’ve let the good conviction have its full effect: kicking my lazy, sloppy cellphone habit in the butt.

-I’ve rectified the problem: went straight to the store and bought a hands free thingy.

-I’ve researched the exact legislation around distracted driving where I live and realized that even helping my kids review their spelling words on the way to school, texting at red lights, and jotting down my inspirations as I drive are punishable offences.

-And I’ve come up with my own creative way of making amends…

On September 8th (my optional court appearance date and our official back to school day) we will begin our first day of homeschool with this most incredible lesson.  I will take my 4 kids to the Provincial Courthouse.  I will plead Guilty and show the judge my receipt for the bluetooth I just purchased and I will ask for a reduction in the fines.  Whatever the result, the homeschooling will be rich.

I will put some items in my friend’s garage sale to make some cash, scrimp on my next hair do (no highlights), cancel the day trip to Fort Edmonton Park (sorry kids), and tighten my belt in other little ways to pay for the ticket.

Fantastically, my children will have the better-than-Sunday-School osmosis experience of a Mother who doesn’t try to evade the law, doesn’t curse the system, but is actually Way Beyond Sorry, and still hopefully of a little mercy.

And from now on won’t they be watching me — better than an entourage of unmarked police cars; they will be watching from within my vehicle if I ever, ever, ever dare to pick up my cellphone while driving.

You better believe it!

Moving through this indictment has reminded me what my real discipline goal with my kids really is —

Beyond just ‘saying sorry’ when they mess up, I want this reformational impulse to become their way of being.

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In a nutshell,

my Flow Discipline strategy

is about responding intuitively  –maybe even differently every time!

(Experts rave about ‘consistency’ but I think that — for older children especially — too much rote & automated punishment

sort of insults their intelligence & limits their engagement, stunts their capacity, and short-circuits the true goal!)

So get in touch with your discipline goals…

For me, the greatest value is in helping them

develop their own relationship with justice.

It’s all bathed in beneficence, benevolence, and grace

which dissolves unhealthy blockages of guilt.

True discipline creates the experience of openness, not constriction.

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It is a river that flows —

that doesn’t get hung up on the little twigs and leaves,

that doesn’t build a bunch of ‘Thou Shalt Not’ dams everywhere.

(We have so few rules that when Brayden had a grade 3 school assignment to write about his family’s #1 Rule he couldn’t think of one!)

External rules are clunky; they just beg to be broken.

But standards that are sketched inward,

upon the fibres of the growing heart…

pervade everything,

like Magic.

~~~~~~~

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*Update!  How cool is this!  A friend read my post and sweetly offered me these free tickets to Fort Edmonton Park so my kids don’t have to suffer because of my mistake 🙂

Surrendering to ‘flow justice’ has a way of boomeranging good things in return!

Just imagine such a world!  Forgiveness!  Grace!  Redemption!  

A small token of the true reality behind it all 🙂

Thanks Erin!!

 

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4 COMMENTS

  • Erin McCormack

    Love Love Love.
    I love the way your mind works.

  • Wesley Wilson

    That move by Davis is some kind of powerful!!! I love you guys all so much, and I love your creative ideas and how wonderfully you write!

    • Gigi Jobb
      AUTHOR

      Thank you Wesley! It really was an eye-opening moment for me, watching Davis make that peace offering. I have to admit I had underestimated him before that (and often would force the “say sorry” thing). I am fascinated to keep following these opportunities to see just how much sincerity, sensitivity, initiative, and genuine justice they can administer!

  • charlotte lusson

    Dear Ginette,
    How courageous of you to search for the higher road and to find it with such humility, transparency and grace! You amaze me and as always, I feel blessed to know you! Love Charlotte

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