It was lunch recess and a small handful of us had lingered inside after eating our lunch. Somehow we got distracted and started a game of tag. We were only six and had forgotten that we should be outside.
Our teacher came in and she was furious to find us there. She responded harshly. We were made to stand in front of the class in disgrace. Then one by one we had our upturned palms slapped hard with a ruler. It has been 50 years and yet this scene is etched into my memory.
I was last in line to be punished and by the time the teacher turned to me I had made a decision. I would look her right in the eye and not cry when my hand was whipped.
In that moment of punishment something happened to me. I was the kind of kid that worked really hard to please, but in an instant my soft heart turned as hard as stone towards my teacher.
My relationship with her was damaged. As far as I was concerned she couldn't be trusted.
I do not remember anything she taught me that year. I only remember how that teacher treated me. I don't remember her name, but I certainly recall my feelings towards her.
Put yourself in the shoes of a six-year-old child learning how to behave in school. What would motivate you to do better the next time?
1. Being forced to stand in front of your class to be shamed and subjected to physical punishment.
2. A gentle reminder of the rules and a caution of possible consequences the next time you forgot.
Which approach would build connection and relationship?
The WAY we discipline our children has far reaching effects
There is a fine line between helpful guidance and a response that damages relationship. If we cross that line too many times we will hurt our children. They will throw up their defenses. Their hearts will harden towards us. Sometimes we can even break their spirit.
I've worked with children and young people for 40 years. I have seen firsthand what happens when a child's spirit is broken. I have also seen children's hearts harden towards their parents. It is a really sad thing to witness.
I want to be clear. I'm not saying that we shouldn't guide or instruct our children. What I really want us to think about HOW we do it.
Sharon is a librarian, published author, and mother to 3 adult children. She blogs at Rediscovered Families and writes about nurturing strong family relationships. You can also catch up with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.