This post builds upon my previous post, Child Discipline: What Does the Bible Say? I cited several scriptures on child discipline and asked readers for their thoughts on the subject. None of the comments differed from my thoughts on the subject. More importantly, disciplining children from a place of love with an understanding of their individual differences was emphasized in most of the comments.
Based on my professional experience as a behavior therapist and in support of the responses received from readers, I propose that two fundamental things must be in place for effective child discipline.
If we truly want to raise disciplined children, let us start with self-discipline as parents. We should exercise self-control when we speak and act. The best time to start is when our children are very young. Between the ages of three and nine , children begin to think logically and make various assumptions about life events. During this time, some children already have sets of values and beliefs that guide their choices and they often hold on to those beliefs and values all through their lifespan. Even when they go against their values and beliefs, their assumptions about what is wrong and right is often based on what they learned early in life. You can read more about social and emotional development here.
The era of just do as I say is fading. Do as I do is one way to instill discipline in our children. Parents must be disciplined enough to model good behavior. Parents who lack self-discipline do not watch what they say and how they act around their children. This is by no means a call for parents to become hypocrites and try so hard to be perfect. The point is that, parents should make conscious efforts to speak life, not gossip, and practice what they want to see their children do.
As parents, we are role models. Our children learn from our behavior and responses to situations. When we gossip in the home, our children learn to gossip. When we use inappropriate words, cuss, and lie on the phone, our children listen and assume it is okay. When we do not say ‘I am sorry’ after doing something wrong, our children learn to live in unforgiveness and take on the same behavior. You are modeling a behavior when your yes does not mean yes and you disappoint your children too often.
Before you discipline that child, take a moment and reflect on how you have contributed to the problem behavior through your actions.
Not being a good role model will ultimately undo the discipline you are trying to instill. When you model what is right but your children stray, you can hold on to God’s promise in Proverbs 22:6 and rest. You would have peace because you did your best and laid a good foundation. You can rest, knowing that your child is coming back to terrorize the enemy.
A Healthy Parent-Child Relationship
Children are increasingly spending more time outside the home, away from parents during the most productive times of the day. It starts from infancy when some babies are placed in the daycare center for almost 12 hours per day (This is common in the United States due to social and economic issues, feminism, individualism, etc.). It continues into adolescence when children are occupied with after-school and weekend activities. It seems parents have little or no time to develop a relationship with their children.
Fearing being labeled as “helicopter parents”, some parents avoid doing what their hearts desires, building a close relationship with their children. They avoid getting involved in their child’s life. I agree that excessively protective parents exist. However, parents who genuinely care about their children are also being shamed and tagged helicopter parents.
A parent who has no relationship with the child will have difficulty disciplining with love. That parent may love the child but his/her actions may not reflect it. Discipline would be perceived as control when such parent disciplines his/her child. Discipline would must likely come from a place of frustration and anger.
In a healthy parent-child relationship, the parent knows the child and vice versa. The child knows what would hurt and please his/her parent. The child may think ‘mommy would not like this’ and exercise caution when making choices. The parent knows what can be used to reinforce/strengthen good behavior and reduce/eliminate problem behavior. The parent studies the child and knows how to uniquely discipline that child. The parent trusts God, who is love to show him/her how to reach the child’s heart and correct with love that God corrects his children.
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. Hebrews 12:6
Child discipline begins with parental self-discipline and a healthy parent-child relationship. How many agree with me?