Continuing from Part 5……(Click here to start at Part 1)

Fifth, there must be discipline. I have done a previous post on discipline, if you are interested.

First, parents must understand that appropriate and effective discipline is very different from abuse. As I mentioned previously, I spent many years with foster children, and saw the affect of abuse on children of all ages. It is a horrendous, life-changing, heart-breaking thing to see. Abuse, whether physical or emotional, will negatively affect a child for the rest of his life. Even a child who adapts and seems to recover, may grow up to struggle with proper discipline of his own child in the future. True and appropriate discipline can be likened to guidance and training, unlike abuse. It leaves positive impressions, and teaches life-long lessons that help a child.

Discipline and correction are part of the vast array of tools we need to use as parents. Psalms 23:4 points out “….Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” A shepherd used a rod and staff while tending his sheep. The staff was used to guide the sheep, and keep them on the path, thereby offering comfort. It might also have been used to give a sharp correction to a wayward sheep, offering discipline. A rod, on the other hand, was often used for predators of the sheep. So, while it was capable of great destruction and even the death of a predator, it was a sign of protection and comfort to the sheep and the shepherd. The wisdom of the shepherd, and the choices he made in using the tools, made all the difference as to whether the sheep saw them as a comforting or as something to be feared.

We certainly do not want our children to fear discipline and correction. We want them to learn a healthy level of respect for it. One way to ensure the effectiveness is through simple discussion with your child. Ask him about his understanding of the correction being administered. Based on his answer, you can gauge how effective and appropriate your methods are, and whether they should be changed in the future. You also need to have a personal attitude check prior to disciplining a child. If you are angry or frustrated, it will only serve to make the correction more severe for the child. The lesson you want the child to learn may be lost completely.

We have a sandbox, which, as any mom with a sandbox knows, can mean lots of sand being tracked through the house. When M disobeyed a long-standing rule regarding the sandbox, instead of negotiating or threatening, I chose to correct her by taking away her privilege of using the sandbox for a day. Of course, she cried, but when she calmed down, we discussed the reasoning for the correction. She understood that by having to stay inside, it would “help her remember” not to disobey the rule in the future. I have had similar situations with JR and M, and I love it when they come to me the next day, or several days later, and say something like, “Mom, may I please play in the sandbox? I will remember not to disobey xxxxx rule.” This is a great example of appropriate correction, as they aren’t fearing being disciplined, but rather, are understanding that such correction will help in the future. Then, when the future arrives, they can look back and see the lesson learned.

Discipline is scriptural, and the Bible offers guidelines to help parents properly discipline their children. Most importantly, we must remember that discipline alone will not result in the behavior and attitudes we desire. Therefore, after we have ensured the implementation of the “tools” of love, not exasperating, living by example, and proper instruction, it is time to discipline for undesirable behaviors. Proverbs 29:15 says “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” This verse can be considered a warning–without discipline, your child WILL mis-behave and be a disgrace. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him, he will not die.” This verse is quite blatant. Whatever form of discipline you choose for inappropriate behaviors, a child MUST be disciplined as part of their training in order to learn the self-discipline and self-control that is necessary as they mature. If we heed these instructions, however, Proverbs 29:17 promises, “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.”

The best solution I have found to preventing incorrect discipline, and encouraging proper, timely, and consistent discipline, is an “If-Then Chart.” It has truly changed the way we discipline. (Read my post for more information about how it works.) We must remember that the purpose of discipline is not just to have well-behaved children. Just as Christ disciplines us for the purpose of training us and helping us to mature spiritually, our purpose should be to train our children to be self-disciplined, self-controlled, God-fearing, Christ-seeking, mature, and responsible individuals. Well-behaved children are a by-product of this goal.