Did you have parents who cared more about discipline than connection? Who used discipline as a weapon of punishment instead of correction and connection? If so, I want to encourage you that your challenge will be to find the BALANCE between connection and discipline. So many times, parents have harsh experiences (and some emotions to process with it) and then go all the way to connection leaving the child undisciplined. The next generation has hurts because they struggle in life from the lack of discipline and then vow they will crack the whip with their child. God is looking for a generation to bring things back into His balance, not extremes. Childhood warrants discipline AND connection.
How to train a child's flesh and minister to their heart
Disciplining a child without first teaching them what is righteous – right living – is nothing short of punishment. When a parent or leader sees immaturity, our first question should be, “What have I done to help teach, equip, empower and encourage them to grow in this area?” If the answer is simply, “Nothing,” then issuing a consequence or discipline is nothing more than punishment. They err out of immaturity and needing a spiritual mother and father, not out of being rebellious or ill intent.
Proverbs 29:15 – “A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.”
Do not see the word ‘rod’ as spanking or beating a child. The rod was used by a shepherd to pull in, correct, and guide their sheep. It was also used to ward off predators. The rod in this concept is loving, kind, and shepherding. Orphans receive this verse as punishment. Sons and daughters receive this word through the heart of the Father, full of love and instruction.
When a child misbehaves, you first have to ask yourself this question. “What have I done as the parent to teach them?” If you have never talked to them about lying, stealing, hitting, disobeying, etc., and discipline them for their choice, it is nothing more than punishment. When you see a behavior you do not desire, you can correct it, but that is your clue you need to be proactive and teach them on their level right and wrong. Take a recent issue that came up. Ask yourself, “What have I done to proactively teach them in the time of peace how to respond? How have I taught them how to succeed in that situation?” There is a difference between the child who is being foolish and has never been taught how to respond appropriately and the child who has been taught and willfully chooses to disobey. Sometimes a child’s behavior is a reflection of where we need to do our part to teach, empower and equip them.
Growing up, I remember hearing of a man who tried to use the HOV carpool lane by putting a dummy in the front seat. He was caught on more than one occasion, and the judge gave him a choice. Did he want jail time, or did he want to stand on the corner of a busy street with his ‘passenger’ holding a sign that read, “Don’t be a dummy and cheat the HOV lane”? The man picked holding up the sign but was so convicted of his wrongdoing, he later wrote to the judge and said it worked. In parenting, sometimes we need to discipline their flesh, and other times we need to discipline their heart. Holy Spirit loves giving parents creative ideas to help parent children.
Character Counts is a downloadable resource that gives you many creative, easy ways to go after character training in children. Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly
Testimony from a mom in class: “God wants me to ask HIM how to discipline! I have been having a hard time with my oldest (just turned 2) because she is the child that is so very different from me. All of her giftings and personality are beautiful and breathtaking, but sometimes I just feel like she and I are on different planets, and I don’t know how to deal with her. I have been wallowing in guilt and shame the last month because she has gone full-on with testing boundaries, telling me no, and throwing temper tantrums. In these moments, sadly, I had been losing my temper and punishing her by yelling, spanking, putting her in her room, and being angry with her. I would know it was wrong immediately afterward, cry and apologize to her, ask for her forgiveness, and we would hug and go on with our day, but the shame I felt from reacting poorly was eating away at me. I asked Holy Spirit to help me, and I hadn’t been losing my temper or spanking her angrily, but still not having a good time with her outbursts. I was reading the teaching one morning when I started to become frustrated with my daughter because every time I went into the kitchen, she started crying and screaming and getting between me and the cabinets, trying to push me over. When I got down on her level to try to talk to her, she again nearly pushed me over. Unhappy with her behavior and physicality, I whisked her off to her room and told her, ‘It’s not okay to push Mommy and treat me this way!’ Then I felt that nudge to do something different, what Lisa had been talking about. So I stopped and prayed, ‘Holy Spirit, can You come and show us what’s going on?’ After a minute, I asked her if He had shown her what was wrong, and she nodded her head yes. Since she doesn’t speak in sentences yet, I asked Holy Spirit what happened, and He reminded me that my husband always cooks with her when he’s home. He has been working out of town for a month and is only home on the weekends, and she was missing her daddy. I asked her if she missed her daddy and big crocodile tears flowed silently down her cheeks as she nodded yes and buried her head in my shoulder. After we had our cry and went back to playing, she was fine and didn’t have any problems. It felt like such a victory to go from the frustration and anger I’ve had in recent weeks to releasing her in power to get her emotions out and have a healthy relationship for the rest of our day!”
