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    Preparing for Childrearing

    July 18, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    A few years back, Si and I helped found a Newlyweds ministry at our church. Don’t worry. We don’t teach it, we just help keep it organized for the people who do teach it. From time to time, couples in the class are asked to share on a certain topic. Recently, our teacher began a series on transitions. The idea is that statistically, divorce occurs more often at certain points in a marriage {like within the first two years, at year seven, when the nest becomes empty, etc.}. So right now we are trouble shooting what could go wrong at those points in the marriage, and looking to the Bible for answers on how to prevent or get through those problems.

    Si will be talking a bit about pregnancy in a couple weeks. Sometimes it seems that couples don’t realize that pregnancy is where it all begins to change, not the birth of the baby. Especially when it is a difficult pregnancy. Since I am famous for somewhat difficult pregnancies, we have some experience in this area. All pregnancies are not rosy. My second pregnancy included nine months of nausea and almost four months of modified bedrest.

    As I was helping Si brainstorm a bit on all that pregnancy entails, we remembered that we spent much of the nine months of the first pregnancy discussing childrearing. I read parenting and infant care books aloud to him in the car on long drives {we lived in LA and lots of drives were long}. When we went places, we deliberately observed the parenting of those around us and talked about what we liked and didn’t like and what we would do differently. This was a great way to iron out an agreement on how to approach parenting at the start.

    We have continued to read and modify throughout the years. Through recent discussions, we have decided there are three basic categories when it comes to the discipline side of the parenting equation. However, we know a number of couples who do not seem to have these distinctions, and it seems to muddle the childrearing decisions a bit.

    I know that the majority of my readers do not have children. I also know that, in the coming years, that will be changing for some. So I share these categories in the hopes that they will be helpful in preparing for childrearing.


    Standards, Verbal Instruction/Correction, and Discipline

    Let me begin by differentiating between terms. Standards refer to behavioral standards. Verbal instruction is how those standards are communicated to the child. Correction is a bit tricky, because when it occurs seems to vary between families. This is verbal correction, and usually involves a reiteration of the standards, a reminder to do or not to do something. This may come before and/or after discipline. Discipline, of course, refers to the consequences of bad behavior. So far, I have observed spanking, time-outs, loss of privileges, and sending the child to his room as ways that different families discipline their children.


    Discussing Standards

    When discussing standards, these are some questions one could ask of their spouse:

    • What were good or bad rules you were raised with?
    • What sort of behavior will we tolerate or not tolerate in our children?
    • What are the standards held to by the families in our church that you admire? Would you like to emulate them in those standards?
    • What areas do you expect to be “strict” in (i.e., good eating habits, good table manners, how the child addresses adults, etc.)?
    • What are the standards the Bible obligates us to hold our children to?


    Discussing Verbal Instructions

    Here are some possible questions regarding verbal instruction:

    • How were the rules communicated to you as a child? Did you like the way your parents communicated them?
    • How would you like our rules to be communicated to our child?
    • Do you know any families who communicate their rules in a way that you would like to emulate?
    • What does the Bible say about instructing our children?


    Discussing Correction

    Here are some possible questions regarding verbal correction of the child:

    • In what tone of voice did your parents correct you?
    • What does the Bible tell us about correction? How does God correct His children and how can that affect our approach to correction?
    • When would you expect our children to be corrected {i.e., before and/or after being disciplined, or in place of being disciplined}?


    Discussing Discipline

    Here are some possible questions regarding discipline:

    • What does the Bible teach about disciplining children?
    • How were you disciplined as a child?
    • What method{s} of discipline is acceptable or unacceptable to you and why?
    • Think of the well-behaved children we know. How are they disciplined? Would you want to emulate that? Why or why not?


    Differentiation is Important

    One of the reasons why I think that differentiating between these categories is that sometimes, in parenting, it is tempting to think one has done one’s job, when one hasn’t. There have been times where I used repeated correction {this is code for “nagging”} in place of discipline. In neglecting to discipline promptly, we actually ended up with more problems around the house. There have been times I disciplined a child, and subsequently realized that I had never actually verbally communicated the standard to the child. This means that the discipline came as a complete surprise to the child, and was truly unfair. It wasn’t until I started to think in these categories {which I didn’t identify by name until recently}, that I was really able to analyze what I was doing with the children, and where things needed fixing. Thinking in categories, it seems, allows for a certain clarity of mind…


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