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May 25, 2018

Calm and in Control

My wife and I made a trip to the supermarket to pick up a few items. When we arrived, we noticed that a woman shopper and her five-year-old boy were engaged in a clash of wills. He demanded that she buy something and then threw a classic temper tantrum when she refused. The conflict was still brewing when they reached the checkout counter where we were standing in line. Unmindful of my listening ear, Mama leaned down and spoke very quietly to her son.

"I was going to give you what you asked for," she said, "but there's no way I can do it now. We don't reward that kind of behavior."

But the lad wasn't going to back off. He continued to snort and complain. That prompted his mom to say matter-of-factly, "Do you know what is going to happen when we get home?"

"Yes," he said.

"What?" asked his mom.

"A swat."

"Yep," she said. "And if you keep acting like this, it will be two."

With that, the battle was over. Junior settled down and behaved like a little gentleman. I rarely inject myself into these kinds of parental episodes, but this was an exception. The woman deserved a word of praise.

"You're a good mother," I commented.

"Well, it isn't easy," she said with a smile.

The last time I saw them, this woman and her son were headed for the door. She had unwittingly given us a demonstration of firm but loving discipline under rather difficult circumstances. The boy had challenged his mother's authority in front of strangers, where she was at a disadvantage.

Despite the embarrassment caused by that situation, she remained calm and in control. She didn't scream or overreact. Instead, she made it clear that the rules prevailing at home would also be applied, literally, in the marketplace. It was that kind of confident and loving discipline that my wise and godly mother applied when I was a child and that I tried to describe in my book, The New Dare to Discipline.

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