There’s an epidemic of high school, college students, and young adults who’re struggling with anxiety. What makes them so anxious? What is it they lack?
Perhaps there’s a correlation between their anxiety and the epidemic of parents who’re unwilling to allow their children to feel or experience any type of pain or discomfort. You know them… the parents who call their kids’ teachers and argue with them about their children’s behavior in class and make excuses for their children’s poor choices outside the classroom.
And perhaps there’s also a correlation between the epidemic of anxiety in teenagers and young adults and the changes that have taken place in school policies. Did you know that many schools have or are planning on removing detention because it’s considered ‘negative’ and might impact students’ ‘self-esteem’? Instead of employing discipline methods, schools are encouraging teachers to reward all acceptable behavior and only use positive reinforcement in an attempt to motivate those who are not following rules. Discipline inflicted by way of correction and training is seen as harsh, unnecessary, painful and unfruitful.
A teacher I know who teaches 6th grade has been instructed by her school to reward all of her students, even for behavior that is expected. She is concerned that this attitude will demotivate the students who do exceptional work and are deserving of a special award since then everyone who does the ‘bare minimum without causing disruption’ will get the same reward as those with outstanding performance. Some of the teachers learning about this new policy jokingly discussed that they should expect a raise in their paycheck just for showing up to work on-time, which is obviously an expected behavior.
As a parent of three teens I understand that it’s hard to witness your children crying, frustrated, disappointed, or in any way having to watch them endure difficulty or a painful situation. I can appreciate that the natural reaction most parents have is to want ‘to rescue’ their children. However, it’s important that we realize that God sees things differently than we do. God’s Word says that He ‘disciplines those He loves’ (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6). He allows hard things to come into our lives. In fact, He often corrects and trains us through difficulty because He knows that later it will be a great blessing to us.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
His Word tells us that even Jesus learned ‘obedience through suffering’. Why should we think that our own children should escape suffering if that was necessary ‘to perfect’ even God’s beloved Son? (Hebrews 5:8-9)
Unlike us, God always has the long-term goal in mind. Long-term, do you think it is better for your child to be disciplined, perhaps even to cry, to feel badly for a brief time, and to do something like serving a detention in school for disobeying the rules, or for him or her to get away with wrong behavior? According to God, discipline is for a moment, but it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness in the long-run. What do you most desire for your child? Short-term or long-term gain?
Is it possible that many of today’s high school, college students, and young adults who struggle with anxiety do so because they lack the mental, physical, or spiritual strength to get through difficulties that are ‘part and parcel’ of living? And perhaps that is because their parents—and even schools— have tried to ‘rescue them’ from the consequences of their actions and kept them from experiencing the necessary discipline that would have matured them and better prepared them for college and adult life.
Pressure, comparison, and navigating the challenges of life is not an easy task. However, for children who’ve been disciplined, I believe based on God’s Word, that they feel more capable, confident, and less anxious later. Allowing the negative consequences of a bad choice to occur or punishing bad behavior instructs, and it can also cause a person to rely upon God instead of upon their own wisdom. Discipline can help them to develop a steadfastness that brings “peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 ESV
We– and our children– will not lack anything when we encounter trials of various kinds if we look to the Lord in the midst of the trials, seek His wisdom and perspective, and willingly endure necessary discipline, relying upon the truth that ‘God disciplines those He loves’, and trials are designed to test and build our character so we will be complete and lacking nothing.
“And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:5-6
God shows His love for us through His promise to discipline. To live by example would mean that we as parents also must love our children enough that we are willing to discipline them, allow them to endure suffering, and not try to rescue them from painful experiences like ‘detention’, but rather embrace the temporary discomfort in exchange for long-term gain like His peaceful righteousness.
Written by Jamie