Friday, January 20, 2012

52 Tool Cards Double Feature: Connection Before Correction and Closet Listening

A sermon I heard recently referenced Proverbs 29:1 in a way that got me thinking once again about godly parenting principles.  Traditionally, the verse is translated:
A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed--without remedy.
This is a dire warning.  I immediately began to think something like this:  "I don't want C or any of my future children to grow up to be the kind of person who will remain stiff necked after many rebukes and be suddenly destroyed.  How can I stop that from happening?"

But the sermon went on to point out that because Hebrew doesn't use punctuation and has different grammar than English, another valid translation for the verse could be to parse it as two sentences:
A man who is often rebuked stiffens his neck.  He will be suddenly broken, beyond remedy.
When translated this way, the verse starts off with an observation before making its prediction.  Proverbs is full of this kind of observational wisdom, noting typical patterns of cause and effect in the course of human lives and relationships.

Have you ever had a boss who was critical and demanding of you, who tried to micromanaging your every move?  One natural reaction is to get defensive, to dig in your heels and say, "Get off my back and let me do it my way!"  If you role-play this scenario with a friend, you'll notice how tense you get as you gear up for your defense, particularly through the neck and shoulders!  A stiff neck!

The observation therefore reveals the solution.  Frequent rebukes are the problem that lead to stiff necks which bring sudden destruction.

Just as in the workplace world, critical demanding bosses who micromanage cause resentment among their employees, parenting that is low on connection and high on correction causes resentment in kids.  Eventually their neck is permanently stiffened to our input, they become "parent deaf," and are certain to make many foolish choices that may lead to their ultimate destruction.

This week's two tool cards are both about keeping the connection in the relationship.  A neck that is leaned against your chest in a hug or snuggle typically isn't stiff!  Connection with children allows correction to be heard and responded to.  As Dr. Sears says:

How compliant your child is depends upon your child's temperament, which you can't control, and the depth of your parent-child connection, which you can influence. (from 10 Ways Attachment Parenting Makes Discipline Easier at

So what are some ways to influence that parent-child connection?  Attachment Parenting International notes: 
Discipline that is empathetic, loving and respectful strengthens that the connection between parent and child, while harsh or overly-punitive discipline weakens the connection. (from API's Effective Discipline page)
Gentle or positive discipline strengthens the connection.  I personally believe that practicing attachment parenting principles in babyhood is the best way to build that initial connection, creating a foundation for children who are receptive to correction.  

Connection in the baby and toddler years can be built and nurtured through every feeding, snuggle, and sleep transition.  But as kids grow up and become increasingly independent from us, we aren't so directly involved in putting food in their bodies.  They are more often inclined to run and play than ask you to hold them, and they generally need less assistance falling asleep.  These two tools provide additional ideas for strengthening connection in different contexts.

For kids of all ages, the connection before correction tool is another way to build connection into discpline situations.  By saying, "I love you AND the answer is no," (note the choice of the word "and" instead of "but,") or "You are more important to me than your grades, what do your grades mean to you?" we communicate love and value in a way that softens kids hearts and will hopefully open up opportunities for discussion and guidance.

Similarly, the closet listening tool card is about filling kids' connection cups by being purposeful in regularly spending time physically near them without much of an agenda other than to simply enjoy their company and listen non-judgmentally to them.  This allows us to be "experts on [our] own child" as Dr. Sears' says:
Connected parents become their own experts on their own child, so they know what behavior is appropriate to expect and how to convey these expectations. Connected children know what behavior parents expect and make an effort to behave this way because they want to please their parents. (from Top Ten Discipline Principles at
It strikes me that these two tools are an excellent way to model the grace God has shown me to my children.  Jesus operated by this principle in his ministry as well in His use of parables, the way he engaged with people and even healed them before mentioning their sins.  Regardless of what I have done or have left undone, God's love for me remains and his kindness leads me to repentance time and time again.

1 comment:

  1. I love how much the perspective can change in that verse in proverbs. Excellent post! Thank you :)


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