Discipline and Discipleship

This morning following the Kindergarten and First Grade Assembly, we welcomed visiting parents to our first admissions Open House of the school year.  Remember going through Geneva’s admissions?  Admittedly, it is not the easiest process to negotiate.

Geneva’s admissions requires a bit more time and commitment than usual out of our desire to make clear our beliefs and goals as well as our need to determine if we share these beliefs and goals with prospective parents.  In preparation for the parent interview, we ask all applicants to read An Introduction to Classical Education.  In the past, we also asked them to read a document titled Philosophy of Discipline.  That document was replaced this fall with a new one titled Philosophy of Discipleship.

The school’s Philosophy of Discipline was written in 2011 and served as an important document for the sake of admissions.  Over the last year or so, the school’s Board of Trustees and I have discussed the need for an articulation of the philosophy on a broader scale – not just addressing discipline (although it is an important topic) but placing the role of discipline within the larger context of discipleship.

The new document is now required reading for all applicants to the school and I encourage current parents to read it as well.  If you do so, you will see that it still has much to say about discipline but does so with the understanding that discipline, if done well, helps move the disciple forward in discipleship.  Like its predecessor, the new document conveys the basis for the authority on which faculty and staff discipline students toward discipleship.  We do so on delegated authority from parents.  The concept is captured in the Latin phrase In loco parentis.

At the end of the Philosophy of Discipleship, we have ten practical suggestions for parents that are related to discipleship.  I share them below as a post script.  I hope you will find them useful.

Brad Ryden

Practical Suggestions for Parents (from Geneva’s Philosophy of Discipleship)

  1. Re-examine your goals and desires for your child. Are they biblical? While it is natural to want your child to be happy, successful, popular, smart, etc. (that is, to have it all), at what price are you pursuing these on behalf of your child? If your desires and goals do not line up with the school’s, then discuss with the school administration.
  1. Understand and embrace the educational mission of the school. In loco parentis requires that you delegate authority to Geneva so it is essential that you understand and embrace how Geneva is going to exercise that authority. Read the Geneva handbooks as these documents give details as to how disciplinary matters are handled by teachers and administrators.
  1. Participate fully in the life of a local church. Join a local church that preaches the gospel and is serious about helping believers grow in Christian maturity. Make sure your children participate in the life of the church and understand the importance of the local church. God has granted the church unique ministerial authority and as such possess gifts that cannot be found anywhere else. The church is essential to discipleship.
  1. Understand that discipline is for the sake of the child and is motivated by love. Prayerfully move past any embarrassment, anger and fear that parents naturally feel when children misbehave so that you can be a source for change in your child’s life. Excessive parental embarrassment, anger and fear stifle necessary actions and often make matters worse.
  1. While praying that your child will resist sin, grow and mature, also pray that your child is caught when he or she does sin. This is not to wish pain upon your child but rather with the understanding that some issues are better dealt with earlier in life than later.
  1. Resist the temptation to judge parents based on the misbehavior of their child. It is bad enough when a child sins (Pr. 29:15: “. . . a child left to himself disgraces his mother”). To sit in judgment is to miss the opportunity to help another. Also, keep in mind that “all who live by the sword die by the sword,” including the sword of judgment. A better, more humble and honest response is, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
  1. Develop healthy relationships with your child’s teachers. They are your partners. Cultivate open channels of communication between your home and the school. Listen and fact-check before reaching conclusions. Address matters in a timely fashion in order to avoid the buildup of frustration.
  1. In addition to attending to your child’s academic progress, pay attention to her or his participation and behavior in class. Many office visits can be avoided with early detection and intervention. Understand that Geneva has a high standard for behavior. In Grammar School, a grade of “M” (“Meets Expectations”) is a desired mark. On the other hand, grades of “N” (“Needs Improvement”) or “U” (“Unacceptable”) alert you to struggles and require action.
  1. Treat an office visit with a proper level of attention. This is not a call to panic but a call to action. Find out what is contributing to the behavior and address it. If the student perceives the matter as inconsequential, then additional office visits are likely. Additional office visits may lead to Behavioral Probation and expulsion (see the Geneva handbooks for information about office visits).
  1. Don’t expect perfection from your child, teacher, or yourself. Perfection only comes after Christians have been glorified with Christ in the new heavens and new earth. Realize that discipleship-oriented discipline is an imperfect pursuit in which sinners (parents and teachers) guide and instruct smaller sinners (children). Take hope, though, that God’s Spirit is at work, producing good fruit in our lives as well as the lives of our children (Galatians 5:16-26).

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