During a homily a few weeks ago, I took the example of Christ chastising Peter by saying, “Get behind me, Satan” and applied it to the rearing and teaching children. In the Gospel according to Mark, Peter did not want Christ to be crucified. So, when Jesus told Peter that his death would be necessary, Peter reacted emotionally by rebuking Christ to avoid suffering and death on a cross.(Mark 8:27-35) At that point, Christ reacted strongly by saying to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” Now, I imagine that Peter’s feelings may have been hurt at that moment. But, if things had been done Peter’s way, salvation would not have happened and Peter’s own redemption would have been impossible. So, in order to get Peter back on track, Christ had to be firm. And in the process, said something that may have hurt many peoples’ feelings.
During the homily, I suggested that as a teacher or parent, occasionally we had to hurt the feelings of our students and children in order to keep them on track. I went further and suggested that unwillingness to hurt our kids’ feelings would hinder us in fulfilling our responsibilities as Christian parents and teachers. I gave an example of me issuing one of my own students a detention for what may have seemed like a petty rule. I knew that his feelings would be hurt but, I also knew that in the long run, setting an extremely high standard for behavior was good for him and for the school. To ignore the rule and let it pass would have been a cowardly form of surrender.
Parents! Be parents, not friends!
The reaction of some to my homily was perplexing and perhaps even disappointing. Many congregants agreed and related some of the moments they had to hurt the child’s feelings. They mostly agreed that it is a hard thing to do but, to do anything less is damaging. My pastor once told me that his elementary school teacher used to say, “I love you too much to let you get away with that!” However, a few congregants were offended that I would say punishment and discipline sometimes requires a bit of discomfort and pain. I was surprised at their reaction. I wondered if they misunderstood my message or if they really thought you could raise a child without making them upset every now and then. I hope and pray it is the former and not the latter.
Certain things need to be done the old-fashioned way
The Book of Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Pvb 22. The Bible does not tell us to raise and teach our children in such a way that they will always be happy with us. However, training up a child in the way he should go, that is, in the way of Christ, will bring us and them joy, even if on occasion, that involves hurting their feelings.