Some years ago I did posts on Amish children & spanking, as well as discipline in general (including in Amish schools), both of which, not unexpectedly, got a lot of comments. It’s a topic which elicits strong responses and I doubt much has changed since then.
In her recent column, Amish Cook Gloria Yoder takes up the question of children’s behavior. She shares some ideas in the context of caring for her own children, including her foster children. But Gloria doesn’t discuss physical discipline here, which would be the common approach for many if not most Amish parents. An excerpt:
The question has been popping up again, “Why are Amish children so well behaved?” Smiling to myself, it becomes pretty apparent that those posing the question have not seen all I’ve seen in this house.
Since those first months we said “yes” to foster care, we’ve tried almost everything under the sun as we spent day and night with these dearest little ones. You know how it is, you love a child so fiercely, yet you get completely rung out at times.
Four years have passed since then. We are still learning. I admit, I’m glad we’re not asked to do the last four years again, but I wish I could redo them somehow. If there were another opportunity, I’d be more observant of what’s causing negative behavior, much more than the behavior itself.
For instance, a child who cries over everything may be stubborn, but then perhaps he’s experiencing deep loneliness despite the parents’ best efforts to love, love, love. There is no child out there that wants to be bad just for fun; if that is the case (we’ve been there), there is a void they’re desperately trying to fill. As needs are supplied for, surface issues have a way of melting like I never imagined they could. Yes, this is often a “two-step forward, one step back” procedure. We are constantly learning and crying out to God for wisdom. He is the only source of complete wisdom.
I’m not sure how many Amish would employ Gloria’s approach, but it was interesting to see. Gloria belongs to a New Order church, which may tend to be more open to alternative ways of promoting good behavior. What she describes appears to me to be more like modern non-Amish trends in child discipline than the traditional mode of “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Read the column in full here, which also includes a recipe for “Grandma’s Best Amish Thanksgiving Stuffing”.