I have been avoiding this topic in blog form because I do not want to speak as if we have the perfect method for well-behaved, God-fearing children. In reality, any one of my children are one tantrum, one “no,” or one selfish desire away from embarrassing us at any moment. That fact humbles me as I approach this article. Also, all of our six children are 7 and under. Therefore I am not speaking to you from the perspective of a seasoned parent whose kids are out of the house, married, and walking with the Lord. I covet those people and try to adopt them as mentors. I only write this blog because we often get these questions in person, I have stalled long enough on the topic of discipline, and I haven’t written in a while so why not jump right in.
We have stolen all of our discipline tactics and methods from mentors, the church, and books. Very little of the following advice is from our own ingenuity or experiences as children in our own homes. The underlying purpose of our discipline is to model God-given authority (Ephesians 6:1-3), train them to yield fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11), to love them (Proverbs 13:24), and to model obedience to the Lord (Proverbs 23:13).
There are three areas in which our children can expect natural or imposed consequences for their actions – Disrespect, Disobedience, and Dishonesty.
We want to foster an environment of respectfulness towards authority, each other, and in stewarding the things God has given us. Therefore clean mouths, rooms, and lifestyle habits are encouraged and enforced. Respect for others, for things, and for authority models a respect for God that will be foundational for them later in life. Johnna and I often redirect a child’s behavior, language, or posture when addressing one another or another adult. It is essential for us to be unified on this front, even when we disagree. For example, when our children (3 and up) join us for church service, I enforce mom’s standard. When the children play wrestle, we enforce dad’s standard (which there is none and everything goes). When we are out in public we enforce household rules.
“Obey all the way, right away, and with a happy heart.” Our six-month-old could probably baby-quote this maxim for you because it gets used in our home often. “When you obey things go well. When you disobey, things do not go well.” (Deuteronomy 11:8-9) Consistency is the hardest and most necessary part of discipline. Our kids are more joyful when we hold them accountable to instant obedience. And remember, delayed obedience is disobedience. Obviously, we are not perfect and we slip. In the end, we feel the pain of not being consistent as the effect on the kids multiplies (might I add at the worst times). You may be wondering if we have robots, oppressed by the fundamentalist parent regime. Watching our Instagram stories will probably dispel you of any inclination to think this way. It is important to emphasize why they are obedient, but I will include that in Part 2.
I am particularly adamant about dishonesty because I want our children to be able to tell us the whole truth no matter what they have done. All dishonesty receives consequences because it is the opposite of the character of God. There is freedom in trust and depending on the infraction committed before the dishonesty, there may less severe consequences.
Giving consequences and why we give them is only half of the discipline process. In Part 2, I will explore repentance, reconciliation, and our responsibility as parents to point to grace rather than performance as the main driver for discipline.
On a final note, men need to lead their wives in this area. Johnna often hears from women who are tired of disciplining their kids all day and then the Dad comes home and just wants to be the fun one. You can bless your wife in her mothering role by taking the lead whenever you are around and encouraging her that there is fruit in the day to day work of consistent and loving discipline. Thanks for reading.