This just happened…and, as the news goes, this is the kind of strange exception to love and nurture in parenting. News about good parents doesn’t sell, of course.
Authorities say 9-year-old Savannah Hardin died after being forced to run for three hours as punishment for having lied to her grandmother about eating candy bars. Severely dehydrated, the girl had a seizure and died days later. Now, her grandmother and stepmother who police say meted out the punishment were taken to jail Wednesday and face murder charges.
We do not know the story, so caution is appropriate (is mom bi-polar, etc.?). On the other hand, we do know that a nine-year-old is dead as a direct result of being punished (assuming the article is telling the truth). Clearly this is awful. We are all grieved. We are tempted to wonder what kind of monsters would do this to a child. We also could pause to realize that these two women are surely devastated by their role in her death and the loss itself of their baby. Do you really think they would have done something so foolish if they had known the result?
Are you ever monstrous yourself? Do you ever over correct? Never correcting a child is a cure for the above, however the devastation of raising and un-caged ruffian is similarly tragic. There is hope.
Here are a few basic guidelines that will help you stay clear of trouble while parenting well.
1. Recognize that most habitual behavior in children is learned and operates by cause-and-effect / reward-punishment-consequences
Proverbs 29:12 says, ” When a leader listens to malicious gossip, all the workers get infected with evil. ” (the Message). Another way we say this is that what gets rewarded gets done. Behavior is encouraged…so, look at both the good and bad happenings in your younger children as a matter of what you are teaching them by what you pay attention to.
2. Use BOTH reward & punishment as often as you can (every single time is OK)
Almost magically, using both reward and punishment forces you to see the real objective and the real issues. If sneaking candy is an issue, then how could it be discouraged and how could waiting for candy be encouraged? This kind of thinking helps lead to the real goal of responsible eating. Isn’t this why dessert comes after the meal.
3. Make sure the ‘punishment’ fits the violation.
Really…a 3 hour run for eating candy? Even if it was a lot of candy, the punishment is out of bounds…horribly so.
Strangely, the Golden Rule works out really well here. Do unto others…would you really have wanted your parents to leave you alone and not correct anything you did? Really? Just on language, my parents kept making me pronounce words correctly…which is very handy since I don’t live in Alabama these days 🙂 On the other hand, would you really have wanted your parents to treat you like you treat your kids? Is the punishments they receive from you the kind of thing you feel you should have had? Well, perhaps you get the point.
This event is a tragedy…but it doesn’t prove a thing about parenting. It does, however, call us all to greater clarity and wisdom.
P.S. Please pass this along if you’ve found it helpful. Also, our free book on how to encourage the behavior you want to see is available for free at: Help Your Child Change
What is Altruism?
Well, as of today when I checked, Merriam Webster claims:
Altruism is currently in the top 1% of lookups and is the 83rd most popular word on Merriam-Webster.com.
And, it’s defined as…
Altruism: unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others
Pretty big kudos, true? And, of course, it is incredibly appealing to the idealism of youth (and the hope of heaven). How wildly noble it is to think of other instead of oneself. The problem is rather simple…is this really possible? Can anyone really think of other without regard to oneself?
Webster’s adds a few examples, among which we find:
Mary may have ample resources and prefer that her share pass to her children who have greater need and are in lower income tax brackets.
(The progressive nature of our tax laws often fosters such altruism among family members.)
—William M. McGovern, Jr. et al., Wills, Trusts and Estates, 1988
Of course, there isn’t enough information, but was it really unselfish? Really? Was she not leaving a legacy or helping her children to avoid later family conflicts? Was she hoping that they would appreciate what she was doing? Are the motives purely and perfectly loving? Really?
No, we don’t know for sure…but it is easy to imagine that she would have felt bad (been thought of poorly) to keep it to herself.
So, what am I saying? Is there no such thing as altruism? Pretty much. I don’t see how an ideal can be truly fulfilled this side of the perfection of heaven. Worse yet, it is harmful to our kids because it simply teaches them to pursue an unreachable goal. Why would we do that?
Now, before you wig out (is that still a hip phrase?), consider the most altruistic person in history: Jesus Christ.
The most altruistic action ever taken was His own death for the world (see John 3:16).
And yet, was it completely without regard to Himself? Was it truly selfless?
Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
So, even in the incredible sacrifice of the Lord…us with him (and the joy accompanying it) was a part of His motive. But, wasn’t that good and noble and right? Of course!
You see, there is no way to escape our own self-interest. God placed it there. It is the foundation of the Law and it is the Crown of Grace. We are all glad God loves those we love, but we are glad-glad that he loves us. It’s just how it is.
The same goes with parenting effectively…it is there self-interest that helps them choose well.
It is true selfisness that has them choose poorly. The problem isn’t our self-interest, rather it is that we are often self-interested without considering others too. We are also self-interested without thinking down the road a little (students want to play right now…but as they mature they forgo playing for study…
because it IS in there own best long-term interest!).
Yes, Philippians 2:3–4 (ESV)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
The translation is fine…it includes our interests too.
Please re-think this…crazy altruism is distracting our youth from the realities of life in an imperfect world.
This is a lesson worth the effort!
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
P.S. I’d love your thoughts below.
There are four words that help us focus, but it's so obvious that you may miss it. As Churchill observed:
It's funny about that focus alludes us all. We are a medicated society and everyone is concerned about their ability to multi-task, etc.
As I said to someone I was coaching today, "I don't multi-task, I multi-obsess." That's closer to what we all mean; focus is concentration and obsession. Never-mind our fundamental mistake on that point, the real issues is our challenge with WHAT we are focusing upon.
Even if you think you are excellent at focus (I haven't met that person...except in my dad and Harry Truman, of whom it was said he could easily read a paper with such intensity that a train / train wreck would not interrupt him), you are probably missing the fact that it is more important to know WHAT is the object of your focus than the ability to focus is by itself.
There are 4 WORDS that are more important than the skill of focusing, and yet, they are the keys to success:
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Let's count them:
In my consulting and coaching practice I find that most people have never clarified the answer to these four words formed as a question. In fact, usually people are talking about what they don't want.
Just think about the problem with this approach:
1. I don't want to go hungry.
2. I don't want to be abandoned.
3. I don't want my children to be dysfunctional.
4. I don't want Billy to hit Sally Jesse.
Frankly, it's really hard to organize focus or actions around those items. What you WANT is the touchstone for success in both focus and actions. So, it should look more like this---
1. I want to provide well for my family and my retirement.
2. I want to be loved and connected to the friends and family I care about.
3. I want my children to have great values and lives as they serve the Lord.
4. I want Billy and Sally Jesse to treat each other with kindness and respect.
Isn't that profoundly different?
If you have and employee, what are you wanting them to focus upon?
If you have a child, what are you wanting them to focus upon?
It's all about 4 Words--- WHAT DO YOU WANT?
"Do your math" is not the same as "Complete Lesson 17" --- is it?
"I want an Excel Spreadsheet on the monthly total sales" is different than "just work hard."
So, do you want focus? Well, it starts with the OBJECT of your focus. Do you want someone else to focus, then tell them what you REALLY WANT.
Honestly, this may seem obvious; however, I promise, you are probably violating this simple principle every single day in multiple ways.
As Bob Newhart stated it in the Mad TV skit, "STOP IT."
Off to learn,
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand