Devotion in Motion: How to handle horseplay

3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:3 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

My sons have spent a large portion of their lives wrestling, “fighting,” scuffling with one another, and horsing around in general. It used to drive me crazy because what started out as good-natured horseplay always ended badly. Without exception, one (or both) of the boys would wind up being furious, injured, ballistic, bleeding, or crying—or some combination of those things. It drove Susan crazy, too.

But our living room was transformed into an island of (relative) peace when a friend of ours (with two sons) taught us how to solve this problem. He told us that when two children begin to play roughly, you should stand up and make the following proclamation:

“All right. You can scuffle all you want. But if anyone cries, you are both getting a ‘whipping.’”

{A note for my readers who do not live in the Deep South: In Southern parenting, a “whipping” (or its more rural variant, “whuppin’”) does not involve an actual whip or any sort of child abuse. Up North, a “whipping” is probably referred to as a “spanking.” But somehow that word doesn’t carry the same weight.  When my sons were ages 9 and 12, if I had told them I was going to give them a “spanking,” they probably would have laughed out loud in my face. But I digress.}

It has been amazing how well the advice from my friend has worked. And using those words didn’t beget more violence, either. After Susan and I started saying it, nobody ever got a ‘whipping’ because nobody ever cried.

Now to be honest, I have seen a young boy who had just been body slammed from the couch onto the carpet get up quietly and walk into the back bedroom and sob silently so his tears wouldn’t be seen. And I have seen one brother whisk his sibling into the bathroom so that they could apply a wet washcloth to a bump that was rapidly rising and turning blue on somebody’s forehead, all the while exhorting him not to cry. But we’ve never punished anybody because we’ve never seen anybody crying. Left to their own resources, kids can work a lot of things out on their own.

At first glance, the words my friend taught us seem to be grossly unfair. Punish both people if one of them cries? But, when you think about it, there are important life lessons to be learned from our friend’s discipline method. Clearly, scuffling around is fine if you’re having fun, but you must always be careful not to hurt the other person. Don’t be a bully. Don’t play too rough. Don’t push things too far. Have fun, but be aware of how other people feel.

And the converse is also true. If you want to to take on the risky adventure of living-room-wrestling, you’ve got to be prepared to have some bumps and bruises. Don’t be a crybaby. Don’t be a whiner. Be tough enough to endure some adversity. Learn to take a punch. Don’t let your temper get the best of you. Don’t be a spoilsport. And, if you can’t run with the big dogs, by all means, stay on the porch.

In today’s Scripture lesson (at the top), the Apostle Paul says that the Christian life will involve hardships, much like a soldier experiences. Maybe by teaching our children to “play well” when they’re young, we’ll help them to fight “the good fight of the faith” when they’re grown.

 john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 28 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, and until recently taught Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher’s grown sons say they probably deserved more whippings than they got.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 19).

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