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22 July, 2014

INTERESTING SKIT ILLUSTRATES THE ROLE OF PARENTING

I have great respect for Rev. Bob Johnston, a retired United Church minister who is extremely active in the community of Saugeen Shores.  A marvelous speaker and writer with an ability to deliver down-to-earth messages, Rev. Bob has an interesting perspective on parenting that should be passed on to all young couples today.

When leading parenting seminars, Rev. Bob Johnston's favorite moments centre around the topic of  "discipline". To introduce the subject, the teaching tool he relies on is a skit which begins by imagining the delightful image of three newborn, woolly lambs wobbling on shaky legs as they take their first tentative steps. Three parents volunteer to become those little creatures and huddle together in the centre of the room. The group then chooses a "hungry old lion” from their midst to lurk near the lambs.
Bob then invites the remaining parents to discuss among themselves what their lambs will require to avoid being eaten by that prowling carnivore. The answer comes quickly and inevitably involves building a fence. At that point, he "volunteers" several parents to create that fence by surrounding the lambs with their arms outstretched, linking one fence post to another and closing the circle.

This skit represents, though allegory, his philosophy underlying child discipline. "The little lambs, our children and grandchildren, need to be kept safe from the dangers of that big world outside the crib," he explains. Electrical outlets, the hot stove, those speeding cars on the street, steep stairs, deep water or the rare but scary threat of some stranger, can each bring harm to an unsuspecting child and these are represented by that 'lurking lion'."

The "fences" are parental rules designed to protect the child who, at an early age, lacks his or her own sense of danger. Bob further explains: "I use the example of the toddler living next to a busy road. A loving Mom or Dad will build a wire mesh or wooden fence to keep their little one away from the enticing lure of the street. The youngster will likely cry and complain loudly about their lack of freedom. The wise parent never succumbs to those tears by dismantling the fence."

He continues: "Fast forward a decade or so. The parents are now setting a reasonable curfew, insisting on supervision of on-line digital activity, monitoring homework and choice of friends. The teen may loudly complain about a perceived 'lack of freedom'.  The parent holds firm!" 

Back to his skit for a moment. The little lambs will gradually require more room to graze and roam. The fence must be gradually expanded to allow that growth to take place. Similarly, a wise parent gradually increases a child's freedom as he or she demonstrates an ability to make self-chosen wise choices.


Unlike those lambs, the growing child should be gradually involved in defining and modifying those rules. As adult employees, we always feel better about company policy if we are consulted before decisions are made and implemented.

Remember those fence posts standing with arms raised? It gets tiring after a while. At that point in the skit, Bob asks the participants how each is feeling. When each complains about fatigue, he suggests they drop their arms. The reply is always ... "We can't because the lion will get the lambs!"

Being a parent, caregiver or grandparent is hard work. Making and maintaining rules can be the hardest part of the job. We don't give in to a child's premature and unwise demands for "more freedom".  The goal is not to be momentarily popular with that little one, but to be protective even when it results in unpopularity.

"That toddler stuck behind the fence will, 10 years down the road, thank Mom and Dad for their protection," Pastor Bob emphasizes. "When teens become adults with kids of their own, they will similarly thank those parents who cared enough to set reasonable limits during those turbulent adolescent years."

As always, a wonderfully creative illustration from a man who knows whereof he speaks.  I always enjoy him.

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