By Maggie Velasquez-Choi

On Discipline – I just finished watching the Discovery Channel’s “Gateway to Asia: Brat
Academy. It’s a documentary that follows an academy in China that tries to discipline
spoiled Chinese kids by making them do chores, exercise by walking many miles daily and
get along with others without fighting. Most of the kids are singletons since China
imposed the one-child policy in 1979. With the rapid rise in the Chinese economy many kids
come from well-off families and have become spoiled brats.

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Since I was childless for 40 years I had plenty of time to cast judgment on parents of
spoiled kids. Why can’t they control their kids? It’s the parents’ fault. Why don’t those
kids obey their parents without talking back? Only once in our family did anybody ever
talk back to Dad. My sister, Lucila, once tried to excuse herself for having gone to the
basketball game without permission. Dad slapped her on the face and that was the first and
last time anybody ever got slapped or talked back.

My self-confidence disciplining declined when I became a junior high teacher then a high
school teacher. The class rules on the wall might as well have been for decoration. I
remember from my college training days my psychology professor said that a former student
called him stressed out about not knowing what to do with a certain misbehaving kid in her
class. The professor told her to “use the book”. She said she’d try it (she was apparently
hoping for something specific). The next day she called again almost crying saying that
she looked in the chapters of behavior modification (Pavlov’s dogs) but no amount of
persuasion or praise or taking away a favorite activity would work on him. The professor
said, “I told you to use the book.” “Okay, but which part? How?” she asked. My professor
said, “Smack him on the butt with it.”

Unfortunately, corporal punishment was not allowed for me at Arlington. After years of
trial and error I found a style of disciplining that worked for me. In a nutshell, it’s
about letting the kids know why they’re doing what I ask them to do, give them a two-month
calendar detailing every page and activity so they’ll have a roadmap, give many
opportunities to let them see their accomplishments (they were surprised that they could
translate a story after 2 weeks), make it fun and, finally, be consistent in the
punishments/consequences area (I can’t emphasize enough the “be consistent” part).

It worked for me in the classroom but I’m still afraid of how much of that will work at
home. I think it is human nature to not see when we’re spoiling our own children. I know
quite a few pastors who preach whole sermons about disciplining kids and yet their own
kids are the terror of the church. Even in the Bible, the priest Eli’s sons were spoiled
and were loathed at the temple and yet Samuel, whose mother gave him to the temple when he
was about 3 years old, was very kind, hard-working and self-controlled.

I’m also afraid of the behavior that the other kids will have on my son. Korea also is
seeing a steep rise in spoiled children. Gone are the days of large families and doing
without. Korea doesn’t have a two-child policy but you’d think it did to look at the
families, and most of these kids don’t do chores but get catered to by parents and
grandparents. When I take 1 year-old Andrew to a commercial playroom I find myself not
knowing what to do when other kids push him off a car or take away his toys because the
other kids’ mothers are right there and don’t tell them anything but just laugh at how
cute their kids are for fighting to get their way. I have yet to see a mother discipline
their kids in the playroom or the playground. Once I waited for more than ten minutes for
two children to finish with the swing so I could swing Andy. They were about 6 years old.

I finally asked one of them if I could get the swing now. She said “No” and then ignored
me. I asked her father, he went over and tried to coax her a few times. She said, “No”
each time. He gave up and walked away. Grrrr, I wasn’t so much angry about the loss of the
swing time as much as knowing that Andy is going to have to live with these spoiled kids
with spineless parents during his time here.

Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation”, tells of the American World War II
generation. It’s apparent that poverty, adversity and discipline created such good
selfless people. As America prospered the overall character of the people weakened unless
they found other reasons to excel and be self-disciplined. China and Korea also have had
reputations of well-behaved kids who want to honor the family but I foretell that we’ll be
hearing different stories in the next few years. Andy seems to be the luckiest boy in the
world, he’s healthy, loved, financially okay, no brothers or sisters to share Mommy and
Daddy’s attention and cute (it’s not just my opinion), but all those “assets” could also
be his downfall. I pray that God grant me the wisdom to instruct him to “Love the Lord
your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the
first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as
yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

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