Imagine a police officer stopping you and putting you in jail. You have no idea why you are there but have apparently broken some law. Think of how frustrating it would be to endure that without understanding. Imagine being let go, but without any explanation as to why you were stopped or put in jail. You would walk in fear of it happening again and would feel powerless to prevent it. The laws are written to keep peace and unity, and then taught and made known so that we can make good choices. Does our parenting model the first or second scenario? If kids have no grid for what you expect, how can we discipline them for it? Think about it from the child’s perspective – they are getting disciplined for something they had NO idea was wrong or not acceptable. We shouldn’t be training our children based on discipline alone. As parents, we need to slow down and actively do our part to teach, train, and equip our children FIRST. Discipline should be a follow-up for when they choose not to obey, not the first option. If my child is displaying a less than desired behavior or attitude I FIRST have to ask, “What have *I* done to teach them about this?” If the answer is nothing, then I am the one who has work to do first. Parenting is a proactive teaching verb, not just reactionary correction.
WHAT‘S THE PROBLEM?
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!
I know this post will shock a few of you, but I will say it anyway. WE WANT TO BREAK OUR CHILD’S WILL! Our parenting style should not reflect breaking a child’s spirit, but we should be breaking their will. Breaking one’s spirit uses tools like anger, intimidation, control, fear, dominance, rage, and projecting our wounded places onto our children. This screams at the child that who they are is not okay and teaches them they have to alter their true selves to please them and keep the peace. We have all experienced and used these tools on others. We know it by the bad fruit it produces and how it makes our hearts feel. Breaking one’s will is totally different and uses tools like empowerment, authority, discipline, being firm, encouragement, consequences, and allowing others to feel uncomfortable. This communicates to the child that they are believed in and called to a higher standard of living. It teaches them that you love and care about them enough not to leave them in their current state. It champions them into becoming all God has called them to be and gives them room to increase their capacity. I do not want to shut my child down and break their spirit. But I DO want to break their will.
I encourage you not to see the following verses through the lens of disciplining harshly but rather through the eyes of a loving Shepherd that uses His rod to train, correct, and guide his sheep to keep them safe.
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24).
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:12).
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, walk along the road, lie down, and get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
“A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
“Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire” (Proverbs 29:17).
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9).
**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.
The word ‘break’ is not as in beating down and destroying but in training and discipline like an athlete.
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.
Many of us were raised with the idea that a child’s crime must be punished. There is a big difference between punishment for their crime and empowerment to do better next time. One breaks connection, and one increases it. One is about the parent’s comfort, and the other is about the child’s discomfort. Godly discipline should always be with the underlying message of, “I love you too much to keep you here.” Sin kills – period. It steals, kills, and destroys our relationships, peace, and joy, just to name a few. Sin costs us something dearly, whether it be the after-dinner treat for a child, time spent connecting for a teenager, or marriage for an adult. We discipline not to get someone in trouble but to KEEP them from further trouble. It is like saying, “Oh no, that was out of alignment with righteousness, and if you continue to do that, it will bear negative fruit. I am disciplining you so that you can do it better next time.” Our parenting should always deal with the guilty person in a way that still communicates they are FULL of worth and value!
We have a SOAR magazine all about DISCIPLINE. Discipline SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly
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.
If you do not teach and train your child what it looks like to control themselves when they are younger, they will have a much harder time when they are older. There is something God built into toddlers that makes the training process of learning self-control EASIER (and perhaps a little less painful) than when they are older. Parents, it is an act of LOVE to teach your child how to learn to control themselves. Want to learn HOW? We have created this downloadable parenting magazine with oodles of ways to implement character training with your little ones.
Going to the library with four little ones was no small task, but I was determined. I discovered this glorious thing called “Toddler Story Time,” which to me meant someone else could take the lead, at least for a few minutes anyway. I was mortified at what my eyes saw. The senior librarian welcomed the children, but not one person in the room responded. She sat down to read the book, and chaos broke out. Kids were running all over the room as loud as they could be. No one seemed to care that she was trying to read to them. My shock morphed into judgment when a child began to play tug of war with the book that the librarian was trying desperately to read, and the mother did not feel led to assist the librarian in getting her book back. Before I knew it, my four joined the circus. I vowed I would never come back again. A week later, we were at the movie theater, and the same thing happened with kids running all over the place, making it impossible to actually watch the movie. Suddenly I realized what Proverbs 22:15 meant when it says, “A child’s heart has a tendency to do wrong, but the rod of discipline removes it far away from him.” Many of us know the ‘spanking’ part of this verse, and we get lost in the debate if children should be spanked. We need to zoom out of that debate and see the bigger picture. Children are foolish by nature. They are selfish by nature. They are immature by nature. Their brains aren’t even fully developed by nature. My job as a parent is to lead them in the direction of honor, respect, kindness, and self-control. This is not a post on spanking, but it IS a post on parents guiding their child’s behavior as a shepherd cares for their flock with their rod. When a sheep is wandering outside of the safety zone, a shepherd uses his rod to guide him back and lead them where they should go. The heart of this verse is about helping our children move away from foolishness through corrections and guidance. If you want to decrease their foolishness, you have to increase your teaching.
Let me first start off by sharing where we do not want to discipline – in front of others, especially in front of siblings for older children as there is a level of shame in this. We had a designated spot in our home, the upstairs bathroom, that was used as our place of discipline. I didn’t want it to be their bedroom as that was supposed to be their safe space. When they were younger, and I would say, “You need to meet me in the bathroom,” it meant they were going to get disciplined – discipled – in their heart or character. If 15 minutes had passed and they came out wondering why I hadn’t come in yet, I would remind them, “It will go well for you if you wait for me until I am ready to discipline you.” This gave me time to calm down, if needed, as well as time for them to think about why they were there.
One issue of SOAR is dedicated to this subject. Discipline SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly
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.
I was a part of an amazing single group in my 20s. One of the guys talked about spanking his (future) children and how his parents modeled it in such an honoring way. I argued that it was wrong, and we had an hour-long debate. He opened me up to a world where parents can actually spank in love without losing their temper. It wasn’t to harm the child; it was to help guide them. I want to take a moment and talk to those who were like me and argued that it was wrong. When someone brings up spanking, what is happening in your heart? Are you anxious? Nervous? Scared? I want to circle that place and zoom in on it. My goal isn’t to get you to spank. My goal is for you to see the unrest in your heart because it will affect your ability to walk in the authority you are given. For me, it wasn’t about the actual act of spanking as much as it was the fear of hurting my child and fear that my child would resent me like I did my parents for their harsh parenting. Unless and until that is resolved, I will be unbalanced in my ability to parent my children well. I would be parenting them out of fear rather than authority. When children learn they are the ones with the power, it leaves them feeling insecure, which only increases their need to be strong. It does not matter how strong they appear; they are not orphans. The safest place for their mind, body, and spirit is under your authority and covering. Yes, many of you have strong-willed children. It is your responsibility as a parent to help them submit their will to your authority, but if you have an ongoing fear about using authority, you will only lead your family to the other side of the pendulum. Let’s find Jesus in the middle and walk in alignment with Him.
HeartWork – Go back to the place of anxiety and unrest and ask, “Jesus, will You please show me what I am afraid of in disciplining my child?” Sit with Him for a moment and allow Him to minister to that part of your heart.