It's been a long time since my daughter has to ride the pine. She had gotten to the point where she just assumed that she would start and play most of every game. She was taking her playing time for granted.
Five minutes into Friday night's game, she wasn't playing well. She was out of position and looked a little lost. Her coach pulled her out of the game, told her what she was doing wrong and sat her on the bench for most of the rest of the half.
My daughter told me after the game that she understood why she was sitting there, but it made her mad. It made her determined to go out there and get it right in the second half. It made her think about what she was doing wrong and how to fix it. And it made her appreciate the playing time that she usually gets.
My daughter came out in the second half and played much better. She carried over Friday night's lesson to her games on Saturday and Sunday and came to each game determined not to sit on the bench again.
After talking with my daughter about Friday night, I realized that there are times when sitting on the bench in life isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can be a learning tool. It can be some much needed time to reflect on the situation. It can be a moment to begin to focus on the things that are important.
Our kids' lives are full. In this world of constant information overflow and activity, sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to bench them. When their choices are poor and their reactions are out of hand, it's time to give our kids some time on the bench. It's time to tell them what they're doing wrong and give them some time to figure out how to fix it.
When my kids were younger, I used "time outs" as a way of benching my kids, but as they get older, that particular method of discipline goes by the wayside. However, even older kids can benefit from time away from an escalating situation. They can use time to reflect and problem solve. Whether it's some time in their rooms without electronics or simply in another room by themselves, asking our kids to recognize the problems they're having and work out a solution is still a viable parenting tactic.
Because the end goal of parenting is to teach our kids to solve problems on their own. We want them to be independent and able to tackle the world. To do that we have to teach them how to recognize when their own behavior is creating an issue. We have to teach them where to find the wisdom to solve their problems. We have to teach them how to make a change.
When we "bench" our kids and make sure that they know why they're being "benched" we are helping them to learn to do those things. When we take the time to talk with our kids and let them know which behaviors need to change, when we show them how to ask God for the help they need to change, and when we give them the opportunity to try again, we move them one step closer to being independent. We help them take one more step on the path from dependence on us to dependence on God.
Benching our kids isn't a bad thing. It's a tool we can use to motivate them to make a change.