So there has been this story floating around in the ether of the internet about a man in Burger King who dealt with a screaming child in a rather creative way. You can read it here! The story goes like this. The man wanted a burger and was in line. A mother with a screaming kid comes up behind him. The mother is on a cell phone and is ignoring her despicable son. He is kicking his mother, and screaming that he wants a fucking pie, over and over again. The man asks the mother to calm her child as he has a raging headache. You can imagine that he is met, now, with the mother screaming at him and comforting the child that he will get his pie.
YUCK! This already is the worst story ever. 1. why isn’t this child being disciplined by his mother and 2. why is he being rewarded with a pie?
So…the guy buys all the pies in Burger King, 23 to be exact so the little spoiled brat doesn’t get any. It is beautiful. It feels so good. Justice is served. Right? Well…not so fast. I had a friend who posted the comment “WWJD?” It made me think. I can’t get in her head so I don’t know if she was being sarcastic or was joking or was entirely serious. However, it brought up a really good point. What would Jesus do? What is our duty as Christians to raise up our children? Do we have any duty to our kids? To our community? To our God?
Before we get all theoretical, lets get practical. My first thought when she posted that query was not religious it was that this gentleman parented the child way better than the mother. I called my mom and asked her what she thought I would have done if, my child did even one of those things (kicking me or screaming the f-bomb, or throwing a long winded screaming tantrum in a fast food establishment) My mom nailed it. “You would rip that kid out of the restaurant so quickly his head would spin…you would drag him to the car for a time out….then, there would be no pie…NO MATTER WHAT!”
That is the crux of it…this man did what the parent should have done…this man disciplined her child. When you behave that way, you cannot be rewarded. You reward great behavior to encourage it. You NEVER EVER EVER reward bad behavior, or you are training your child to behave that way more often. When you kick your mom, scream the f-word, tantrum in public, and act like a rotten brat…NO PIE FOR YOU!
So back to the theological Jesus part. What would Jesus do? Well, I don’t really think pie would feature in the equation. The above practical reason is why. By rewarding bad behavior, you are training your child to disrespect you and the community you live in. You are teaching your child that disrespect is a good thing. I don’t think Jesus would ever agree to such a thing. In fact, he started with the 10 commandments, one was honor your father and mother. He overlaid those with love. The most important thing is to love God and to love others. We are not teaching our child to love God and love others when we allow these misdeeds. We are teaching them that disrespect is okay and is rewarded.
I went around the internet looking at different Christian groups and what they advocated in regards to child discipline. To be honest, a great many advocated corporal punishment. I have spanked my children. I can count how many times on one hand. (4 times – with two children, to be exact) It was distasteful and I don’t know if it accomplished my goal. I feel like there are better ways to discipline your child that are more Christ-like that really work. However, these ways are always difficult for the parents. You don’t get to tune out your kids temper tantrums at Burger King. You have to parent…all the time.
My children are 18 and 11. My daughter is going to college in the fall and graduated with straight As. My son is in a dual language immersion school and is fluent in Spanish. They are kind, good, respectful children. We have meaningful conversations. We are close, emotionally. When I asked them if they would ever scream at me like that or throw an angry tantrum if I didn’t do what they asked, they both said, “NO WAY.” To be fair, they are older, but I never let them do this. Even when they were babies. I would leave a full cart of groceries in the store to go discipline my children. And they knew that if they behaved in the store they got to pick one item to have. If they didn’t, not only did they earn a time out but they definitely did not get their special item. Then…here is the kicker. I asked them why they wouldn’t do it. Their answer was, “Because we love you.” My 11 year old son said he wouldn’t want to embarrass me in public. My daughter said it made the other people in the store uncomfortable. So there it is. That is exactly why Jesus wants us to follow the rules. Not because we are forced to. Not because we have some special tie to the rules, but because we love him. It is the same. We have to teach our children so that they can see that we respect people and act kindly because we love them. If we don’t teach them that, it is so much more difficult to make the leap of why we follow what Jesus asks of us. It is not rote obedience, it is because we love him.
So, WWJD? I originally wrote, “Give the boy a fish!” But what I think he may have done was the same as this man, in a more kind way. He would have lovingly scooped the child up and removed him from the restaurant. He would have not given the pie. To discipline is to teach your child how to love. They do not like acting like that. They don’t like screaming and throwing tantrums. It is every bit as rotten for them as it is for the rest of the world witnessing it. When we teach them a different way, a path of kindness, respect, and love we give them peace and comfort and a magical connection. This is the comfort our savior gives us when we submit to his discipline. It is the same. It is magic!