God's Love, Living Free, Marriage & Family, Motherhood, My Story

A Loving Approach to Discipline

Last year, I had my view of disciplining children radically transformed by a parenting DVD. It was awesome, one I’ll not soon forget.

This older gentleman — a bit old-school by anyone’s standards — had sired about a dozen children lol! 🙂 He talked about the foundation of disciplining kids, and I was expecting words like respect and firm boundaries to be part of his equation, as many Christian circles emphasize.

But do you know what he prioritized above all? Investing in your relationship with each of your children! He said the more you invest in each child and fill their love tanks, the less likely they are to NEED discipline in the first place!! And not only that, the more receptive they’ll be to you when you do administer discipline — because they trust your heart for them.

He said to focus on positive interactions with your kids, and here & there gently correct them. I was so surprised! Somehow I’d never really heard this method of parenting before!

When you demonstrate your love to your kids by taking time to invest in them every day, your children respond to your correction much more readily. They know you are disciplining from a place of love, not anger.

Revolutionary.

**[Disclaimer: I’m a new mama & am just learning how to be a better parent! I’m no expert and have much to learn, but I wanted to share this beautiful — though no doubt challenging — method of correcting our kids when they misbehave. This isn’t meant to be judgey towards you! It’s more of an aspiration for us parents to better our approach to discipline.]**

Imagine this: What if your boss never talked to you, never took time to answer your emails or phone calls or questions, and was always MIA until your “Quarterly Review” came around. Suddenly he appeared out of nowhere and sat down with you briefly to assess your performance at your company.

When he delivered any kind of constructive criticism — no matter how gently and kindly — you’d be a little put off by this stranger. Why? Because YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HIM! He’s hardly invested a moment in you, yet somehow you’re supposed to trust his evaluation of all your hard work? And somehow you’re supposed to jump at his command, a boss you hardly know?

This kind of ‘leadership’ is cowardly. It’s also common. And so is this model of parenting.

We observe our kids actions but don’t always truly interact with them. We’re like bystanders to their little lives. We don’t intertwine our lives with theirs. I’ve so been guilty of this already (as a mom of a 1.5 year old daughter) — by following her around the house picking up after her instead of always engaging with her.

Thankfully she’s young enough to not understand why I’m doing this, which grants me time to change my ways 🙂 But how many of us parents do similar things? How many of us act as though we’re doing far more important work than simply BEING with our kids?

Deep-down, I’m sure we all believe there’s nothing more important in life than investing in our children, so why do we find it so challenging to actually do it?

I also don’t want to invest in my daughter merely because I’m hoping her behavior improves. I want to spend time with her because I LOVE HER, not because I want results of some kind.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if all her memories — even her earliest ones — were of Daddy & Mama loving on her every day with their full attention? That she’d never have to deal with feelings of insignificance or neglect because her parents valued her enough to STOP what they were doing and focus on her?

I realize this isn’t always possible, so this isn’t meant to be another guilt trip for you. It’s simply a reminder to go back to the basics & love our kids with our undivided attention, throughout the day & especially when they’re craving attention.

Are You Punishing or Training?

The other breakthrough parenting insight this gentleman presented in his DVD was this: Use discipline to TRAIN, not PUNISH, your kids. Immediately I was reminded of this scripture in 1 John.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Too many Christian circles emphasize “keeping your kids in line” with harsh discipline to command their respect. Many parents even resort to threats — “Just wait til your dad comes home!” or “I’m gonna wear you out if you keep acting that way!” (which obviously doesn’t work or we wouldn’t have to keep doing it) — instead of disciplining the way the Lord does with us: Gently, lovingly, and always with our best interests at heart.

God’s heart is not to punish us. He lovingly corrects our poor behavior, lest we continue down that road, to protect us from the fallout of our misdeeds. His purpose in discipline is never to beat us up over our failures but to save us from ourselves.

