One of the most common emails or letters that I get concerns child discipline. How do you make your children stay in bed at night? My daughter will not obey my husband but runs to me when he tries to discipline her. What should I do? My children are always bickering and I want them to stop.
Now all of these are common habits of children and of course our goal is to help our children to mature enough that they will move toward mature behavior and learn self-control and practice obedience. The maturing of a child is a life-long process that will take many years. But it is possible to have pleasant children, most of the time, who are secure, happy and moving towards godly character.
However, it is not by formula or "follow these rules" that the shaping of their heart and character is developed. This is not a post about how many spanks for lying, talking back, or giving Mommy "the look." This is not a post about Ten Easy Steps to Make Your Children Obey. Our culture is formula-driven and impatient. We want to know what to do, how to do it, and when we can expect results so we can move on to the next issue. Surrounded by these false teachings, no wonder so many moms are tired and stressed and feel that they have failed when their less than perfect children continue to act like children--and often are out of control from being treated as objects of discipline and punishment instead of unique children with gender and personality and maturity differences.
For many years, I have pondered scripture as well as the ways God parents the Jews and how He seems to parent me. Our Heavenly Father is loving, gracious, and makes all things beautiful in His time. His timetable for my life and for answers to my own prayers and questions seems to take a lot longer than I ever would. He doesn't seem to mind at all letting me suffer through circumstances--instead He encourages me to hold fast, obey, stay strong and so many times He makes me wait for things.
As I look at how Jesus worked with His disciples, He was patient with them, put up with their personality differences, often said, "They did not understand," and let them fail. Aren't you thankful He loves you enough to stick with you, gently pointing out areas of your life that need work, and allow you ample opportunities to grow in those areas? I know I am! I have often felt that I make so many mistakes that I am disqualified from being in ministry. But He still chooses to use me, by His grace, because His glory is to show His likeness and grace through normal, human beings.
With this kind of a patient, loving, accepting Father, I have no other choice but to be like him as a parent to my children.
The reason I want to obey Him and please Him is because of a deep, heart fulfilling relationship I experience with Him most of the time. But there are times I feel far away from Him, and still He loves me and waits until my heart warms again. I believe He is trustworthy and has integrity and calls to my inner self--that if I follow Him and obey Him, I will find the best for my life.
He loves me, He cares for me, He teaches me truth, He calls me to excellence, He gives me purpose, He humbles me, He provided beauty and love and intellect to give my life scope, challenge, meaning and stimulation, He provides for celebration and feasts in His plan for the life of His people, He commands rest. He called me into a relationship with Him before He started working on my attitudes, my bad habits, and the areas of sin with which I struggle.
His discipline and love and training for me is a whole life experience, not limited somehow to "paddle-time."
Several years ago, Clay wrote a book called Heartfelt Discipline. It is out-of-print now, but we plan to put it back in print. So many parents have told us how it changed their concept of "discipline." In the first chapter, Clay wrote:
"We are all influenced by the cultural tendency to view discipline only as punishment. To be honest, this narrow view makes things easier on us as parents. If my disciplinary responsibility is fulfilled by a simple act of punishment or correction, then very little else is required of me. But God has issued a much higher calling. Biblical discipline is much more than an act. It is both an ongoing, heart-to-heart relationship and a continuous spiritual interaction with my children. It is far more than simple correction; it is a parent and child walking together along the path of life. That is the Bible's bigger picture. " p. 15 of Heartfelt Discipline
Discipline is about a heart-to-heart relationship, continuous spiritual interaction.
Does that sound easy? time-consuming? sacrificial? intentional? I have yet to meet a mom who told me she felt so refreshed after working on her child's character training! What you are doing will affect eternity ~ you are in a battle for the hearts of your children. Your enemy wants you to feel like a failure, he wants you to give up. He does not want you to see baby steps of progress ~ he wants you discouraged. Is it a wonder then that so many moms look for shortcuts to having "the perfect child"?
Many of the shortcuts leave out the relationship completely or allow the child to usurp the parents' authority. Here are some words from The Ministry of Motherhood (p. 37):
"Sometimes we serve our children best and most lovingly by sticking to our guns and not letting them have their way. Loving discipline can be part of the gift of grace. So can teaching with words and exhorting our children to excellence. But the relationship has to come first. Discipline and teaching are most effective when administered in a context of a close, ongoing relationship of love."
Some Biblical Wisdom
1. Discipline is a long term process based on long term family relationships. Timothy is one of the classic examples of a young man whose godly mother and grandmother invested in his life. In II Timothy 1:5 Paul wrote, "For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well." What dwelt in Timothy's mother and grandmother? How do you think they passed that on to Timothy? They did not have children's Bibles or Awana or DVDs.
2. Read Romans 2:4, "Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you towards repentance? What does this verse say leads to repentance? Whose kindness is this verse talking about? If God used patience and kindness and tolerance (mercy) in relationship to us to lead us to Him, what does that say about our attitude toward our children?
3. Galatians 6:9 says, "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." What are we tempted to do? What will happen if we persevere? How does this encourage you as a mom?
What are some practical ways you can build relationships with your children this week? Fixing ice cream cones (it's supposed to reach 100 degrees today!)? Playing with them? Reading books to them? Building legos--doing what they want to do! For a list of great family oriented books, see Sarah's Recommended List of Children's Literature here.
Another way that Clay and I knew how to train our children was that we laid out very clearly what values we wanted to pass on to our children. We published this devotional book that we used as a family. Training is specific and it gave our children something to shoot towards. We will give a 24 Family Ways away next Thursday.
To purchase or read about Our Twenty Four Family Ways, go here.
To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment on this post; connect this post to your blog or facebook or twitter, and then let us know by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
Post a comment telling a practical way you are building relationships with your children. We will focus on character qualities we desire our children (and ourselves) to have in next week's Bible study. Until then, pray to "keep heart" and to not grow weary!
For more on discipline, you can read this older post: Will Training