I want to raise my kids in such a way that they will know and acknowledge God as their trusted Father and Friend. Building trust with children is critical for this to happen. Trust is built when your love is unwavering in the midst of discipline. In fact, engaging in disciplining your child is itself an act of love. We discipline because we love. We implement painful consequences for wrongdoing in order to lead children to make right choices in the future. Pain is a powerful motivator. We ourselves need to accept the discipline God gives us! Our children learn to trust that we want what is best for them. Hebrews 12:6 and 11 says,
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Now don’t you want to taste that succulent peaceful fruit in your home? Then discipline your child, teenager and yourself.
I have a biblical pattern that I follow when disciplining our children. It goes like this:
- Wrong committed
- Logical consequence implemented
- Repentance demonstrated
- Restoration completed
So when a wrong is committed, something must be done. As a parent, that is my lot and responsibility. The wrong may be an act of disobedience, complaining, fighting, defiance or any number of things that we know are wrong. I define what’s right and wrong by my view of Scripture. It’s not simply a behavioural issue, it’s a heart attitude issue. I’m seeking to understand what is going on deep down inside. In obedience, I look for quick obedience with a right attitude. I also try to make sure that it is a wrong done (ie. willful defiance) and not simply childish irresponsibility which can be overlooked. Whatever the wrong may be, I do not have an option to not discipline, no matter what I would rather do.
Then once I recognize that I am now going to discipline I implement a consequence. Resistance may escalate, but my resolve must be stronger. Anger may swell up in my heart, but I must be slow to release it showing patience with my child. My child has hit me, spit at me and yelled nasty things at me, but I refuse to also have a temper tantrum. The consequence should be logical such as removal from the desired activity or toy, required clean up of the unnecessary mess (which may require your help depending on the age of the child), kind words shared with coaching as needed, taking a break to calm down emotions or whininess or attitude or to give time to think, etc. The consequence should match or make right the wrong done.
After the consequence is implemented I now seek to see repentance. Repentance includes a sincere apology plus a statement of specific and practical change. Real repentance is from the heart and seen in actual change, but coaching this habit instills the mindset and can be taught from a young age. I coach my children to make a statement of change that reflects Jesus’ words: “Go and sin no more.” The statement should include what the wrong was and how actions and attitudes will be different next time. It might be, “I’m sorry for hitting too hard and in a mean way. I won’t hurt you like that anymore. Will you forgive me?” Or, it could be, “I know I deceived you when I said I wasn’t going to hang with those friends and then did. I’ll be upfront with you next time. Please forgive me.” I then give the wronged person an opportunity to extend forgiveness. I finish by saying, “Ok, don’t do that or think that or say that again.” Does this seem like a dream world? Like it doesn’t really happen that way? I acknowledge that by my son saying he won’t be mean anymore doesn’t mean I’ve finished my job now. I know he’s going to hit again, but Jesus said to keep on forgiving even when the sin happens multiple times. There is no quick-fix parenting!
Finally, during the repentance stage the restoration stage can happen simultaneously, but should also be the last thing that happens. Your child should know beyond a shadow of a doubt by the end of this process that you love them. Give hugs, kisses a pat on the back or some form of physical affection. Also, say, “I love you” and other words in a way that best speaks to your child. God’s ultimate purpose for us is a restored relationship. That is also our purpose for our children.
This is how God disciplines us. We know that He loves us, we know that He can be trusted and we know that we can move on to the greatest life possible when we accept His discipline and are trained by it.