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Parenting Perspective: Discipline

Proverbs 13:24 - A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them. (MSG)

Do you feel like discipline is a lot more complicated these days than it used to be? I mean, did our grandparents wonder how to discipline their children? Did your parents? I feel like the answer is "absolutely not."

Today, we have so many voices coming at us. Do we spank or not? Do we yell or not? Do we ever tell them "no"? Do we put them in time-out? Do we ground them? And with all those questions comes new ones, like "What do we even discipline them for?"

There's a big push these days to understand our children's motives and seek to work with them, rather than simply correct them. I'm all for seeking to understand. That was one thing that often frustrated me as a child - feeling like I was punished for what someone assumed I intended. I often felt misunderstood.

The problem with all of this advice is that it can lead to paralysis. Rather than take action, we find ourselves completely stuck in unanswered questions, afraid to do anything. I was in that spot when my children were very little. We went to a friend's house for dinner one night. As I held my newborn son, the wife pointed at my daughter and said, "That child's got your number." I didn't really know what she meant, but she kept saying it throughout the night. Finally, I asked her to explain. "Got my number???"

She said, "Your daughter knows you aren't going to discipline her and she's taking advantage of you. YOU ARE THE MOTHER. You need to act. Why are you letting her ignore you? Why are you acting helpless?"

As shocked as I was about her bold reprimand, I knew she was right. Tearfully, I explained how guilty I felt for having a second baby so close to the first one. It seemed like I'd stolen my daughter's time as an only child away from her. Back-to-back pregnancies and her brother's birth had been very difficult on me physically, and I had a hard time recovering. We'd had to get some help, and I felt terrible for not being the one to do everything for and with her, for being distracted by her baby brother.

The woman responded compassionately, but just as strongly. "You've given your daughter a gift by having a brother for her to love. She'll always have a friend. Now, she has even more love than you'd ever be able to give her on your own. You're going to recover your strength and energy, but by then you'll have a completely undisciplined daughter. Her behavior will impact your son. You have to get this figured out now."

Paralyzed by guilt, probably still dealing with some postpartum depression, I hadn't been listening to my instincts on parenting or even praying about it. God had given me good instincts, and I needed to follow them. I also had a wise husband, and I needed to learn to work with him to make good parenting decisions. Parenting from feelings of guilt wasn't serving anyone well.

No matter what parenting method you choose, you must choose something. You need to correct and discipline your children in the way that works best for your family. Doing nothing isn't love. Children need limits, boundaries, and correction. They don't know about life, danger, and all the things we've learned along the way.

Correction keeps them safe, gives them healthy boundaries, and shows them great love.

One of the most valuable things we've taught our children is about boundaries. I don't think it's taught much today. Everything around our children tells them to test the boundaries, to do whatever their heart tells them to do, and to be more concerned with their own happiness than what they've been taught is right and good. This type of freedom is dangerous in children. Their brains aren't even fully developed until they're in their 20s. How can we expect them to make wise decisions with the limited experience and knowledge they have. God has given US that job as their parents for a very good reason.

One thing my husband and I have taught our children to have good boundaries to protect them and keep them pure. If someone violates their boundaries, they know to tell us. Then, we help them navigate that situation prayerfully. That doesn't mean we always have the answers, but we teach them to turn to God for wisdom when we don't know what to do.

YOU ARE THE PARENT. It's your job to discipline and correct your children. If you don't, who will? How will they know right and wrong? If you don't walk in that authority, you will have to answer to God for your sin. Yes, SIN. Love your children well by showing them right and wrong, correcting them, and leading them into what is right. Is there any greater job in the world than this one?

Does your child feel free to say things to you like, "No, I won't do that," or "You can't make me," or even, "I hate you." These are very disrespectful things to say. If they say something like that to a boss or teacher some day, they won't get very far in life. If you wonder, What can I do to stop them? The answer is, PRAY. Ask God to show you exactly how to handle each one of your children, then do what He brings to your mind to do. Forget what society or social media has told you is correct and listen to the Lord. (The voice of God will never contradict Scripture, and if you wonder if something is biblical, talk to your pastor or a friend who is mature in the faith.)

Three children in, and I still have to remind myself to do the very things I'm writing about today. How do I handle my seven-year-old with Down syndrome and behavioral issues? Have I even prayed about it? I don't have an answer on how to handle him yet, so I know I haven't prayed enough about it. As I write this, I pray, Lord, please give us wisdom on how to handle him when he does x.y.and z. We need help!

Discipline rarely feels good at the time, but it's necessary to prevent greater problems later. Make sure you love your children well by creating boundaries and enforcing them. Don't let guilt or indecision prevent you from keeping your children safe and healthy.

If you need some help thinking through how to discipline your children, I can equip you with the tools you need to work through anything that might be preventing you from courageously following your instincts. Coaching helps you decide what's the best path for you and your family. It helps clear up the clutter in your mind so you can set the direction going forward. I can't tell you what's right for your family, but I can actively listen and empower you to get unstuck. Send me a private message and we can set up a FREE consultation to see if coaching is a good fit for you.



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