After a recent conversation with someone very special and close to my heart, I began reflecting upon my methods and beliefs about of parenting and discipline. I feel as though these subjects are largely avoided on social media, and that’s probably a good thing, but this morning I feel led to share with you my thoughts on the subject. Don’t worry – no specific parenting strategies or discipline methods or “tips and tricks” are shared, only some thoughts on the subject as a whole.
No one likes to be disciplined. Growing up I absolutely hated “getting in trouble” and so I typically just avoided anything that even might get me in trouble. I always thought parents had it so easy because there was no one to discipline them. Now that I am a parent, I realize it’s not so great on the other side either! Equally true to my first statement, no parent likes to discipline. It’s hard and it sometimes breaks your heart to have to discipline your child, especially when they’re so “little and cute”. But in return, the opposite – to not discipline – is far worse and the consequences for choosing this option ultimately brings destruction.
Someone once told me that the first 5 years are the hardest and that it is the foundation for the rest of your child’s life. How you discipline your child during this critical time sets the stage for how you will be disciplining them in the future, but I believe it also sets the stage for your future relationship with the child. It doesn’t mean you will never discipline your child again, but I believe it can make disciplining them better or worse depending on how you spent those first 5 years.
It’s interesting to watch your child grow and see the discipline process unfold in different stages. Your strategies and methods may grow and change a little, but I still believe consistency is key and your child needs that stability. I think about when I first began disciplining Autumn: it was all about teaching her to obey. She couldn’t talk to us that well, but we tried our best to show her love in that discipline. Then, she got a little older and we could start talking about how what she did was wrong. And she would apologize, sometimes out of habit and sometimes because she knew she did wrong. However, now, she is beginning to communicate why she disobeyed, and in return we are beginning to be able to communicate why what she did was wrong.
When thinking about this whole process, I couldn’t help but think of “the 5 W’s and How”. Let me explain:
- Who: At the core of it all, who is your child? No one will know that better than God and the parents. I’m fully convinced that their little personalities begin in the womb and grow and develop over time, but even at such a small age there are key signs of their temperaments and personalities. Some may not believe it, but our daughter Autumn is an 8 on the Enneagram and has a Choleric temperament. She is strong-willed and stubborn, and you can literally see the delight in her eyes as she challenges you. While she does need the freedom to express her independence, she also needs very strict and consistent discipline. If you give her an inch she will take a mile! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love and adore my child. She knows this! And it’s because I love her so much that I take the time to intentionally discipline her. Take the time to observe and get to know your child so that you know which methods and strategies work for him/her.
- What: Know what the motivation and goals are behind your discipline methods and know what you’re teaching your child in relation to that. If your goal is to have the child fear you, then that is going to show. Be aware of this! As a follower of Christ, my goal is to discipline as God disciplines me because He is the One I am to imitate. My ultimate goal is to be like God. So if you are following Him, your disciplining will reflect
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Ephesians 5:1 NASB)
- When: There are many differences of opinion when it comes to when to begin disciplining your child. I personally believe there is a period after birth where you must first build up the relationship with your baby so that the baby knows that he/she is loved and secure. How long that period lasts is different for different children, but know that it does not last forever. At some point you will need to start disciplining and if you seek God’s wisdom, He will help you know when that time comes.
- Where: As I’ve said before, consistency is key. The standard for discipline should be the same wherever you go. However, I believe most disciplining takes place in the home. That’s where your “Kingdom training” comes from. The first teachers your child will ever have are you as parents, and before ever going to daycare or school they live with you at home first. As a family, your home, wherever that may be, is the central unit for your family.
- How: Finally, Ah, the “how” to parenting. There is an insurmountable amount of literature out there on how to parent your child. There are parenting books, magazines, blog posts, podcasts, internet articles, television talk shows, and the list goes on and on, that tell you how to discipline your child. Some contain truth, others are full of garbage. Again, I am not going to tell you how to parent your child. I don’t have a list of “10 Steps to Foolproof Discipline”. But what I do have is what every parent needs, and that is the Word of God. How you discipline should come from the teachings of God’s Word. If we seek Him, and obey Him, He will provide us with wisdom on how to discipline. He is faithful.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)
If you look back at the list you will see that I skipped a W, the “Why”. Why do we discipline as parents? Why does it matter? Well, Scripture points to that time and time again. For one example:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Yet, the most simple answer I can give is become God disciplines us. Ouch. Yes, I said it. I’ll say it again. God disciplines us. We are His children. And as great as we like to think we are sometimes, we are not above His discipline.
“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews12:7-11)
And why does God bother to even invest in disciplining us? I mean, I can be stubborn! I whine and complain against His discipline. Sometimes I may cry or get angry. Sometimes I want to deny it and make excuses. Huh, I’m starting to sound like my 3-year-old…Why does He still continue to discipline me? Well, why do I continue to discipline my daughter?
“For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)
Because He loves me. And I love my child. And so I try my best to discipline her according to God’s Word, just as He disciplines me.
Remember how at the beginning of this post I told you no one likes discipline, neither the child nor the parent? Well, here’s what God’s Word has to say about that:
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1)
Yikes, God drops a #truthbomb! Showing discipline not only shows love for the child, but it shows a love for knowledge. To not discipline is to hate it, and with God there is no in-between. Either you love Him and follow Him, or you deny Him and hate Him. Those are your only 2 options. And if you don’t love His discipline, then you hate it and you won’t discipline your child, nor will you listen to the Lord’s discipline in your own life.
In closing, I can’t help but reflect: Do I love the Lord’s discipline, or have I hated it? Am I disciplining Autumn according to God’s Word? Does she know why I discipline her? Am I imitating God in the way I discipline her? Does she see Jesus through me? For this is my ultimate goal of parenthood: to model Jesus for her and to lead her to Jesus, so that we can both love God, and love people, and serve and glorify Him with our whole self, in all that we do.