I’ll never forget the first time I disciplined my daughter while visiting my mom and dad. Alyse, our oldest was being defiant and so I spanked her. She started to cry, so I sent her in back where she wouldn’t disturb everyone else. In my parents house there were two ways to the back room where we were staying. As I sent my daughter down one hallway, my mom was sneaking around through her room to meet and comfort her granddaughter. I remember thinking, “is this the same woman that used to blister my behind?” And now I am that grandparent… agonizing when my grandkids get disciplined… but grateful they have parents willing to “go there.”
In our enlightened 21st century culture, discipline has become a bit controversial. In fact, some of you probably cringed when you read the word “spanked” above. Who knows, we maybe have lost some readers with this one revelation! But I’m getting ahead of myself. ‘Discipline’ of course has as its root word, “disciple”. So discipline can mean many things, but in some form or fashion it leads back to the idea of making a disciple- a follower of an idea or a person. I could spend the next three blogs talking about the importance of making sure you know what it is you want your child to become a follower of. Paul said it succinctly, “Follow me as I follow Christ”. Someday, your child will be an adult and he/she will decide what “discipline” to follow. Our job in the meantime is to put them on a path where they have a chance to see and experience truth and an opportunity to choose right. We always said, if our child ends up feeding pigs in the pig pen (Luke 15), we just didn’t want them to get there by accident. All we could ask of ourselves was to put them in position to say, I know what mom and dad believe and why, but I’m choosing to go a different way.
Of course the question becomes, what is the best method of discipline? And the honest answer is: it depends. What is the temperament of the child? What is the parent’s history and baggage? What is the offense? What is the context and situation? Of course, consistency is a must in parenting; so, how do we resolve, “it depends” with the need for constancy? This is why as parents, we need to spend much of our time on our knees seeking wisdom from God. One of the first things I would suggest you ask of the Lord is for wisdom and discernment in evaluating what your child is doing. In other words, when something wrong happens, did it happen because your child was being “childish”… they didn’t know any better? Or did it happen because your kid knew exactly what they were doing, but defiantly chose to do it anyway. In many ways, this is one of the hardest skills in parenting. Sometimes its very easy… other times, it’s so hard to discern. If they’re being childish, we simply teach. But, if they are being defiant, then we need to discipline.
We’re not going to cover all the methods of disciplining, although in this series we’re going to talk about spanking and Kelli is going to share a few mommy tricks when it comes to disciplining in some future “Koffee With Kelli” posts. We mostly want to encourage you, especially if you are that mom or dad wondering if you’re going to mess your kids up if you punish or discipline them. No parent will handle this area perfectly, but we must still be willing to do it. It is unloving to “not” discipline your child. Years ago I read a parenting book by Zig Zigler. I don’t remember much of what he said, but one quote from his book that stuck with me is this:
“The child who has not been disciplined with love by his little world will be disciplined, generally without love, by the big world.”
The issue isn’t whether or not our kids will be disciplined… the only question is who will do the disciplining and in what manner will it be done. As imperfectly as we will parent, we know our heart and our motivation! And just to be clear: we aren’t talking about abuse or unhealthy punishment. Training self-discipline into our children is a loving act of a loving parent. To do otherwise, is abdicating our role as mom and dad. Sadly, as a coach over the years, I’ve had to be a first hand witness to countless athletes who never achieved even a portion of their potential because of a lack of self-discipline. I’m not passing judgment on those parents, often they are doing the best they can. But I am asking the question of the rest of us: do we love our kids enough to do the hard work of disciplining? Even when it’s unpopular? Even when it’s hard and inconvenient? Even if, at the time at least, our kids don’t like us? Enter into the fray… do your best. After that… rest in God’s grace.
“Discipline your son, and he will bring you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” ~Psalm 29:17