During my vacation week, I autoposted a rerun called You’re Grounded. I think the concept that as believers we ought to opt for restitution instead of groundation is one of the more profound I’ve come across in my reading of parenting books (and I read a lot of them). Right now, Si and I are slowly making our way Doug Wilson’s Standing on the Promises: A Handbook of Biblical Childrearing, and I was surprised to discover that Wilson both references the book I referenced in my grounding post (Bruce Ray’s Withhold Not Correction), but also that he reiterated the point about grounding, and with more clarity than Ray.
It’s always easier to improve upon an idea than to try to come up with your own original one. That, my friends, is why this blog is called Afterthoughts.
Anyhow, I thought I’d share a couple paragraphs:
There is a popular form of discipline for teenagers which appears to meet this need [for alternatives to spanking when children are older], but which has its problems. It is called grounding. When a teenager is grounded, the result is frequently two weeks of unpleasantness in the home. But the purpose of discipline is to restore pleasantness to the home. All too often grounding says, “You can’t go out and do that; you have to stay here and mope.” Suppose they start to mope and are told, “You can’t mope.” They can think, “Well, what are you going to do if I do anyway–ground me?” If the teenager is grounded and not pleased with the discipline, unhappiness is going to remain in the home.
The heart of the New Covenant is centered around forgiveness of sins. We are forgiven sinners. If children are reminded of their failing on a daily basis for two weeks, then they are going to become discouraged because they are being taught a doctrinal falsehood. The parents are saying that what Isaiah said was false when he wrote, “Come let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”…When the “grounded” teenager has an attitude problem and grounding cannot be put on top of grounding, the relationship has been disrupted. But the whole purpose of discipline is to restore the relationship between parents and children.
Wilson goes on to explain that the biblical pattern is restitution, and he specifies that it should be “directed to the person against whom he has sinned.” Sometimes, it is as simple as an apology. Sometimes, it would be money to pay for what was damaged or lost or broken. I got the sense that wisdom would be required in order to fit the restitution properly to the crime.
My one question in all of this is where removal of privileges comes in. I have never parented a teenager before, but I have experienced moments where I thought my child was ready for some new privilege/responsibility, and then I figured out I was wrong. My response in those times was not grounding, because grounding is temporary. My response was an apology–I’m sorry I allowed this because I thought you were ready, but you are not, and so now I repent and take this away from you until further notice.
As an example of this, I offer up: toothpaste.
That’s right. My little girls wanted to prepare their own brushes, and I showed them how and thought they could handle it. When they went through an entire tube in two weeks, and I also found giant gobs of toothpaste on the counter, we had to step back and survey our options. One was to carefully train them in a proper technique. The other was probably a cop out, but it was to have their older brother (or myself or Siah) do it for them for the time being. As the latter was most expedient for the time being (seeing as I am usually wrestling a toddler at that time and not available for habit training–so sorry, Charlotte!), this was what we did.
Please note that I am teaching a certain five-year-old proper habits in shampoo and conditioner bottle squeezing.
I’m just saying.
I am guessing that teenagers can also reveal they aren’t ready for some new freedoms. It seems like taking those freedoms away might be necessary sometimes, and appropriate as a consequence.
We now look for opportunities for restitution, and we have for a while. If our children break a toy, for instance, we try to remember to have them pay to replace it. It seems to me that we don’t have to wait until they are teenagers to teach them to take responsibility for their actions and make things right with those against whom they have sinned, even if we are also disciplining them.
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