The other night my 4 1/2 year old daughter, Hadassah, got her beautifully tight curly hair braided. As I sat on our couch holding her as she cried and begged us to stop, I began thinking. As I reflected on how those 2 hours went down I thought about the parallels of this braiding experience with the job of disciplining my children. Let me fill you in on how the night played out. Per my value in having lots of wonderful people come alongside us in raising our children, I asked one of my friends (who is African American) to help me find a person who could braid Hadassah’s hair before our vacation. So, at 6pm Tuesday night, my friend brought a young college girl over to our house. We had talked all day about Hadassah getting her hair braided and she was so excited. We hyped up watching a movie and how much easier it would be to not have to brush it everyday (which is not something she likes!). She was excited! All that changed once the braiding started. She does not have a tough head as we haven’t done full head braids very often. She began to cry and she really did not stop until she looked in the mirror when it was all done. We tried every strategy to help distract her. We watched a movie. Mommy told her a story. Daddy talked with her. Parents left the room. Nothing would get her to relax (she is a very strong willed, tough kid). Though the young woman was so patient and gentle,it was just too much for Hadassah. Thankfully, after double the amount of time it would’ve taken had Hadassah not been so sensitive, the look on Hadassah’s face as she looked in the mirror made everyone happy. She was delighted! Through her puffy eyes (from crying so hard and so long) you could see the twinkle of happiness. She stated how much she loved her hair and how glad she was to have long braids! (Braids just like Pippy LongStocking she exclaimed!)
The braiding experience yielded the outcome we wanted, but at the time it was painful for all involved. Disciplining young children seems to play out the same way. At the time the child nor the parent wants to be participating in the discipline situation. It is hard for the parent to disregard all the words of the child as they try to justify and rationalize their sinful behavior. It is hard to persist with the conscience when it would be far easier just to give up and give in. But the times that I am able to stick with the discipline, to stay the course, the outcome is worth it. Just as stopping the braiding halfway in because the crying and the work was just too much would have yielded some pretty awful looking hair and disappointment for everyone, including Hadassah, giving in to my children when disciplining them will produce some awful behavior in the future. And, as it will be easier for Hadassah when we braid her hair again in the future, so it is with discipline. It gets easier the more times we engage in it.