Why we discipline our boys

By Stephen L. Meeks

Josh, my 17 year old, volunteered unexpectedly, “I’m sorry Dad.”

“For what?” I asked.

“Well, I don’t always show respect when you correct me. Sometimes it just seems sort of strong and your maybe a little too restricted, but I know it is for my best. I just don’t always show it.”

Every once in a blue moon a lightening strike of insight and wisdom connects with my brain and I actually say the right thing. It happened in that moment Josh made his confession.

“Son, do you know why I discipline you boys the way I do?”


“I do it because I’m raising bulls and not lambs.”

He looked directly at me, reading my face, trying to unpack that statement.

“You boys are going to wield power, be given authority, and live off my leash one day. When I buy cattle they weigh 600 pounds and come to the farm without any idea of our boundaries. I start by putting them in a small corral made of strong posts, wood and steel wire. Across the center of the coral, I place a single 1” wide strand of electrified tape. They learn that the fences cannot be pushed over and they learn not to touch the tape. Once trained, I turn them out onto our pasture knowing that they will not push through the perimeter fences and wander on to the highway or the neighbor’s property. I can guide them from lush field to field by simply stringing up a line of the white tape. I’ve seen untrained bulls dash from my trailer at a full run and rip deep gashes across their chests and necks as they burst through three strands of barbed wire as if it were thread.

I don’t want you hurting yourself or anyone else. That’s why I have strong boundaries and train you in what to avoid, what to respect, and to trust my guidance.

I asked, “Do you understand?” He did, and he added, “Yes. It kind of makes me want it more now.”

Boys don’t want to grow into lambs. They grow in power. They are given authority. They are either released or break their leash. Better to train them when they are young than to try and coral them once full grown, because, by then, your words will be like strands of barbed wire before a charging half-ton bull – ineffective.