Thursday, October 9, 2008

Respect and Care

On Tuesday evening we hosted a Smart Discipline seminar with Dr. Larry Koenig. I was only able to sit in on part of it but I had seen the whole program earlier on the internet. I'm thankful to our Sunday school superintendent and Christian education committee for sponsoring this excellent, common sense event. Parents, grandparents and others learned a common-sense strategy to help children and youth with issues of respect and self-esteem. Parents are encouraged to be in charge and to have consequences ready for continued disrespect.

Dr. Koenig had a great plan for putting a chart up on the fridge that would allow several chances before the temporary removal of privileges. (Privileges are restored the next day for young children, and the next week for children who are older.) I encourage you to get the Smart Discipline materials (look on the website) and not just go it on your own. Note added Thursday, October 16: SINCE I WROTE THIS I FOUND OUT THAT THE SERIES HAS BEEN PURCHASED AND IS IN OUR CHURCH LIBRARY.

The next morning (Wednesday) our church building was busy again. I heard part of a presentation about mental illness. An expert (Karen Finck) was here to help the staff of the "Mykkanen homes" know how to better serve men and women with developmental disabilities. About half of those with "developmental disabilities" (what we might call "mental retardation") also suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar and other serious illnesses such as schizophrenia.

One of the things I learned from Karen was this: Whereas a "consequences" based program (like Smart Discipline) is helpful for most people, those suffering from mental illness need a different approach. When we suffer from these issues we need an "ABC" approach, with more emphasis on the A and the B. Karen called "A" the "antecedent," that is, the event or atmosphere that comes before "B," that is, the behavior that needs changing. Those with mental illness have a hard time thinking ahead to the "C" (consequences), so a "Smart Discipline" approach doesn't necessarily work in these cases. In those cases we work especially hard on creating a helpful environment (including following doctor's orders regarding medication, etc.) and deal with the behavior as it occurs.

It's all a challenge. Raising children--dealing with disabilities--they are sometimes very difficult. But we can't throw in the towel. Last night, in teaching youth at YDT, we focused on the fact that we are all created in God's image. Looking at Psalm 139 and Matthew 5, we we learned again about the amazing value of every person. Whether someone is young or old, strong or disabled, well adjusted or not, everyone is absolutely precious in God's sight.

So I'm thankful we have good advice from experts to help us treat others with respect and appropriate care.

How will this affect the way we treat one another today?

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