I've been enjoying several books by Mary Pride recently, namely "The Way Home" and "Schoolproof", both of which are excellent. David and I are actually reading "The Way Home" together, and it has been a great conversation piece and devotional topic each night before we go to sleep.
I was just reading Schoolproof, and I came across the part where she explains that the beginning of teaching your children to be lifelong learners is to teach them fear, or respect. She quotes an idea from several verses in the Bible that say that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:
The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline.
The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning (the chief and choice part) of Wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight and understanding.
This idea struck a chord within me. Isn't it interesting when you can feel the Spirit of Truth work in your mind and heart and cause a familiar text to penetrate deeper than ever before, and "click"?
For exactly one year I worked with kids in the projects as an after-school activities coordinator, and it was something I really struggled with. I got very attached to those little ones, and even some of the big ones, too. Something that used to strike me about them (and hurt my feelings at times...) was that they were completely unafraid of being disciplined. It seemed to me like they didn't care whether or not they participated in the program, no matter how kind and loving I was or how good the food and candy was.
So, I had an epiphany whilst reading the book. To the same degree that those children were unafraid of discipline, they were unwilling to exert themselves. Their level of investment emotionally was the same level of perseverance they had in times of low benefits. This is the reason why many or most of them will not escape the poverty cycle-- they are unwilling to persevere when the going gets tough. Unfortunately, most of them will remain on welfare, sell drugs, sell themselves, go to jail, and so on.
So, another part of the epiphany was that beating your children (or spanking them, whatever you want to call it) is not necessarily the way to instill "fear" in them, of yourself, the Lord, or anyone else. Now, don't get me wrong. I do believe that there are appropriate times to spank-- I just don't believe in it being the first and only method of discipline. But I'm also not a mom yet, either. One day I may eat my words.
If there was one thing that the kids in the projects had an unending supply of, it was beatings. The really bad kind. Like, "my momma's gonna pound my head into the pavement" kind. And yet they never seemed afraid of anything. Especially anyone in a position of authority.
This leads me to believe that the fear we are to instill in our children is not based solely on the idea that very bad things will happen to me if I disobey. I think there is another huge key component, and that is the desire to please. And the desire to please comes from the relationship you have, first with your parents, then with God. The problem that the kids in the projects (at least the ones I worked with) had was that they had very very little positive interaction with their parents. They had very unstable and violent homelives. There was no certainty or warm haven in the home environment. They had no feelings of love and security in their relationships with their parents, especially not their fathers. I believe that a child has to have an experience of feeling esteemed by his/her father in order to build the proper fear of authority. Knowing that it is possible to please our parents, and enjoying the warm fuzzies when we do, causes us to fear their displeasure.
We shrink from the idea of losing the joy and security of the relationship, as well as the consequences of our bad behavior-- that is the real fear of the Lord. Valuing the relationship with God, maintaining a worshipful, reverential fear of Him, is truly the beginning of knowledge.