In our culture today, many teens are growing up without hope. Is it possible that, to some extent, teens are feeling hopeless because they do not have people in their lives who are willing to tell them no?
As kids grow up with little discipline and guidance from trustworthy adults, is it possible that they develop a sense of hopelessness? Maybe it is time for parents to consider how discipline can lead to hope in the lives of hopeless kids.
Why It Is Important To Consider How Discipline Can Lead to Hope in Our Often Misguided Culture
Never before in our nation’s history have we experienced the rate of mental illness and suicide in our young people that we see today. The number one reason for this is that many kids have no hope. In an attempt to curb child abuse, we have driven our kids into a world of insanity because we are too afraid, too lazy, or too busy to love them enough to exercise firm discipline, draw clear moral boundaries, and develop healthy parent-child relationships.
I believe a hint of the answer is found in Romans. In Romans 5:3-4, the Scriptures say, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” If we view that scripture in reverse, we see the reason why teens say they have no hope. It is because they have not developed any character, and this is because they have not persevered through any struggles in life.
Ironically, because parents and society have gone so overboard to shield our kids from pain and discomfort, millions of kids are now inflicting harm on themselves through self-mutilation or cutting. This is a tragedy that has a great deal to do with the fact that kids are crying out for someone to exercise justice on their behalf for the evils they have been coerced into engaging with—so often without consequence. These are evils that they have now acquired an insatiable appetite for, beyond their ability to control. We commonly call these appeties, “addictions.” Few are doing anything about it. In fact, our politically correct culture sometimes approves and even encourages many of them.
But there is a deeper part to the human entity than most people understand or believe today. It is called the “spiritual nature.” I have written more extensively on this subject elsewhere on License to Parent. In short, it is the part of us that will surrender ourselves to authorities 10 years after committing a crime. It is not just the conscience; it is more like the conscience of the conscience. It is the part of us that still bears the image of God, tainted as that image might be. When teenagers are allowed to do what they want, when they want, and to the degree they want to do it without natural consequence or impunity, there comes a time when doing what they want does not bring them the satisfaction they thought it would or that it once did. Consequently, like any addiction, they chase the genie, falling deeper and deeper into the behavior that they once thought would allow them to experience the ultimate. But experiencing activities, behaviors, and attitudes that violate the remnant of God that exists in all of us without any consequences upsets the natural order of things.
Self-inflicted wounds harm their perpetrator—physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Yet there is still a catharsis. Anyone who has inflicted harm on themselves will tell you this. Of course, this cathartic effect doesn’t justify the ends or the means. It is a perversion of the natural order of things. It is cathartic in the same way any sinful pleasure can be cathartic. Smoking crack is cathartic for the misguided or addicted user. It is a satanic deception and perversion of what God intended by way of justice.
So what is a possible solution? Believe it or not, it is an old understanding of raising teens. Believe it or not, when consequences or appropriate discipline is administered on behalf of a person committing a harmful, sinful, and/or evil act, there is actually a cathartic effect that takes place. In fact, based on our experience at Shepherds Hill Academy, teens are desperately looking for someone who is bigger, stronger, older, and wiser than they are to help them mature and develop appropriate character. When administered properly, loving discipline eventually brings healing to the situation—along with a healthy degree of catharsis. This hurts, but doesn’t harm. Hebrews 12:11 says, “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.”
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