To Love and To Discipline
It seems wrong to say that some days my joyful MOMent revolves around discipline. But when you see the fruits from that discipline it is so sweet.
Currently my boys are ages 4, 6, and 8 and they are a wild as a whirlwind and as sweet as honey. But mix those together and you get a gooey, sticky, chaotic mess! Even on the best of days, it seems like discipline is being handed out every five minutes to one child or another (or more likely, all three). Discipline is not enjoyable but it is certainly beneficial. This is what I keep in mind and what I try to explain to my children.
This is not a “How To” on discipline, but as our boys have grown I’ve discovered that there is no one right method of discipline for every scenario or every child. There is not a secret discipline strategy that is guaranteed to work every time- wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were the case? But discipline must be pursued for development and understanding and not only for punishment. So discipline will be different dependent on the offense, the repetition, and the response.
I have read many parenting books sharing tried and true methods of discipline. I have talked to older and wiser moms who have shared their modes of discipline or where a lack of discipline will lead. I have exhaled with many a mom friend in the same season of parenthood as me as we struggle to find suitable discipline measures for our children. But a few things seem to be consistent across the board. First, discipline needs to be done out of a place of justice and not a place of anger. Second, discipline needs to be consistent, not in method but in accountability. Third, discipline must be rooted in love and desiring the best for our children.
There are times I have unjustly disciplined a child. I was motivated out of annoyance or personal offense rather than offense against God. I was punishing silliness or immaturity rather than sin. Then there are times I have been too tired to carry out discipline, or I feel guilty for hurting my child’s feelings so I will renege on a discipline. This shows my child that their wrongful actions might not always be wrong and if they wait for the right time then they can do as they please. Also, there might be times where I punish my children out of embarrassment or disappointment. All of these areas will not cause growth in the children, but will instead cause confusion and maybe even hostility towards you.
As my children get older, discipline can seem harsher. They understand the weight of their actions more and they can see the effects of their poor decisions. When I discipline my boys, I always make sure they understand that they made a bad choice but that doesn’t have to mean they have a bad day. Once they have calmed down from the initial confrontation, we discuss what happened and then what should have happened to right the wrong. Sometimes we try for a do-over if possible, but we always seek forgiveness. But even when the do-over occurs or forgiveness is received, there are still consequences. This is the hard part of discipline. But consequences do not have to be looked at as negative losses. Rather, consequences are learning opportunities and serve as reminders for future action.
My boys have gotten to the point where they suggest consequences for themselves. They are pretty brutal on themselves and this is the perfect opportunity to talk about sanctification and grace. We are all going through growth towards Christlikeness out of fleshly sin. The process of sanctification will continue until death and we are freed from our worldly constraints. We all deserve far harsher punishment than we will ever receive because of the perfect grace of God. Merging discipline with grace displays one aspect of the goodness of God to our children. While difficult, this is the sweet spot of discipline. Teaching and training our children in the Lord is our primary responsibility as parents.
So my joyful MOMent may never be the actual act of discipline. But I have certainly had many joyful MOMents where the fruit of discipline has encouraged me. When my boys pause before disobeying and instead choose to obey, those are the MOMents where I praise the Lord for working in their little hearts to grow in righteousness. And I praise the Lord for growing my understanding of Him through discipline. Because it is not easy, but it is worthy work.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11