If disciplining your children is one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking aspects of parenting, you are not alone. I've been right there with you countless times feeling lost and completely unsure of myself. We will continue to be beaten by our disappointment in both ourselves and our children until we learn to parent like God.
Even as I typed out those words I shook my head. It seems like such an unrealistic and lofty thing to to shoot for, to parent like the Lord of Lords.
But with God, all things are possible.
Through out the Bible God, our Good Father, is active parenting His children. Studying Him I realized that we can take a lot of second-guessing out of correcting our kids if we follow these simple steps.
1. Make sure you have met needs of your child before starting in on “teaching a lesson.” This is difficult for me to remember. Just the other day, Adela acted poorly at Sunday school and during the following service. A sweet friend asked what we had done before coming to the church and I realized that I had rushed around, ignored every request of Adela to spend some time with her, and had paid little attention to how much she ate and drank.
We have to make sure our children are cared for before we can ask them to learn. Remember the story of Elijah when he ran in fear out to the dessert and decided to die? (1 Kings 19:1-18) As a parent I would have been very frustrated and even angry at my child for not trusting me and for wallowing in fear and self-pity. God, however, tended to Elijah’s needs making sure he was fed and well-rested before gently and firmly setting Elijah back on the path God had set for him.
2. Clearly state consequences. As an adult, I know I’m not going to make a good choice if I don’t have all the information at hand. Your kids need that too. They need to know and understand that there are consequences for their actions if they are going to make good choices. It helps when the consequence fits the action. Micaela recently had the horrible habit of throwing all her food on the floor if she was upset or bored. As soon as I would see it start, I would take her plate away. After a few days, Micaela stopped doing this if she was hungry and wanted to eat.
God filled Moses with knowledge to write an entire book of the Bible about different rules and the consequences for their actions. He has also filled His sons and daughters today with His spirit, guiding and teaching us in His way and will. He leaves little room for uncertainty if we are truly committed to walking with Him.
3. Follow through with a gentle & firm hand. Adela knew immediately that she had crossed the line. I hated to do it, but I had warned her that if she continued to yell and whine about TV, she would have to go upstairs to her room to cool down. I was so frustrated and it took God-given patience to take her hand gently and lead her up the stairs. As parents, we must remember we are not responsible for the our child’s choices. They made them. We love them and want them to grow and mature, therefore, we must follow through with consequences. Adela’s consequence of going to her room made sense. Nobody wants to be around someone who is screaming and whining. Out in the real world, people will naturally put you in “time-out” by avoiding your company.
Throughout the Bible, God never made empty threats. He is a God of promises.
4. Make sure that Love is always stronger than anger. When you have reached your “Wits end” you can easily be filled with righteous anger, frustration, exhaustion, etc. However, it is love that will help you discipline with a nurturing and peaceful heart. Sometimes we get in situations where it is not humanly possible to parent with a attitude of love. Thankfully, God is close at hand, more than willing to fill us with His love and understanding. It is then that we are able to show our children an example of self-control and gentleness we discipline our children.
Not all moments in parenting are happy ones, but I will pick the harder road so that I know I am raising up strong, kind, and responsible children. I am so thankful, that even during those difficult moments of correcting our little ones, we can be filled with God’s peace, understanding, and love.
Let all that you do be done in love.
What are some guidelines you remember when you are having to correct or redirect your child’s behavior?