His perfect love casts out our fear. If we’re afraid, it’s because we don’t understand His perfect love yet. If we did, we’d never fear God because fear believes we’re going to be PUNISHED for our wrongs. Through Jesus, God no longer has to “bring down the hammer” when we make mistakes. His correction is often kinder than we deserve.

Consider this verse:

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of His reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” ~Proverbs 3

This is revolutionary. He loves and delights in us — that’s the “why” behind His discipline!

Spanking is biblical, but the spirit in which we spank our children is EVERYTHING. Maybe the reason so many people — Christians & unbelievers alike — have such a distaste for spanking is because they’ve seen it misused. They don’t see God’s heart demonstrated when we discipline our kids because so often we discipline in anger & frustration instead of gentle correction.

As parents, we shouldn’t punish, threaten, or “wear out” our kids. Our goal is to guide them away from the wrong path & steer them towards the right one, sometimes administering a small sting on their backsides to help them associate rebellion with pain (because that is the end result of sin).

We may not always get it right, but this is our goal if we’re truly loving our kids through our discipline ♥

Control or Choice?

Here is a key to having the right heart during discipline:

God doesn’t use discipline as a method of ‘controlling’ us. Only WE can choose to follow His ways; He just makes a great case for choosing Him!

So do we discipline our kids as a means of controlling them & subjecting them to our authority… or do we lovingly encourage them towards godly living, leading them to willful obedience? {Key word: willful}. We want their free will to cooperate with God’s plan for them, not the enemy’s, but we must always give them room to choose.

Discipline isn’t about demanding, cajoling, manipulating, & otherwise usurping your child’s independent spirit. It’s about disciplining the wrong spirit out of them and making room for God’s spirit to come. This is never a forceful process, as continuously demonstrated by the Lord throughout Scripture. He isn’t a forceful God, thus we cannot expect to show our kids His love when we are FORCEFUL with them. 

Is our goal with our kids dominance & submission — or to build our relationship with them & save them from a destructive path?

Maybe God knows that gentle correction is the best demonstration of His love for us, instead of instilling fear & brutal discipline on our deserving souls. His kindness leads us to repentance, after all — so what makes us think our kids are any different?

God beckons us to choose Him by being a loving Dad who doesn’t try to control us or demand our respect. He compassionately draws us to Himself instead, even in our darkest moments, and thus proves He is a trustworthy, loving Father. There is simply no other way.

3 New Ways to “Train Up Your Child”

So what can we do today to change how we treat our kids? If you feel you’ve messed up in this area, please don’t feel condemned. None of us are perfect parents, and I can’t imagine the unique challenges of each mom & dad reading this: Some who are single, with military spouses, health problems, little support or encouragement, or poor role models who are trying to parent a better way.

The first order of business (if you have been harsh) is to 1) re-establish a loving relationship with your child(ren). This begins with acknowledging your wrongs and apologizing to your family. “I’m sorry” goes a long way with little kids. Their hearts are often so eager to forgive, it’s truly amazing. Apologize sincerely, without excuse, and let them know you’re praying God molds you into a better daddy/mommy {also, pray He does!! lol}.

I encourage you to explain to your kids your heart in correcting them — that you don’t want them to hurt themselves or get into trouble, etc. — and that you want them to please God. Then ask them to be patient with you as you seek to change your behavior. Ask for their prayers (kids’ prayers are like a hotline to heaven, y’all!!). Then of course do the work 😉

After owning up to our bad actions, we can begin LOVING our kids with our 2) undivided time & attention — building a loving foundation with them again — before moving onto the final step: 3) gentle correction, in lieu of fear & harsh punishment.

This encourages our kids to emulate our behavior, too — motivating them to ‘do the right thing’ through our loving example, instead of employing fear & control to keep them from doing bad things.

No more striking fear in their hearts with threats of impending discipline. Instead, we can use positive motivators to help them be better & more loving people 🙂

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.
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.”
Hebrews 12 (emphases mine)

God’s ultimate goal in disciplining us is our good & peace with Him, knowing we’re in right standing with our Father. Let ours be the same ♥♥