Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dad's Discipline

Nothing could ever wilt me like that look from my father. A kind and gentle man, he was not one to lift a finger to discipline his children. He didn't need to - that look said it all.

Although I never knew the specifics, I remember him telling me the reason for this. His own father, my grandfather, disciplined his seven children the same way. That was because, as a child in 1800's Germany, he was treated much rougher. When he misbehaved, or was even perceived to do so, his father took him to the cellar and beat him unmercifully with a leather belt. The lessons took, but in a different way than his father might have expected - my grandfather vowed to never lay a hand on his own children. Apparently, he never did - thus, my father didn't either. My dad said that his dad rarely even raised his voice, but what he said, and how he looked, was enough to make a lasting impression. My dad learned that method well, because all three of us knew the look and responded accordingly. I'm certainly grateful that the cycle of abuse ended with his father...

 Raised in a family business, I was around my parents most of the time and I'm sure underfoot a lot. Both my parents were patient and loving, but I always knew when enough was enough. If pushed to the limit, Mom would spank; Dad spoke sternly and gave the look. I only remember one time, when I was around three or four, when Dad lost his cool with me. He was doing some sort of work on the stairs that led to the attic where my two older sisters slept. I kept stepping up and down on them, right smack-dab in the middle of where he was working. He spoke to me several times, but I ignored him and continued with my little game. Finally, in exasperation, he slapped me on the rear. I burst into tears, my dignity injured much more than my hiney, I'm sure. In a gentle voice, he explained that I needed to do what I was told to do - a lesson I never forgot!

I did, and still do, have great respect for my father. As I look back on my growing-up years, it's easy to see why; he always treated me with respect, even as he disciplined me. Most of the time, both of my parents took the time to explain why what I was doing was not what they expected of me. They concentrated on my actions, not on me as a person, and I think this made all the difference. As I matured, I grew to realize that I did not agree with all of their expectations, but I still respected them and how they felt. My father and I had many heated discussions through the years, and sometimes we simply had to agree to disagree. That, also, has served me well, for I learned that one can love and respect another, but not agree with them on all things.

I am - as my father was, and his father before him - a product of my upbringing and the times. One of my favorite sweatshirts bears the saying: Women who behave rarely make history. Perhaps this is the rebel in me - I was always expected to "behave", but I was also a tomboy and had a stubborn mind of my own. My dad knew this and, although he might not completely agree with this saying, he understood that not all rules are fair. He also knew that we need not always follow along blindly simply because society has certain expectations. Each of us has the right to think, to question, and to strive to be our own person, as we also consider others and the greater needs of society.

I always knew that my father loved me, even when he said "No." Strict, kind, determined, always a gentleman - that was my dad. I carry a part of him with me still, and often when I'm faced with a decision I hear the echo of his voice: "Be a good girl - do the right thing..." Of course, it may depend on just how you define "good" and it isn't always easy to know what the "right" thing is, but I keep trying to aim in that direction. It all boils down to respect, I think; you raised me well, Dad.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.          Hebrews 12:9-11

(It was one heck of a good dance, Dad...)


  1. That was so nice. My father was nothing like that. He was completely strict and abusive at times. My brother however never hits his daughter...he has the look, lol.

  2. Becky - kudos to your brother! Some kids who are abused do anything to avoid doing the same to their kids, like my grandfather did. Unfortunately, many just turn around and do the same thing to their kids as was done to them, thus the "cycle" of abuse. Sorry to hear of your experience with that. Thanks so much for your kind words and for stopping by. Also, for sharing - I value your comments.

  3. nice memories you have of your father ladybug...and i enjoyed seeing your pictures too.

    my childhood memories are too much to share here...filled with mental & physical abuse...no warm hugs or security. but i think because of that...i was just the opposite with my 2 sons. i wanted to hug them and never let go...

  4. You're right that stopping the cycle of abuse is such an important thing and it has come from within someone who was abused and, as such, feels no need to pass that feeling on... someone who feels better themselves for finding an alternative.

    Thanks, then, to the great grandfather I never knew and to the grandfather, I did know who passed on the techniques for self-discipline (internalized discipline) based on knowledge of what's right and knowledge that we are loved.

    The bible quote is one I hadn't ever seen. It fits this so well, though.

    And, I love the picture of Grandpa out on the prairie with walking stick. It's one I had never seen before.

    Thanks for sharing these memories.

  5. Thanks for sharing these memories and the memories of a great-grandfather I never met. I had no recollection of the bible verse but it really fits the story.

    Kudos to everyone who, having experienced abuse, put it aside as something they did not want to pass on. It takes great strength not to mimic authority figures (which parents are) in times of stress and to still find the line that does provide guidance for self-discipline (the internalized discipline that we all want our youth to find).

    Great story, Barb.

  6. Laura - I'm so sorry for the abuse you suffered as a child. Certainly no one deserves that, especially a child. But always remember that YOU chose another route, that being NOT to continue that cycle with your own kids. That takes a strength of character, as Performance PI said, and I commend you for that.Bet your boys always felt loved!

    Performance PI - I never knew that grandfather, as he died before I was born. Your grampa did share the story of the beatings, however, and I'm sure that was true. How that great-grandfather of yours managed to keep his cool with all those wild boys out on the Montana prairie is beyond me!

    That picture of Grampa in the long grass was taken at the lake (Terry & Jesse were in it, too, but I cropped it just down to Grampa.) Jesse was in a child carrier, so I think this must have been taken around 1981?

  7. Enjoyed the part about your father - but not all people are lucky enough to have that kind of father and therefore our image of the "heavenly" father is skewed - and we deeply resent anyone preaching to us that the "heavenly" father is an example of our father - oh wait - yes he is - he tortures us (god will not give you more than you can bear) - what kind of good father would push their child to the breaking point just to see what they would do - what a load of - well, you know - CRAP!

  8. Anonymous - granted, not everyone is as lucky. I can well understand your stance if your past experience with your father was not good. I certainly do know just how fortunate I was to have a father who treated me as he did. I might very well feel as you do if my grandfather had chosen to continue the cycle of abuse, for abuse leaves nothing but destruction in its wake...

    I do believe that we all see the world through our own filters depending on our personality, life experiences, and attitude. This blog, as most are, is strictly from my point of view - how I see the world. We all see differently, and those who visit here frequently know that I do often include a Bible verse that I find relevant. It is not my intent to "preach" to anyone. - you can take it or leave it.

    Thanks for stopping by - I do value your comments.

  9. Ladybug, this is a wonderful tribute to your father -- and his father. Yes, I know well how hard it is to break the cycle. I chose not to use spankings on my children... I could not sort out my feelings of having been beaten on. I also didn't have the look... sometimes it took a great deal of creativity to give my two sons (or let them find) natural consequences for their wrong actions.

    Thank you for sharing this story of your father and a success story of someone who broke a family pattern (who knows from how many generations back).