It is very difficult for a child to release the Kingdom at the store if they are on the floor pitching a fit because you did not buy them a toy. They will have a harder time hearing God’s voice if they haven’t been taught to listen to yours first. You will have a greater challenge getting them to be ‘others’ focused if they have been taught that they are the only ones that matter. Character matters!
Parenting is a verb that unfolds over time. We do not sit our children down when they are two and tell them everything there is to know about life. We grow and roll with them as they develop and mature. The same is true for safety. Children under five are mainly going to be with mom and dad, so their world is different than the child who is at the age of going to school, sleepovers, playing with neighbors alone, etc. Giving them the language and tools to be safe will open wider and wider over the years, eventually having them walk out your door prepared with tools to be successful, healthy, functioning adults. When new situations arise (playing alone outside, going to school, sleepovers), you first have to ask yourself, “What have I, as the parent, done to teach them about this in the time of peace?” When a child is begging to go play with the neighbors, that is not the time to teach. Your YES should be dependent upon: #1. Have you equipped them with how to handle that situation in the time of peace? #2. Do they have the skills and responsibility to be successful? Sending them out the door, to the neighbors, or even at school without first preparing and arming them with tools gambles with their success.
A mom and dad were asking me about how to discipline their daughter who would put up a fight at bath time. She would try to get out of going upstairs for the bath but then enjoy it once she was in. When the dad would say that it was time to get out, she would stand up right away and then fight him. He was concerned for her safety. Something wasn’t sitting right in my heart that this was a character or discipline issue. We asked Jesus together. Jesus revealed that when she heard “bath time,” she knew it meant the bedtime routine, and she didn’t want the day to end. When Dad told her to get out of the bath, she obeyed right away but then realized getting out meant saying goodbye to her dad. She was struggling with missing him during the day. She wasn’t being defiant; her heart was saying, “Daddy, I love you so much and do not want to have to let you go again. I want to spend more time with you.” GAH. Jesus is the best at helping us see what is going on inside of our children. I have to add seeing the dad’s reaction to what Jesus showed him is probably going to be etched in my mind forever. So so so precious.
How do you tell a strong-willed two-year-old no? Just like that, “NO.” When Lauren was still in her highchair, she would throw her Cheerios on the floor and then laugh watching me pick it up. She thought it was a game. How many of you know that getting mad at a clueless child is completely ineffective in creating change? If the behavior does not bring honor, respect, or peace, then I need to parent (verb) her in that area to HELP HER know what is and is not acceptable. Do I want her to go to a friend’s house and do that? Is it cute to throw food on the floor when she is four? This has little to do with food and everything to do with self-control and respect. I said in a loving, but firm tone, “Lauren, no-no throwing food on the floor.” If she did it again, I would repeat myself but squeeze her hand. It was done in an effort to get her attention, not create punishment or pain. No means no, and she is learning she does not have the freedom to do whatever she wants whenever she wants. She did it again, and I realized she needed more help. I cleaned up breakfast and then moved her booster seat to the floor and asked her to sit in it. I connected with her by laughing. I was not scolding, punishing, or upset with her. I was teaching a toddler how to be successful at the table. I put a Cheerio on her tray and role-played me picking it up and throwing it on the floor pretending to be her, but then said in a loving but firm tone, “No-no throwing food on the floor,” and I got her out of the booster and told her to pick it up. When she did, I praised her silly with a hug and positive reinforcement. The next time I sat her in the highchair, I said in a firm but loving tone, “No-no food on the floor” as a reminder and put a small amount of food on her tray. She decided to test how serious I was, so I immediately took off her tray, got her down and lovingly, but firmly told her to hand me the Cheerios. It only took two times for her to realize it is SO NOT FUN having to get down and pick them up. Before she had no concept of the reality of someone having to pick them up, but she learned and never did it again.