(Whether a parent yourself, or a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a neighbor, a teacher, a scout leader, or whatever your role in the lives of the children around you, this important series will give you valuable tips on how to influence those kids for the Lord! To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)
In “What About Discipline? Part A” we looked at the importance of and the prerequisites for discipline. But how and when you discipline, and in what spirit, are also vital considerations in being an effective disciplinarian. I have divided these important concepts into a list of “DO”s and “DON’T”s, and these will be the focus of the next two devotionals. For today, let’s take a moment to consider some of the “DON’T”s of discipline:
1. DON’T punish your child in anger!
I don’t know how many times I’ve said to my boys: “What you have done is very, very wrong. However I am too angry to deal with this right now. I need you to go to your rooms while I calm down, and then we’ll talk about it!” It’s kind of a “time out” that I allow myself, and this time allows me to cool down and consider more rationally what has happened. It also allows me the time to pray and ask God’s wisdom for dealing with the situation.
When you are angry, it becomes very difficult to determine what really happened, and whether or not the behaviour deserves punishment. It becomes much easier to over punish your child, and most importantly, when you punish in anger, you teach your child that it’s okay to strike out at the one they are angry with. You will then have a very hard time teaching them not to throw things in frustration and not to strike out at the child who pushes them, and it will become extremely difficult to teach them to “turn the other cheek”!
2. DON’T limit the kind of punishment you administer to only a few.
It is easy for us, as the adults in a child’s life, to have our “pet” punishments. Some kids are grounded for everything, others receive spankings, no matter what they’ve done, and still others are always in time out. When you resort continually to the same punishment, it tends to lose its effectiveness.
A friend of mine, who always uses spankings as a punishment, once told me this story. I don’t remember the exact nature of the “crime” that was being punished, but her son was very much aware that he had done something wrong. He looked his mother straight in the eye and said, “Don’t worry mom, I’ll spank myself!” And he proceeded to tap himself on his buttock.
Was spanking this child still an effective punishment? Probably not. When he made the decision to disobey his mother, he already knew what the outcome would be, and frankly, he didn’t care. However, had he not known what to expect, he might have thought twice about his disobedience!
Approximately three years ago my boys began having difficulties with the truth. I tried all of the usual punishments, but lies continued to flow. The reason? They already knew the outcome of their actions ahead of time, and frankly, it didn’t faze them. The next time it happened, God showed me a new punishment that they didn’t expect. My boys had spent the entire year saving their money to be able to lease horses for the summer, and they had already paid, out of their own pockets, for the month. Their punishment? They were grounded from horseback riding for the rest of the month. It worked. After this incident, the truth began to flow much more readily!
3. DON’T “over” or “under” punish your child.
Always take the time to think and pray about what the child has done so as to put it in its proper prospective. If the action deserve time out, don’t use grounding or spanking. Conversely, if the action deserve a serious punishment, don’t use time out!
How can you know if the punishment matches the “crime”? There isn’t a pat answer to this, because each individual child responds differently to discipline. What is a “serious” punishment for one may not even faze another. You have to watch how your child responses to your methods of discipline, you have to constantly be seeking new methods of discipline if the old methods don’t work, and you need to have a mental continuum of “severity” for your disciplines.
You also need to have a continuum that you follow for gauging the severity of the child’s actions. If it’s a repeated offence, for example, it should be punished more severely than if it’s the first time act. Actions that go completely against Biblical precepts should also be punished more severely, as well as actions that hurt others. Your family and cultural values will help you gauge the severity of the action.
4. DON’T make empty threats!
I was waiting to see the doctor in the ER department of our local hospital when my attention was drawn to a family with a two year old. The child had pulled his boots off and was padding around the hospital floor in his socks. His father threatened numerous times to take away his cookies if he didn’t put his boots back on. Each threat produced more of an impish smile on the face of the little boy, and when they were finally called in to see the doctor, the boy still had his cookies and the father was carrying the boots.
What did this dad teach his son? That there isn’t any real consequences for disobedience and that he doesn’t mean what he says. The child had no respect for his father’s authority, and you can bet that any further warnings went completely unheeded.
By the same token, don’t make it a habit of withdrawing or shortening your punishment either. Kids will know their punishments will be shortened, and they will take that calculated risk when deciding whether or not to fall for the temptation.
Friends, keeping these “DON’T”s in mind will help you to be a more effective disciplinarian. Please join us next week for Bring up Kids God’s Way, Part 12C: The “DO”s of Discipline.
God bless each of you abundantly as you seek to guide the kids in your life in the ways of the Lord!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist and Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, www.scripturalnuggets.org , a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org .
(To access the entire “Bringing up Kids God’s Way” mini-series, please click here.)