(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.)
Last week, in “What About Discipline? Part B”, we discovered some important “DON’T”s of discipline. But what about the “DO”s of discipline? That will be the focus of today’s devotional.
1. DO consider whether or not the action needs to be disciplined.
This may seem like a senseless thing to do. I mean, don’t parents know when to discipline their children? But believe me, God has many times stopped me from disciplining my children by helping me to realize that in the grand schema of things, what they did wasn’t all that important. And many other times, when my natural inclination was to NOT punish them, God has helped me understand that punishment was deserved.
So how can you know if your child deserves punishment or not? Friends, God has given us the perfect guidebook: The Bible. Basically, if it’s against God’s Word, then it deserves to be punished!
Many things are directly dealt with in the Bible, and what isn’t dealt with directly is dealt with indirectly (eg: the Bible doesn’t specifically talk about driving a car without a licence, but it does encourage us to respect the authorities of our day!) It is true that sometimes the answers to these questions are not clear-cut. That’s when you have to go to the Lord and ask for wisdom. He will never cease to give it to you (“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:4)!
2. DO ask God to help you know what kind of discipline to give.
In last week’s devotional, we emphasized the importance of using a variety of disciplines, and making sure that the discipline matches the action being punished. It is very important that you chose a punishment that will be effective, one that will be noticed, and one that will be remembered.
My mother tells the following story: Her aunt often was the one to punish her when she was a child visiting her grandmother. She usually used a “time out” method, and since it was a small, busy home, the only place to really have my mother in “time out” was the closet. Now, my mother could find the most interesting things to do in that closet! One day, when her aunt returned to ask her if she had repented (and my mother doesn’t even remember what she did wrong!), she answered: “I haven’t finished yet, Auntie!” Imagine her aunt’s surprise to open the closet door and see my mother pulling the shoelace out of one last pair of shoes and placing it on a pile in the corner!
Was the punishment effective?
Not at all.
So how can you know what kind of a punishment to give?
God, in His wisdom, always knows what is the best form of discipline. We must go to Him for that knowledge.
3. DO make sure you are disciplining out of love.
In last week’s devotional, we emphasized the importance of NOT disciplining in anger. Today, I would like to add another dimension: Make sure that throughout the disciplining process, your child understands that your motivation for correcting them is love!
Every punishment should begin with you talking to the one who has erred. First you need to define what they have done wrong. It’s amazing how many times kids have NO IDEA why they are being punished, but even if they do know, it is still advisable to define the “crime”. This helps to ensure that all of you are on the same page!
Next, you need to discuss what is wrong with their behaviour. When a child, for example, hits their brother in anger, they often see it as a “fair” behaviour, as their way of “punishing” the one they are angry at. They will need your guidance to help them understand the severity of their actions.
Once they know why they are being punished, take a moment to ask them if they think they deserve to be punished (If your previous discussion has been effective, then the answer will be “yes”), then tell them that you love them and that you’re proud of them for admitting to what they did wrong.
Next, take a moment to discuss how God can help all of you to overcome temptation, to know if what you are doing is right or wrong, then take that child in your arms to tell them what their punishment will be. This will often elicits tears in their eyes. Be prepared to hold them and to tell them how sorry you are. This gives a very distinct message: It says that what you are about to do will be done out of love, out of your duty as a parent to teach them right from wrong.
4. DO consider the concept of grace.
Just as punishment is important, it is also important to extend grace to your child. This helps the child understand the concept of grace and the enormity of what Christ has done for us. It helps them remember that although we all deserve to be punished for our sins, Jesus died on the cross in our place so that we wouldn’t have to take our due punishment. It also helps teach children that they need to be filled with grace with dealing with others!
If God has told you that this is the moment to extend grace, then be sure to have the discussion mentioned in #3, and impress upon their minds that they deserve punishment. Then remind them of how we all deserve punishment, and Jesus came to take that punishment for us. You now have two choices: You can either withhold the punishment, or you can have the child administer the punishment to you.
It is important to not overuse either of these strategies. I have found them only to be effective if used occasionally, and then, under God’s specific guidance. Always allow God to guide you in all of your discipline!
5. DO involve ONLY the guilty party in your punishment.
If little brother doesn’t need to know that big brother is being punished, don’t tell him. It isn’t his business. Punishment should be a private thing, not something that is used to bring about shame.
In summary, friends, you must punish your kids when they do wrong, you must do it under the guidance of God’s Spirit, and you must do it out of love. Remember, if you love your kids, you will discipline them: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11).
Please join us next week for Parenting God’s Way, Part 13: But my Child and I Don’t Get Along!
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, 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.)