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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Susanna Wesley's Household Rule #4

Here are my thoughts on Susanna Wesley's Household Rules:
Rule #4: Subdue self-will in a child, and those working together with God to save the child's soul.
I think this rule works in every family, regardless of religious affiliation.  It really is all about the purpose of discipline and the people who are responsible for care-giving.

The definition of 'self-will' here refers to the selfish obstinacy of following one's own desires at the expense of other people.  It is necessary to conquer and overcome one's own desires in order to be able to fit into and contribute positively to society.

Thus, the purpose of discipline should be to give children the tools that they require in order to function in society as responsible, well-adjusted and independant human beings...that is, one has to teach the child to be able to control his or her own behaviour and consider how their decisions and actions make an impact on the world around them.

It is interesting to note that Susanna Wesley does not want self-will to be completely removed from a child.  A child needs to be tamed, but not broken.  A child with no self-will at all becomes nothing more than a jellyfish.  A child who is spineless and who is not able to stand up for themselves or for the things that they believe is very prone to bullying, even as an adult.

Therefore, disciplinary methods should avoid humiliation (e.g. name-calling, allowing them to soil themselves) or public embarrassment (eg. loudly reprimanding or smacking them in front of friends) which only serves to break a child's self-confidence and spirit.

In Singapore, we would say that the child should not have to 'lose face' - they should be allowed to receive punishment with honour (i.e. in private and in a manner that is age-appropriate) and be able submit to authority with dignity (i.e. no grovelling or self-debasement).

The rule encompasses all who are involved in raising the child - that means that this rule not only applies to the primary caregivers (eg. parents, child-minders) but also applies to secondary caregivers (eg. older siblings, grandparents, educators).

Every person who is in contact with children has a responsibility towards them and must realise that their actions will make an impression.  They are required to put aside their personal agendas and co-operate with each other in order to instill in the child those core precepts that will guide him or her in the future.

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