Discipline Ought To Start Before Three

I was horrified, but the news story (“Biden v. 3 year-old: VP Charms Senator’s Son”) was cast as a human interest piece, an ah-ha moment. There was Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States, chasing a three-year-old, trying to get back the speech notes the toddler had snagged.

In the end Vice President Biden pulled a “grandpa swap,” distracting the child with the promise of a piece of candy, then making the trade.

Where are the parents, I thought immediately.

It turns out that the child was the son of one of the senators being sworn into office. Families are apparently invited to the ceremony, and this three-year-old attended. No mention of his mom, though daddy was obviously there.

The thing that perturbs me more than watching our Vice President chasing a three-year-old is that no one told the little boy it was wrong to take the nice Vice President’s notes. That he should stop running when he was called, that he should do what his daddy told him to do and give the notes back. Oh, did I make up that last part? Did the nice senator forget to tell his son to return what did not belong to him?

Now the little boy is being called cute and precocious. Precocious, if he has a future as a pick-pocket waiting for him. Or maybe he’ll opt for white collar crime where the big money is. That’s tongue in cheek, but I do think this little guy is getting set up for a sad life.

In these formative years between one and five, this little guy is learning important lessons. From this one incident, he learns that even the really important man at his daddy’s work doesn’t have to be obeyed, that doing whatever he wants to do gets him rewarded, that no one will correct him when he does whatever he feels like in public.

Equally sad is the response of people on one site—over a hundred comments saying how “child wise” Vice President Biden is, how adorable in employing stealth grandpa tactics, how hazardous it is to negotiate with three-year-olds, how the kid and Biden are both heroes and should fight crime together (huh?)

What has become of our national sense of right and wrong? On one hand we praise little tykes and those that enable them when they do wrong, then we turn around and wonder why teens bully or why adults cheat.

Tell me, when is that little boy going to learn right from wrong? When will he discover that there are some things he should not do? Does this information come to kids naturally or will they absorb it by osmosis?

The latter, of course, is impossible since he is receiving no message that there is a right and a wrong. The only conclusion he can make, if this incident is typical as it would seem, is, There are no negative consequences no matter what I do.

I had planned on elaborating a little on what the Bible says about discipline, but I ranted too long. Perhaps this one verse says all we really need to hear anyway:

He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
– Proverbs 13:24

Published in: on January 13, 2011 at 7:17 pm  Comments (6)  
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  1. I have to wonder is that was staged, and the they let him take the notes. Your point still stand, though, I think.


  2. Hey Becky, good thoughts. I know it is hard at times, but if my 1y.o. is learning to OBEY… even grandma and grandpa and the difference between right and wrong…the 3.y.o can DEFINITELY learn….


  3. Urk! Becky, but can you IMAGINE the scandal that would have erupted if either of the principles (Biden or the senator) had been caught popping that tyke’s diapered bottom? Or what if all the VEEP said was NO, and suddenly there were wails and tears galore?

    Can’t you just hear the shrill denunciations from every social worker at the event and feel the cold hard glares of disapproval, not to mention the everlastingly shriller shrieks of displeasure from every DSS worker around the nation–on local and national broadcast? I’m cringing, just imagining it. I wonder if anyone’s ever had to tell a DSS worker before that no, they can’t have the VEEP or a Senator arrested; that VEEPS and Senators have got diplomatic immunity?

    “You made that sweet little boy cry! You are such a –” (fill in the blank)
    Sheesh. That might even be entertainment worth watching on TV–but only if we all wear earplugs! Haha…

    It’s not that I don’t agree with you; I agree that boy needs a huge A-HAH! moment that naughtiness does not pay, that it’s obedience that counts, but–mmmm. Maybe NOT on camera in front of the nation. We’d never hear the end of it.


  4. Jay, it didn’t look staged to me. I saw the clip on the news. But even if it was, the way people reacted (Awwhhhh, isn’t this a cute incident! ) speaks volumes about how our culture is now approaching discipline. Pretty much it’s “thou shalt not.” Except there’s this TV program on called Supernanny in which a professional goes into the home where there are unruly children and teaches the parents how to discipline. That, at least, says to me some are recognizing the need to change the “Children in Charge” direction we’ve gone.

    Krysti, I agree that Vice President Biden didn’t have much choice to handle the situation other than the way he did. But again, Where were the parents? The Vice President should never have been put in that circumstance, I don’t think.

    Before the little tyke could reach up and snatch the notes, the parent should have said in a firm parent voice, William, come back here. And if William ignored said command, Mom or Dad should have been on his heels, scooping him up and leading him from the area. If he cried and screamed, he should have been taken from the room with clear commands and instructions: Honey, it’s wrong to take things that don’t belong to you. You need to listen to Mommy when she tells you to stop. If you can’t stop crying, I’ll need to take you out of this room and give you a time out.

    All that should have been in place before they ever went to that particular ceremony.

    And Becky, you’re right. Even at one, children can understand a lot, and it’s apparent there are times they willfully disobey.

    Most memorable example: one of my nieces was attracted to electric outlets. She was told No, moved away, but changed directions and started crawling toward the forbidden spot again. No, came the command. My sweet niece glanced over her shoulder at her mom, looked back at the outlet, back at mom, at the outlet and started crawling for it once again.

    You could practically see the wheels turning and the decision being made—to obey or to do what I want?

    That’s in all of us. It’s called a sin nature. We are not bent toward obedience because sin has twisted us from our love of pleasing God and those He has placed over us, supplanting it with a love to do what we wish for our own pleasure, not for God’s.

    OK, sorry. I’m getting carried away a little. 😉



  5. That kind of action might be “cute” at 3, but that is NOT cute at 13… if the child is never taught, that’s how he’ll end up. And 3 yrs old is not too young to start disciplining.

    One thing I heard and strive to practice with my children is to discipline in privacy, though. Don’t do it in front of others. Commands are fine, but if more is required (time out or a firm swat to the bum), that should not take place in front of people, but in another room after the child knows what they did wrong and why they are now being disciplined.


  6. Totally agree. Sadly, I see that alot anymore with parents. They think we think it’s cute when they block aisles at the grocery store, do sprints there, or hide among the toilet paper on the store shelves (and they weren’t three).


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