Punishment or incentive?

I was talking with a friend this week about their job.  The work environment is is poor and morale is at an all time low.  Management has created an environment of fear through a variety of methods.

As we talked I honestly had to hold back tears trying to imagine myself in the shoes of the workers who had been hung out to dry especially in this tough economy.  I could not help but draw parallels between this method of leading a team of employees and the leading of a family.  In both situations many things are similarly true.  Sometimes behavior or actions must be changed.

What struck me though was how sometimes I see myself falling into a pattern as I raise my children of implementing a list of punishments and consequences in order to obtain the behavior or compliance of my children.  Sometimes in desperation I yell.  No matter how much I want to get it right and shape the lives that are in my care in a kind-hearted, gently spoken and forgiving way – I fail on a regular basis.

There are moments when instead of seeking to facilitate an environment of grace, I unintentionally facilitate an environment of fear.  While the fear of punishment may produce results, it is so not the home I want to abide in with my family.  I want the love and acceptance our kids feel here to be such a draw that they want to be a part of it.  Fear and punishments really isn’t that appealing for the long haul.  And I constantly hear from veteran parents, “The stakes just get higher with choices as they get older.”  Sigh.

While I don’t need to berate myself for getting it wrong some days, I really believe that I do have the responsibility to keep aiming for something greater.

First on my reading list for the new year is a book that is unlike any parenting book I’ve ever read.  I wrote about it here back in March.  In his book “Loving our Kids on Purpose” Danny Silk lays out a great framework for loving our kids the way God loves us.  If ever there was a model for loving with grace, it’s God’s model.  As I understand more God’s love, I understand more HOW to love the children in my home and every other person who comes across my path.

That kind of love is the answer to a good many problems in life I’m convinced.

It’s beautiful, perfect and unchanging.