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This series I’m writing is based on a simple idea: Each day, I’m going to wake up, pray and read in Proverbs with “parenting eyes.” Then I’m going to blog whatever comes to mind. This could be brilliant or an epic failure. But that’s the plan. Today, I read Proverbs 3: 1-12.

If I were on the game show Jeopardy and the answer was “Mrs. Swindle and Coach Gino,” I would hit the buzzer and calmly give the question, “Who were the two high-school teachers that had the greatest impact on my life?” I would add the $300 to my account, gain control of the board and say, “Trivial Persona for 400, Alex.” At least, I’d have added to my account any year after 1985, because in high school I’d have hit the buzzer and calmly given the question, “Who are the teachers that drive you crazy?”

See, Coach Gino was that coach that had the ability to push and drive and be stern and his teams won. Sometimes won it all, too. But losses were rarely due to lack of preparation. Miles were run. Practices were efficient and run with military proficiency. Strict expectations were given with steep consequences for lack of compliance. There were days when the team would arrive early for practice and goofing off was at full-throttle and someone would see him walking down the hill to the field and someone would say “Coach” and goofing off powered down to zero. Over and over, over and over, over and over. We learned the game, we got better, and after graduation when we came back to visit the first stop was the coach’s office.

See, Mrs. Swindle was that teacher that picked on me. Let’s just say that I couldn’t be bothered by educational pursuits at school. Somebody had to chase the skirts and those practical jokes in class weren’t going to play themselves. Mrs. Swindle was that quirky teacher who referred to everyone as “Scholar [Student Last Name].” She kept the room super cold so kids couldn’t sleep. She read some essay she assigned her seniors each year that I’d written the first day of class and put mine on my desk and said the phrase I was used to hearing by then, “Scholar McKinney, could you see me after class?” At that meeting, she told me there was a “writer & scholar inside me” and she was going to make it her project to “let him know it’s okay to be both.” She said she didn’t buy the class clown act. She held up her end of the bargain, too. Called on me in class every day. Made me re-write essays.

Funny. When I was in high school, I don’t remember many people praising them in the lunchroom or in study halls. There was an awful lot of discussion about how the other classes didn’t have as much work or other teams had more fun at their practices. Stuff like that.

Funny. At the 10-year reunion I was counting the votes for “favorite teacher” and it was a photo-finish between those two. Mrs. Swindle won, and when I stopped by her house to present her the certificate and gift-card our class awarded her, when she opened the door she asked me, “Scholar McKinney, I’ve been wondering why I don’t have a novel on my bookshelf with your name on the spine yet. Can you tell me why that might be?” Classic. I laughed and we had a nice visit. Yes. I thanked her for everything she did for me.

Why the difference in 10 years?

Because when you’re being instructed and disciplined you don’t see the end product.

It takes time to understand the method to the madness. I’d gotten better grades in college English classes than in high school, and when I pointed this out to Mrs. Swindle, she quipped that it was her job to get me ready for college, and that proved to her that I she’d done her job. I could watch a baseball game and understand why coaches did certain things at certain times or immediately see the breakdown in the defense that allowed three runs that inning. 10 years of “ah-ha” moments will show you that these people had an understanding of their role and how it would help you. The other kids who struggled to pass college English or who really didn’t understand the game paid for getting that “easy” teacher or “fun” coach. They had their own “ah-ha” moments.

It’s only with the perspective of hindsight do you “get it.” That’s when you see the method to the madness. And you’re grateful.

Because the tendency is to “loathe” discipline. When you’re running the miles in October in the rain and the season isn’t until March. When you’re re-doing the same drill for the fifth time because it still isn’t right on a Friday afternoon and you’re going to be late for your date. When you’re re-writing the paper for the third time because you ignored the minor themes. When you’re being called on in class because she knew you didn’t read the assignment. It isn’t fun.

But the good coaches know that baseball is a long season, and when your team wins games in April because the other team is wearing down from fatigue…”ah-ha.”
But the good coaches know that .4 seconds matters when catching a baserunner stealing and when the drill has been run a hundred times, the one time gunning a guy out at second keeps them from having a big inning…”ah-ha.”
But the good teachers know that when you move from Golding and Orwell to Shakespeare and Tolstoy, those habits of annotating while you’re reading will serve you on the college test…”ah-ha.”
But the good teachers know if you know you’ll be asked questions, you’ll do the assigned reading…”ah-ha.”

As a parent, we need to keep in mind the important thing is to DISCIPLINE our children in the Lord’s instruction. Too often parents say they’re going to “punish” their children. There is a huge difference…and kids will pick up on it.

The reason a kid gets a spanking or time-out is, ideally, because you’re trying to teach them not to rebel against a known rule. You discipline for rebellion. You should instruct for anything else. For example, one time we sent one of our kids to clean her room. Her idea of a clean room was actually a clean floor. Stuff under the bed and behind the closet door. I was about to blow a gasket and then my wife said, “Honey, she’s 4. To her that’s clean. First, teach her what you MEAN by a clean room. Then, if she doesn’t do it, she’s rebelling. It’s possible she doesn’t know.” So, I went in and pulled everything out and together we put everything in the proper place. The NEXT time I asked her to clean her room, she did a MUCH better job. And, sure, sometimes there was the rebellion which we had to deal with on that issue. But my wife understood that discipline was better than punishment.

As an aside, consequences of stupid-head are not necessarily “discipline from the Lord.” So, a college kid that drank too much can’t legitimately say that the hangover is God’s discipline…or if you overspend you can’t say that God is disciplining you. I’ve found that the actual discipline comes from a brother or sister in the Tribe who bring up the Truth of God who in His Word has shown you right living and challenged you to walk in those and followed that up by holding you accountable for that stuff.

Stuff like…
…failing to show mercy.
…ignoring His truths.
…relying on your own emotions and understandings.
…thinking we know more than we do about the world and how it works.
…entertaining things we know are evil.
…keeping our wealth instead of giving to Him and His work in the world, both in big and small ways.

And that’s hard part about Proverbs 3 and Parenting. Because your kids won’t like you at times. In fact, they might just loathe you in the process and say hurtful things. We’re on the other side of the “ah-ha” moments. Oh, yeah. Those harsh words and glances they give you in process (which they get VERY good at by the time they’re teenagers)…they hurt in more ways than you thought were possible.

But a happy 6-year-old (or 15-year-old) who likes us is a horrible goal. It’s short-term. It’s the path of least resistance. It’s an unloving thing to do to our children. A happy high school kid who doesn’t have to practice or study is not beneficial for anybody.

A 25-year-old (or 65-year-old) who walks with the Lord is a noble goal. It’s long-term. It’s the most difficult path. It’s the most loving thing we can do for our children. A student who understands how to annotate a book or appreciate a double-steal will enjoy reading and sports a lot more than those who don’t understand them. “Ah-ha!”

They likely won’t see the “ah-ha” moments until we did, though. When we left their houses and started our own families. So, let them know you love them and serve them through discipline, not punishments, parents. Just like at the 10-year reunion we have a different view of our teachers.

Because that’s how God works with us. And we’re all in process of feeling like the Lord is out to get us when we learn those hard lessons about being the people He wants us to be. As he cuts away those parts of our lives we cling to that don’t look anything like Jesus. It’s my hope that we never forget to lean on Him and His understanding and keep His Word on the “tablets of our hearts”…

…not only as we parent…

…but as He continues the “ah-ha” moments in our own lives. That street runs both ways.