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Those Juniors, Part 20: Concrete Correction

by Eric B. Hare

Last week: If you want to have the greatest amount of power through influencing (or tempting) your children/students to do good and be good, you must pursue the practical.

As a sample of the many voices being raised in warning throughout America, we might take an article by Webb Waldron, which appeared in the December, 1944, issue of Your Life. In this article he records an interview with Kenneth E. Appel, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Medical School. We quote a few sentences.

“One million children in United States public schools today will sometime go to mental hospitals if we follow the patterns of the past. Most of them could be saved by parents through proper education for life.”

“Today there are over 700,000 patients in mental institutions in this country, more than the total number of patients hospitalized for all other causes combined. We have more hospitalized cases of dementia praecox—the mental ailment that hits youth in its teens and early twenties—than of tuberculosis.”

“These mental failures are in a large measure an indictment of the too soft, indulgent, and unrealistic rearing and education of our youth in home and school.”

“We have two problems—to bring back to normal life as many as possible of those already mentally ill, and to keep our youth on the road to mental health by vigorous, realistic upbringing.”1

Let me quote another voice in harmony with the idea that our children need vigorous, realistic upbringing, from an editorial in the Christian Herald, December, 1944:

“DEAR EDITOR: The current problem of juvenile delinquency could be solved more quickly if all parents would return to the discipline of the rod. The Bible tells us plainly that we must not spare the rod and spoil the child. ... MRS. STEPHEN HOPKINS.

“That’s a good letter, Mrs. Hopkins—and our guess is that many a reader will shout, ‘She’s right.’ Only the other day Dr. Ralph Sockman told us that on the Ohio farm where he was born his mother always kept a good substantial hickory switch hanging on the kitchen wall, behind the stove, and above the switch she had, in true Christian piety, pinned up a motto for the benefit of her boys. The motto read, ‘I Need Thee Every Hour.’”2

Far be it from me to claim that all children must be spanked and that spanking is the only way to correct children. It happened to be the method my mother used, and it seems to have worked with my little rascals, and I confess it ranks high in my opinion, but we all recognize that there are children and children, and there are parents and parents. “What is one man’s meat is another man’s poison,” can apply to methods of correction also. But, from an observation of children, parents, and results, there are two factors and one formula that seem to be common in successfully correcting children.

Of Christ, our Pattern, we read, “He showed consistency without obstinacy, benevolence without weakness, tenderness and sympathy without sentimentalism.”3  Now, if we could only do this, many of our difficulties and disappointments would disappear. As parents, teachers, and leaders, we must make sure that the punishment for disobedience is something that punishes, that it is balanced to the degree of disobedience, that every act of the same disobedience receives the same punishment, and that we administer the punishment without anger.

We had difficulty with our first son about eating oatmeal for breakfast. No, he was not allergic to it; it did not make him sick. It was good food. We all ate it, and we decided he should eat it, too. But he didn’t like it. We thought quickly and stood him in the corner until we were finished; then he was fed his oatmeal. It seemed to work all right that time. A few days later we again had oatmeal for breakfast. Our son took one look and called out, “Corner, corner,” and of his own accord went to an occupation that gave him more pleasure than eating oatmeal. Mother and I were shocked. Our punishment was not punishing, so we had to change tactics.

Looking back through our lives, we all recognize that the only punishments that did not do us any good and that still rankle in our minds are the times when the punishment seemed unjust, unfair, or inconsistent. So for the sake of our boys and girls let us be consistent.

We were reading in Verna Mae’s biology book the other day that it is possible to train fish who naturally devour other small fish to live peacefully in the same fish bowl with them. The procedure is to put a glass division in the middle of the aquarium, with the little fish on one side and the cannibal fish on the other. Now see what happens. The big fish sees the little fish and makes a mighty dart after it. It does not see the plate of glass, however, so just bumps its nose. It sees the little fish again, makes another dart, bumps its nose again. It makes another dart and another and another, and every time it bumps its nose. And even a fish has enough brains to put two ideas together. The time comes when it stops darting at the little fish, and finally the glass partition can be removed and the fish live together happily and peacefully. It was the constant persistency that did the work—always the same—every time the same.

Too many of us parents let the child disobey nine times, then punish him the tenth time. Too many of us send our children to bed one time, take their candy away another time, overlook their misdeed the next, threaten them the next, and then, when we are good and mad, spank them properly.

Edward A. Annett, speaking of threats, says, “Threats on the part of a parent or guardian are peculiarly double-edged tools. If a threat is made, it should be made with due forethought, and carried out if necessary. To threaten and not to do is to make the government of the world, for the child, erratic and arbitrary; he is likely to grow up erratic and arbitrary himself.”4

Bringing up children is no joke. It takes father and mother, leader and teacher, working all together, pulling in the same direction, thinking out the correction with the care and seriousness of a judge, then standing by that decision with consistency and persistency.

It is written of Christ’s days in the flesh, “Though He were a son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.”5  “And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.”6

I like to think of Mary and Joseph planning the program and having a part in teaching Jesus to be obedient, and as a parent and a leader, my heart cries out for understanding, that I might have a part in teaching boys and girls obedience, “that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”7

(Next week: “Steps to Success.”)

1. “How Parents Change Children Into Mental Misfits,” Your Life, December, 1944. Used by permission of The Reader’s Digest Association, owners of the reprint privileges.
2. Christian Herald, December, 1944, p. 52. Used by permission.
3. Counsels to Teachers, p. 262.
4. Edward A. Annett, Psychology for Bible Teachers, p. 217. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
5. Heb. 5:8.
6. Luke 2:51.
7. Rev. 22:14.

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission.

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