Learning and Earning Wisdom

For the first step toward wisdom is an earnest desire for discipline.      Wisdom 6:17

11 30 17 with word overlayI had Zack’s parent teacher conference the week before last. I chose to meet with his science teacher because that’s the one class he’s really struggling in. It just didn’t make sense; Zack is incredibly bright. I needed to learn more about the teacher’s expectations, and get some insight into why the train was off the tracks.

It was a very difficult and discouraging conference.

For fifteen minutes I had to sit and listen to all the ways Zack hasn’t been trying: the missed homework assignments, the refusal to do make-up work and retake tests, sub-standard lab reports, etc. The teacher wasn’t being unkind; he was just being factual.

I have ALWAYS told my kids that their letter grades don’t matter to me; it’s their effort that counts. Hearing Zack had such poor effort was like a punch in the gut.

As painful as the conference was, it didn’t hold a stick to how excruciating my talk with Zack was once I got home. He openly admitted to doing the bare minimum, with the least amount of effort possible. I then outlined the privileges he was losing as a result.

Seeing the tears well up in his eyes, I understood more than ever how punishing our kids hurts us just as much as it hurts them. It took everything in my power to not cave in and lessen the punishment. But I knew that to be a good mother, I had to stay strong.

As I explained to Zack, I’m not running a trophy household: I’m not going to reward my kids for just showing up, never mind not trying. That’s not the real world. In the real world, those who work hard and try their best get the pay increases and promotions, not the slackers who sit twiddling their thumbs, avoiding the work.

Ironically enough, Zack’s biggest asset is his Achilles heal: He’s too smart for his own good. Historically, he hasn’t had to study, yet has still been able to get good grades on quizzes and tests. Consequently, he hasn’t needed the discipline to develop good study habits.

Worse yet, his newest tactic is to cram the night before a test, and then only kick it into gear with homework right before grades close. Not only has he been able to bring his grades up to an acceptable level, but when the teachers write comments on his report card, that effort at the end is what they remember most.

That is, until now. This science teacher has Zack’s number, and he’s calling it. And it’s showing me that Zack may be intelligent and street smart, but he’s not wise.

Wisdom has to be learned and earned. There’s no other way to get it. Before life teaches Zack wisdom the really hard way, I have to teach him wisdom in the safe space of my home. If I’m trying to teach him discipline so he develops good study habits, I have to role-model discipline by towing the line with his punishment. I can’t cave in, no matter how much it hurts us both.

I really want Zack to overcome this hiccup in the road so he goes on to demonstrate sincere effort in his high school, college, and professional careers. That will be more likely to happen if I stay the course now. I have to let him feel the painful consequences of his choices. Doing so will hopefully inspire him to rise above, and want to do better.

Questions For Reflection:

     * Is my child struggling from a lack of discipline?

     * Is that struggle causing negative ramifications?

     * Can I be strong enough to help my child learn discipline on his/her road to wisdom?

13 thoughts on “Learning and Earning Wisdom

      • Thanks so much for your support and encouragement, Sandra. I need it! Almost daily, Zack is trying to negotiate his way out of the restrictions I’ve placed on him. He’s wearing me down. Towing the line is getting harder and harder. I’m starting to think he should be a lawyer or negotiator for the UN! 🙂


  1. Stay strong my friend! Sandra is right – he will appreciate this and all you do for him SOMEDAY. And, like you said, he’s a smart kid. He will learn the lesson your teaching him. 🙂


  2. This was me.It was a hard lesson to learn but so necessary to succeed in today’s world and will be especially important when he goes to college! One of my girls was “lawyer argumentative” and it was a struggle to stay strong. Pray to the Holy Spirit for strength. Maybe those few extra seconds of silence while you pray will deter him and give you the gifts you need to stay disciplined while you discipline him! Good luck!


    • It’s so great to get your perspective, knowing you’ve already been down this path. You’ve already proven that staying strong and towing the line works. I so appreciate you sharing that wisdom, Pam! Thank you!!!


  3. Claire, it’s a hard lesson, for certain, but a valuable one. (And, we’ve all received some type of correction in our own lives, so your son can keep his chin up. This is just a course correction, not an end-of-the-road failure.)

    From someone who teaches at a college level, please also let me thank you. When you provide your children with real-world consequences, you’re doing them a service. We need more of this, and it’ll reap dividends in the long run.

    Carry on! (Both of you!) 🙂


    • I love your point, Robin, that this is just a “course correction, not an end-of-the-road failure.” I think I need to highlight that for Zack too so he realizes that the punishment is to inspire him to rise to the next level, not kick him when he’s down. Thank you so much for that perspective!


  4. Hi Claire. The day will come when the phone rings and it will be Zach saying “Thanks, Mom… for raising me to a higher standard. I know I made it hard, but you didn’t take the easy way out.
    You must really love me.” That day will make it all worth it.

    You are a good and wise mom!


    • I LOVE this, Elaine, and would be thrilled (and relieved) to hear those words from Zack some day. I hope you’re writing this from experience, and that your boys have said those words to you because they are extremely lucky to have you!


  5. Brian did call Elaine to say those exact words. I can’t imagine how rewarding that was for her. When you think your kids will hate you for the discipline and the rules, it is exceedingly difficult to stick to your guns. But, thank God, it worked!! And God bless Brian for voicing that thanks!!
    Kids gain that insight when they mature and will hopefully repeat those words to you!!! xoxo


    • So wonderful to hear that story, Mom! I’m thrilled for Elaine, and grateful that Brian heard all that she was trying to teach him over the years. It gives us moms will teens and tweens hope!


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