In my perfect dream world there is an exact formula for discipline that you can follow that will produce perfectly happy, trained children! Only a year into parenting I have discovered that my dream world will simply NEVER be a reality.
Training children takes constant creativity, flexibility and prayer! And at the end of the day, a formula of perfect, consistent discipline isn’t enough. No formula is enough because it is constantly changing!
But don’t worry if this is overwhelming you as much as it did me… keep reading!
The lightbulb went on
When I look back at how my parents disciplined me, I realize that consistency was “key” if you wanted your children to learn to obey. But what my black-and-white mind missed was that it was not the only key to success – in fact it could also be the key to failure if applied by itself.
I learned this years ago when I was teaching a Bible class of a bunch of two and three-year-olds. I decided from day one that even though I was working by myself (they hadn’t found me a helper yet), and even though I was in charge of ten littles…I would have order and I would be obeyed!
I put a chair in the corner of the room and if one of them didn’t do as I said, they would go straight to the corner and wouldn’t get out until they said they were sorry and would listen next time. If they hurt/offended another little one they would stay in the corner until they apologized to the offended party.
I was consistent and I got good results…from all except one. I think I am a happy person and even when I had to put someone in the corner I was still happy and able to develop good relationships. But the little trouble maker pushed a little harder then the others and, although I never lost my temper, I did get frustrated and I’m sure my face showed it!
One night I was at the end of my rope. I had followed my formula of consistency to the letter and had gotten nowhere. He had just had to be put in the corner AGAIN and I looked back at him completely frustrated. Then it hit me!
If he never saw joy in my face and never felt forgiven, he had no motivation to please, respect or obey me – it was as fun to sit in the corner as it was to be with his frustrated teacher!
At that moment, even though I was still frustrated, I chose to smile at him…and I cannot describe how much his face brightened! The next time I went over to ask him if he would listen in the future he hesitated, looking at me, and when he saw me smile again he said “yes!” and our relationship was transformed!
He was still a stubborn tyke, but from that moment on he desired to please me because I showed him love, respect and joy!
Christ showed us how
Some people like to dwell on the fact that God is a God of LOVE…others focus more on the fact that He is a God of JUSTICE. I believe it is important to remember that He would not be God without BOTH aspects of His character. And I believe He is the perfect example of how to be a good parent.
If you are a parent only displaying JUSTICE, your children will know their boundaries and may even follow them, but there will be no relationship, resentment will build, and the moment they aren’t under your authority they will want nothing to do with you! I tended more in this direction and the class trouble maker wanted nothing to do with me until I began to show him love.
But if your tendency is to display only LOVE, your children will have no boundaries and will become spoiled brats. But more importantly, they will have no one in their life to show them that their are consequences to their actions, and when they face God’s ultimate judgement someday, they will be completely unprepared!
Children need boundaries and consequences but they also need grace and love. I believe every parenting personality tends one way or the other but the more we grow like Christ, the more we will meet in the middle and be a balance of the two.
What does it look like in reality
The perfect picture of this kind of parenting comes from my parents (I may be biased but I believe they are the best parents I’ve ever known!). They were always consistent in their discipline but even more consistent in their joy and love.
There was one time that I had blatantly lied to them about an important issue. Guilt began to eat away at me but I was nervous
to tell them because I knew they would be so disappointed. Finally I broke down and their response was spot on.
As soon as I confessed they didn’t get mad, loose their temper, panic or express their disappointment…they said, “Krista, there is NOTHING that you could ever do or say that would change how much we love you or how much God loves you.”
That was their response. I had boldly committed what they considered to be one of the most offensive sins toward them and they responded by calmly reminding me how much they loved me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I got a spanking for the sin but I knew it wasn’t because they were angry or reacting. By their response it was clear to me that my parents would always love me, never wanted to discipline me, and only did it so that they could help me avoid larger consequences in the future.
For my little Heidi, I need to establish boundaries, teach her the word “no”, and cause consequences to help her learn. But she should see me smile more then be serious, be praised more when she does well instead of just corrected when she does wrong; and most importantly, be constantly reminded that the only reason I allow consequences in her life is because I love her!
Discipline is only a small part of training your children. Make joy the biggest part and it will also be the most effective one.