Principles of Healthy Discipline
The success of the discipline depends on us as parents. Our children may not always respond correctly, but if we are consistent, wise and biblical in our approach, we will soon see positive results.
Understanding several foundational principles will set us up to have successful discipline.
Our kids not only look like us, but they think, talk, and act like us as well. This means their wrong attitudes or behavior are often a reflection of our weaknesses. That doesn’t mean we must be perfect before we can discipline our children, but we must remain humble, teachable, and submitted to the Holy Spirit in our own lives. When we respond with the spirit of Jesus, we will create a healthy environment for children.
- How have you seen your strengths and weaknesses replayed in your children?
- Are there character areas you want God to change before they affect your children?
We can’t expect children to obey if we haven’t been clear on what they are to do. Teach them in ways they can understand, and then reinforce the lesson by disciplining disobedience. It is especially important to explain the “why” behind the command when possible, since that will help them learn wisdom and prepare them to act with common sense in unforeseen situations.
The battle for our children is not won or lost overnight. It is a long process that consists of making many small, right decisions. We must be patient; we must persevere. Discipline can be emotionally exhausting, time-consuming, and inconvenient. While there may be times when we feel like giving up, if we stand firm, we will achieve success. It is important that both parents agree regarding guidelines and forms of punishment. If not, children will quickly learn how to play spouses against each other.
Discipline is always an emotional event, but our emotions should not control us. If we lose control, we inevitably hurt our kids and undermine our own authority. We must model maturity and self-discipline to our children. It is especially important to be cautious when we are tired or under pressure.
- Is “because I said so” ever a good response to your children when they ask why?
- Why or why not?
Mercy and Truth
“Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.” (Psalm 85:10)
Truth without mercy is legalism; mercy without truth is compromise. The two go together, we cannot sacrifice one for the other. Be careful to guard against using mercy as an excuse to ignore issues that are hurting our children or using truth as an excuse to be rude and dictatorial.
The Process of Discipline
The discipline process consists of several elements. The time given to each may vary with the situation, but they are all necessary to bring about conviction, change, and closure.
Confession: “What did you do wrong?”
Confession of sin is the first step towards change. It is necessary to ask our children to share what they did wrong. Even small children can admit their misbehavior by answering yes and no to our questions. Confession ensures that they understand the problem and reminds them that the punishment is deserved. Often the act of confession brings them to sorrow and repentance, even before punishment is given.
Punishment: “Because you did that, I have to discipline you.”
This should be carried out in love and self-control, not in anger. Plan for the punishment to be appropriate to the offense: not too light and not too harsh. It is wise to punish in private to protect our children’s emotions and to avoid offending others.
- Have you noticed your kids misbehave more when you are under pressure or upset?
- Why is that so?
Repentance: “Are you sorry for what you did? Let’s pray.”
It should be clear, through words and appropriate emotion, when our children are truly sorry for their sin and not just for being caught. Ask your child to express their repentance by apologizing and asking forgiveness, first to us and then to God in prayer.
Forgiveness: “I forgive you and God forgives you.”
We model God’s forgiveness for our children. Once sin has been dealt with, we express immediate, complete, and unconditional forgiveness. Even if certain consequences for their sin remain, such as restriction of privileges, they must know that their sin has been dealt with and their relational right-standing restored. Nothing is between us now. We do not hold past offenses over their head or bring them up again.
Reconciliation and Restitution: “I love you.”
The process of discipline is not complete until there has been a restoration of relationship. Our children must know that we love them. We should take time to hug them, love them, and express our gratitude and pride in them. We will find that proper discipline brings our children closer to us than ever.
What would be the result in your children if they were just sent to their room after being punished, without taking time for forgiveness and reconciliation?
Only two more posts in this series! What should I blog next?
– Pastor Gini