I have to admit it. I am not the most disciplined person when it comes to getting things done. I tried homeschooling our kids during portions of their elementary school life. Our daughter, in 7th grade kept me organized! When our youngest son was at home alone-the older siblings were off to high school and college- we were neither organized nor disciplined. We are both brilliant, creative folks-my youngest son and me (I?)- however, the creativity and field trips preempted any effort to stick to a schedule and get to the reading, writing and arithmetic! I am forever grateful for the private and public school teachers who picked up where I needed to pass the educational baton.
Webster’s dictionary defines discipline as: training that develops self-control, efficiency, (and the like); strict control to enforce obedience; orderly conduct; a system of rules as for a monastic order; (and finally), treatment that corrects or punishes. (Italics mine)
In this excerpt from my Parenting Lesson on “Discipline”, I will focus on building relationship with your child, helping her/him develop self-control and managing emotions. Then will look briefly at correction and redirection. Children are certainly….well, childish, and they decidedly need modelling, correction and training for self-control. How we approach these parental mandates will determine how a child forms his/her thinking, attitudes and even spiritual bent.
Each child is unique so in my mind I think that this is the most important reminder. Each child may need a different format for modeling, discipline and correction. Next it is well to take the biblical advice in the New Testament book of Ephesians for fathers (and mothers) not to exasperate our children, but instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesian 6:4)
I will not give a biblical exegesis (thorough study, explanation and application) of what this “training and instruction of the Lord” might be referring to, or on the raising of children in particular, but I hope to leave you with some basic principles on a loving, biblical approach to training up our kids.
Here are three R’s to think about: Relationship, Rhythm and Reformation.
Of course, this is first! For every kind of development: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual; a child needs to know that he/she belongs and has a deep heart connection to one or both parents, or a loving consistent caregiver. Remember that even newborns interpret your presence with basically 2 emotions: Joy or Disgust! Is this person joyful to see and be with me? Or is she/he disgusted with me? As children grow, they become more adept at this. Their brain development, their emotional regulation, their mental capacity and their spiritual connections will all begin with this first assessment and interpretation of the people they are with. It’s OK to have a bad day, but how you communicate most of the time—that it is a Joy and delight to be with this beautiful child created in God’s image, given as a gift to the family to be with- will determine how a child sees him/herself and how they will approach life.
Busyness can rob parents (the whole family) of this basic need to “be with”. It takes DISCIPLINE for parents to manage time and activities to allow for healthy rhythms that bring life. Time is needed for connecting, bonding, activities, rest and refueling. This will begin a child’s journey toward loving and bonding relationships that will be the foundation for all discipline. I guarantee that if you spend most of your time building a healthy respectful relationship with your child(ren), the discipline and correction issues will be much easier.
From Infancy through adulthood we all thrive on healthy rhythms and habits that bring life. Setting up healthy rhythms for sleeping, eating and playing or awake time for the infant helps the baby and the parents to enjoy babyhood. As children grow, they learn to be part of the family by enjoying meals together, working and doing regular chores, playing and resting. It is the parent’s job to set the tone for these rhythms by watching and paying attention to each child’s unique make-up. Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rhythms for love, sleep, meals, work, play, creating, thinking, reading, worship and belonging all set up an environment for kids (and parents) to thrive.
Finally let’s focus in on the fact that our kids are most assuredly self-centered and prone to want to get their own way. They do need correction and redirection. They are decidedly cute and made in God’s image; beautiful gifts, seedlings of wonder and amazing as emerging people. AND, they are basically self-centered, immature little creatures who only and most always want their own needs met. My experience is that, left to themselves, they will demand these core needs to be met and NOW!
The Parent has the challenge of bringing the presence of joy and acceptance, bonding and love to the table while also bringing discipline and redirection to the child to “train-up” and bring reformation to the child’s mind, heart, emotions and behavior. Focusing purely on behavior modification and/or behavior correction can work for a time while the child is young, but may backfire as the child grows and needs to problem solve, self-regulate and become their own wonderful individual.
A child must learn to be self-sufficient, to interact with care toward others and regulate her/his emotions to be successful in the world. How on earth does a parent achieve this? Well, not alone. The only thing a parent can truly do is provide an environment for the child to grasp and engage in these characteristics. In the end it is not the parent’s job to make a child into a good little person. It is really the child’s job to accept, reject and reformat their own mind, heart and soul. The truth is that none of us can make ourselves “be good”. (Check out the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans in the New Testament of the Christian Bible!) This is finally and in the end God’s job.
So perhaps as we engage our kids, the best thing may be to help them see that they are not able to be good, be patient, be kind, or get the job done perfectly every time, unless surrendered to a love relationship with Jesus. It is truly God’s job to reform the human heart through faith in Him. This is food for thought. Parenting is not about creating “Good Kids”. I invite you to explore this more. You can read, engage in parent classes and/or you can invite me to come to your church or organization to go through the ReaLife Parenting Workshop. 😊
What then can a parent do to help redirect, correct and help a child develop self-discipline and emotional regulation? It is more of an perspective and attitude than a certain technique, but here is one approach:
First, the parent must have qualities of discipline, emotional regulation and care for others developing inside their own heart, mind, body and soul.
Next, take a breath and connect with your child. A simple statement could be, “I see you are (doing this or that)…..” then talk about it with your child. Or if there is a danger to the child or another person (or pet) simply state the command, “STOP!” (I recommend that you practice these disciplines during times of compliance rather than waiting for the blow up when no one is thinking clearly.)
Finally, If at all possible, avoid using your child’s name as a verbal warning. Pick other words and use the name of your child for bonding, affirmation and love.
Connect first, then re-direct. Stay calm and have wise authority in your voice. Manage and model your own emotional regulation. BREATHE! When emotions calm down engage the child to have her/him think about what they need to do. Let the child think and express a better solution rather than constantly telling them what to think or do. When you think of the most recent “blow-up” in your own home what can you do differently next time to get connected first, then work toward re-direction?
As children get older, they should have greater skill in self-regulation and self-control. A pre-teen is capable of setting up her own homework schedule and talking with her own teacher about help needed. By the time your son/daughter enters Jr. high school, you should be free of any homework responsibility. Most colleges are battling this dilemma of too much parent involvement in the student’s academic life. Wean yourself early for your and your child’s well being and successful transition to adulthood. Launching will be our topic next month.
Our job, as a parent is to get the child started in the right direction. With love and discipline scripture reminds us of this principle:
Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not turn from it Proverbs 22:6
Or in another translation:
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it. (NIV)
May you have grace to develop relationships, rhythms and an environment for reformation in your home for you and your whole family. This is the way children can begin to connect with others, enjoy God and be good citizens in the family and the world.
Confident Parenting, by Jim Burns; God Attachment, Why you believe, Act, and Feel the Way you Do about God, by Drs. Tim Clinton and Joshua Straub; How to have a New Teenager by Friday, by Kevin Leman; Mother & Son,The Respect Effect by Emerson Eggerichs; Parenting from the Inside Out, by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed ; Sticky Faith,by Powell and Clark; The Christian Codependence Recovery Workbook, From Surviving to Significance, by Stephanie A. Tucker; The Whole Brain Child, by Daniel J. Siegel,M.C. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.
Article from Forbes Magazine and HomeWord Ministries, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, by Amy Morin · March 6, 2019;