This is a post from Mandy Pagano of Suburban Stereotype
“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Proverbs 19:18, NIV)
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” (Proverbs 23:13, NIV)
“Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:17, NIV)
The Bible has so much to say about disciplining children. It is obvious just from these few passages that as parents, we are to embrace discipline as a tool to mold and guide our children, and in doing so, it is to our children’s benefit. I realize that last sentence sounds very poetic and righteous. But the reality of the situation is that disciplining our children is not always easy and it is not always clear-cut the best way to handle every child and every situation.
As with my own children, what may work with one may not work with another. Attitudes and temperaments play a huge role in how and when I discipline.
As my kids get older, I am learning that actions are not the only things I must look at when striving to raise Godly, loving children. My oldest son has a terrible time being kind to my oldest daughter. In fact, I’ve actually noticed him go out of his way to be unkind. I have addressed this multiple times and often feel like I’ve made no headway at all. It’s very frustrating.
While I was looking up the above verses, I came across Proverbs 23:12, which says: “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” To me, that verse says that I am not only addressing actions and behaviors when I discipline my children, I am also to pay attention to their motives. In the same way that I am to ‘apply my heart’ to instruction, I think it bears true that I am looking at my children’s hearts as well.
1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that God does not look at the outward appearance, but that He looks at the heart. While I can’t possibly address my children’s hearts like God can, I can pray for wisdom and insight into why they act the way they do and how I can best address that with each.
Time-outs, groundings, losing privileges, etc., all have their place, but utilizing those methods alone will not help me get to the root of the attitude or motive behind the behavior. I can ground my son until he hits college, but if I don’t work on communicating to him that just as he has value and worth to God and to his dad and I, so does his sister. And because of that, he must treat her with the same respect and kindness with which he is treated.
Until I can impress upon him that his actions are damaging not only to his sister, but also to his relationship with God, I will only be addressing half of the issue. The things he says and does to his sister must stop, but we must also recognize the thoughts that are leading to the actions.
After reading countless blogs and articles about parenting, I have decided to load my parenting tool belt with some of the following discipline methods:
- Choose a scripture that is specific to the action I am addressing with my child(ren). Pray that scripture every day, personalizing it by inserting the specific child’s name. For example, my son needs to gain insight as to why being kind to others is not optional, so I am going to pray John 13:34-35
“‘A new command I give you: Love one another . As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I will personalize it like this: “Father, You are so gracious to love us and give Your Son for us. Thank you for being the ultimate example of selfless love. Please speak to [insert child’s name here]’s heart and open his eyes to how much You love him, and in turn, how- because of that- he must show love to his sister. I pray that you will help him see how much you value him and how much you value his sister, so that he will love her in the same way you love him. Reach him, Father, with the Truth that if he is to follow You, he must show love to others, and that includes his sister.”
- Have the child(ren) memorize (age-appropriate) scripture that pertains to the areas needing discipline. I will also use the opportunity to explain to him how the verses tie-in with the motive and heart issues behind his behavior. In the case of my son who is nine and a strong reader, I would have him memorize 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
- Reinforce good behavior. Every time I catch him treating his sister kindly, I will be sure to acknowledge it and praise him for making good, Godly choices. Likewise, when I see him doing the opposite, I will use those moments as teaching moments and an opportunity to pray together.
Consistency will be key in addressing this issue with our son, as will being a living example. Raising kids is hard work, whether you have one or 20. But our Father is the greatest example and freely offers wisdom about disciplining children (James 1:5). Through prayer, clear communication, and consistent follow-through, we can address the heart of the issue and not just the behavior.