Sunday, June 8, 2014


Consider these two events:
1)-A child and her sister were noisily sitting in Sacrament meeting at the far end of a long row, and their parents were near the middle row, a few siblings away.

Soon, an elderly gentleman calmly moved from his bench, which was several seats ahead and across the aisle from the two girls, and sat next to them. Then, with very few words, he removed a piece of paper and a pencil from his suit pocket and showed them how to play a silent game on the paper. The girls remained quiet for the rest of the meeting and forever after thought of that man as their friend.

2)-In the days when Sunday School was the only meeting held on Sunday morning, a twelve-year-old girl walked into Sunday School opening exercises and made her way to the front of the chapel to sit with her class. There was little room next to the other students, but since the meeting was about to start and another girl had her leg turned up onto the bench, the first girl sat down on the edge of the bench, thinking the other girl would move her leg. But the second girl didn't, even after the first girl asked her to. The first girl sat through the entire opening exercises squished on the edge of the bench.

Later, when the students went to their classroom, the Sunday School teacher (He'd been sitting on the also-crowded bench directly behind where the two girls had sat.) immediately ripped into the first girl for rudely trying to force her way onto the obviously full bench. And his yelling continued until the girl, between sobs, was allowed to explain about the second girl's leg. The teacher said nothing, or at least nothing comforting, after that, and when Sunday School was over, the girl went home and spent the rest of the day in her bedroom, crying. Needless to say, she never trusted that teacher again.

Both these events happened to me, and while I hadn't realized it at the time, now that I'm an adult, I see these incidents are similar because both represent times when an adult "disciplined" another person's child.

The word "
discipline," according to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, is defined as "training (teaching) that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character." This training, according to some, can be accomplished through punishments or enforced rules. However, I believe one of the most important criteria of effective discipline is the love found within the heart of the trainer. In the LDS manual, "Teaching, No Greater Call," it states:

"The Lord taught that those who have desires to assist in His work must "be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity 
(D&C 12:8). Only those who are motivated by love will have a positive, powerful influence on those they teach. Pray to be filled with Christ-like love toward every person you teach, especially those who sometimes behave inappropriately (italics added)."

So what does this mean? Or rather, how can we apply this counsel to those times when we believe we should discipline someone else's child? A few possible techniques for situations in and outside your home are listed 
here and here, but unfortunately, in none of these examples was love or kindness shown. Self-controlled, level-headed responses, yes, but not kindness. And yet, I can't help thinking that if we really wanted to correct--train--a child's behavior, not just put a temporary band-aid on it, we would do better to follow the example of the scriptural man who saw a need and helped with love: the Good Samaritan.

In Christ's parable, the Samaritan didn't chastise or berate the wounded man for his unwise actions--hadn't he known it wasn't safe to travel that road alone? Instead, he cleansed his wounds. Similarly, he didn't leave the man on the side of the road, wallowing in his misery; he lifted then carried the man to the arms of another caretaker. Isn't this how we should respond to children who misbehave? Shouldn't we show caring, guidance, and kindness as the man in my first story did?

A couple of years ago, I was on a long-term, substitute teaching assignment at our local middle school. One lunchtime, as I walked down the hall, I saw a crowd of students ahead of me. In the middle of them, two young men were fist-fighting. My first response was to scan the hall, looking for another adult, but the closer I moved to the fight, the more I realized I was the only adult around. I had to do something.

Fortunately, I knew one of the students and believed I had an "okay" rapport with him, so he was the one I approached.

First (this all happened within a few seconds), I calmly but firmly told him to stop fighting. That didn't work, so I took hold of his upper shoulder and pushed myself between the two boys, trying to separate them while continually telling them (without yelling) to stop. Finally, they moved apart enough that I could begin pulling the first boy down the hall and toward the office. While they continued to yell at each other (another teacher had arrived and taken control of the other boy), they didn't fight us, and we were eventually able to turn them over to the principal and police officer.

True, part of the reason I wasn't hurt in this altercation may be because the boys were fighting over one's treatment of a girl, however, I fully believe if I hadn't really cared about that young man, or if I had yelled, been harsh, or spoken disrespectfully to those boys, the fight would not have ended; it would have escalated. (Note: In telling this story, I'm not, in any way, advocating that we put ourselves in danger. Rather, we must first assess the situation with wisdom and then try to act with love.)

A final 

"A young mother on an overnight flight with a two-year-old daughter was stranded by bad weather in (the) Chicago airport without food or clean clothing for the child and without money. She was two months pregnant and threatened with miscarriage, so she was under doctor's instructions not to carry the child unless it was essential. Hour after hour she stood in one line after another, trying to get a flight to Michigan. The terminal was noisy, full of tired, frustrated, grumpy passengers, and she heard critical references to her crying child and to her sliding her child along the floor with her foot as the line moved forward. No one offered to help with the soaked, hungry, exhausted child. Then, the woman later reported, 'Someone came towards us and with a kindly smile said, "Is there something I could do to help you?" With a grateful sigh I accepted his offer. He lifted my sobbing little daughter from the cold floor and lovingly held her to him while he patted her gently on the back. He asked if she could chew a piece of gum. When she was settled down, he carried her with him and said something kindly to the others in the line ahead of me, about how I needed their help. They seemed to agree and then he went up to the ticket counter (at the front of the line) and made arrangements with the clerk for me to be put on a flight leaving shortly. He walked with us to a bench, where we chatted a moment, until he was assured that I would be fine. He went on his way. About a week later I saw a picture of Apostle Spencer W. Kimball and recognized him as the stranger in the airport'" (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball(1977), 334).

I've often heard this story repeated as an example of President Kimball's act of service to the mother in the story. But what about the child? Wasn't she crying? Weren't her wails adding to the frustration of those around her? Hadn't her mother probably asked her to "hush," but she, perhaps confused and uncaring, disobediently continued to howl? Yes. And President Kimball comforted, guided, and disciplined her responses. With love.

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