BEST APPROACH TO DISCIPLINE III: PREREQUISITES FOR DISCIPLINE #2
In our last segment we presented three prerequisites for discipline, namely:
1. Teaching of what’s right and what’s wrong
2. Providing an atmosphere that encourages and fosters good attitudes and behaviour
3. Delineating rewards for exceptionally good behaviour and sanctions for bad behaviour.
We now complete our list of these prerequisites.
PREREQUISITES FOR DISCIPLINE #2
4. Setting a good example: If you do not practice what you preach, you will have the hardest time ever getting people, especially the youth, to follow your precepts. Jesus had some hard words for the religious leaders who were meticulous about laying down rules but hardly kept any themselves in Luke 11:46.
“But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (New American Standard Bible)
Paul the apostle admonished Timothy to “be an example for other believers in your speech, behavior, love, faithfulness, and purity” (International Standard Version).
He was also bold to tell the Corinthian church to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1 – NIV). We should strive for the confidence to say the same to those under us.
If, on the other hand, we smoke, drink and gamble, for instance, we should not be surprised if our children or wards do the same and resist our attempts to stop them. The same goes for situations in our offices. We cannot be habitually late and expect punctuality to be our subordinates’ watchword. Nor can we pilfer our employer’s cash or property and successfully prevent others from doing so or sanction them when they do.
5. Setting reasonable expectations: Assigning of responsibilities should take cognizance of your ward’s age, intelligence, stamina and experience. If you ask young children to handle expensive crockery, for instance, don’t blame them if they break something.
Also, do not load people down with work without respite. He who works and rests today lives to work another day. You don’t endear yourself to your merciful Father in heaven by working people around you like slaves. So even on the busiest days, make arrangements for refreshments and rest at proper intervals.
Even in Old Testament times when slavery was practised, God insisted on the fair treatment of servants exemplified in the granting of a weekly day of rest.
“Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.” (Deuteronomy 5:13-14 King James Version)
How much more should we endeavour to make the burdens those under us have to carry bearable!
6. Above all, let those under you know you love them and would never hurt them unnecessarily. I remember when David erred by conducting an unauthorized census of his soldiers and God sent Gad the prophet to tell him to choose from three punishment options to be executed by God or his enemies. This is what he responded in 2 Samuel 24:14:
‘”I’m in a desperate situation!’ David replied to Gad. ‘But let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.'” (New Living Translation)
He trusted God’s lovingkindness so much that he preferred God directly punishing him, rather than using human beings whose cruelty can sometimes be unbelievable. We need those under us to see us like that and know that even when we are hard on them, we are only doing it because we must and for their own good. It will be great if our wards can say of us what the prophet Jeremiah said of God in Lamentations 3:33, shown here in two translations:
“For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.” (New Living Translation)
“For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” (New International Version)
If punishment becomes inevitable, let them know that it hurts you just as much as it hurts them.
Also, treat your subordinates with dignity and respect. It doesn’t matter how young or poor they are, respect remains reciprocal. Demonstrate your concern for their welfare in the ways that God prompts you. You will thus earn their trust and obedience, perhaps, obviating the awkwardness and pain that comes from exerting punishment.
This series will continue soon with a look at the proper application of discipline. Do share your thoughts on the ideas presented so far.
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