By Sabrina Schlesinger
Holy cow, there is a lot assumed in that title! Can we just state the obvious for a second? I am no expert. I do NOT know it all, and will never claim to. I am learning and growing as a parent right along side of you. Ok, so now that THAT is out of the way, let’s take a look at how we discipline our kids…because there actually are wrong and right ways according to God’s Word.
What does it mean to discipline? Because when we read that word, for many of us, we have differing opinions on what that means based on our own experiences and upbringing. For this article, let’s look at it through the same filter.
Discipline is correction driven by love and guidance motivated by love. Each child is unique and responds to different methods of discipline. It is our responsibility as a parent to figure out what works best for our child and to be faithful to administer discipline at the appropriate time in the appropriate way. Discipline isn’t something we do TO our children, it is something we do FOR them.
But our culture can live on the extremes of discipline. It is either, “I will dominate you” and it crushes the child’s spirit, or they don’t discipline at all, leaving the child to lead themself. Proverbs 29:15,17 says, “To discipline a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child…Discipline your children, and they will give you peace of mind and will make your heart glad.” (NLT)
Parents, we need to understand there is a major battle going on in our homes for who is going to be in charge. This is a battle we must win, not so we can have bragging rights and lord it over them, but so we can lead them, guide them, and train them in the best way possible.
Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” (NLT)
Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” (NLT)
The reality is, it takes discipline to discipline. But can we be honest? It seems a lot easier to just let our kids throw the tantrum, to give them what they want, and give into their demands. It feels easier to just yell at them, send them to their rooms, or turn on the TV and have them get distracted. But we must remember that although discipline may be more work on the front end, this is an investment we must make, as it will reap great dividends and rewards in the long run.
Let’s take a look at three different types of undisciplined parents. If you are anything like me, I can see myself in all of them and have much room for improvement.
1. Lifeguard Parents
This is the parent that often rescues a child from their consequences. How do you know if you are a lifeguard parent?
- If you delivered little (or not so little) Johnny his lunch three or more times in the last semester because he forgot it again
- If you defended your child before ever having heard the other side of the story
- If you paid for your child’s speeding ticket
- If you give into every whine and fit when they don’t get their way
There are times we need to teach our kids mercy-meaning not giving them what they deserve-but there is a fine line between giving mercy and enabling our children. Enabling parents have great intentions. They think they are helping their child, but in truth, they are stunting their child’s maturity.
In life, as our kids grow older, they are going to learn that choices have consequence. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (NKJV) When they live outside of God’s parameters according to His Word, there will be consequences. When they disobey the laws of the land, there will be consequences. When they break the rules of their school or employment, there will be consequences.
If we really love our children, we will want to prepare them for success. Rather than raise privileged, entitled, and spoiled children, let’s stop the madness of rescuing them from ever feeling the pain and discomfort of their choices. Instead, let’s parent them with 20 years in mind, helping and teaching them that the choices they make matter.
2. Etch A Sketch Parents
I am a child of the 80’s and I would play with this toy for hours. The ultimate challenge was making a circle, which I never seemed to have mastered. But what I could do was make an awesome straight line! (Impressive, I know!) The genius behind Etch A Sketch was if you messed up or didn’t like it, all you had to do was give it a good shake and all your lines disappeared.
An Etch A Sketch parent is one who is inconsistent. They draw lines in the sand one day, and the next day those lines don’t seem to even exist.
You are an Etch A Sketch parent if:
- One day you correct your child for doing something wrong and the next day nothing is said or done about it at all
- You are known for never following through on your consequences
- You give empty threats (For example: I am going to take away all of your toys if you don’t clean your room)
Here is the problem with this kind of parenting…Inconsistent parents create insecure children. Our kids thrive within boundaries. If they never know what is going to set us off and if they never know what gets them in trouble, then they will grow up confused and unsure. They may also grow up with an unspoken fear of us and feel like they have to walk around on eggshells because they never know what kind of parent they are going to wake up to.
Threatening our kids is NOT discipline. Counting to three is NOT discipline. When we do this, we are actually teaching them they have three times to disobey us before something (or nothing) happens. In our home we tell our kids, “Obedience is doing what I say right away, with the right attitude.” God is pretty clear about obedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience, and disobedience brings an onslaught of trouble into our lives. So why would we teach our kids to delay their response to our instructions? How is that helping them rightly relate to God? And how is that helping them live a blessed and successful life?
When your kids break the rules, take a minute. That way you can be sure to hand out the appropriate response for their choices. Then all you have to do is simply follow through. Your kids may not thank you for this today, but when they have kids of their own, you might get a few phone calls of gratitude!
3. Split-Decision Parents
These are the parents who are not on the same page. One parent disciplines one way, and the other another way. They are constantly undermining each other and don’t see eye-to-eye on how to bring correction and instruction to their kids.
One of the most important things we can do as parents is to agree and remain unified in front of our children. They need to know that mom and dad are a team that can’t be divided. Kids aren’t dumb. At a very young age they will figure out how to play one parent against the other. They will discover which parent is the disciplinarian and which one is the pushover.
Here are some tips to stop being Split-Decision Parents:
- Never disagree with each other in front of the kids. If you need a minute, have the kids leave the room or put the conversation on hold so you can come to an agreement privately. Undermining your spouse in front of your child only brings negative results.
- Discuss and decide privately how you will discipline your children. Come to an agreement on what the consequences will be. The time you take together doing this will bring peace to your marriage and a little healthy fear to your child as they await their ruling.
- Tag-team it. When you are on the same team, you have the same goal. And at times you can get tired or your frustration can start to boil over and you need a time out. Here is where your spouse can tag in. Sometimes the other parent may not realize they need a break and you can step in and say, “Let me take over for a few.” This keeps angry reactions and outburst at bay and helps you both discipline your kids with a clear head and right motivations.
At the end of the day, our litmus test will be, “Do our kids make right decisions when they are on their own?” Our goal as parents is to move our children from parent-control to self-control to God-control. Let’s together move away from being undisciplined parents so we can set our kids up for a life filled with success and rewards.
Love + Blessings,
Sabrina is a mother to three girls and one boy. She is also a pastor’s wife, a freelance graphic designer, and a mom coach! She resides in beautiful San Diego where the sun shines every day. She prefers chai lattes over coffee, mac-n-cheese over vegetables, and staying in over going out. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!