This is the fourth post in a series featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to encourage you to trust in God, no matter what life brings. ❤️
As a child of the 50’s, I grew up thinking discipline was synonymous with punishment. When I became a parent, I accepted the necessity of spanking as part of the arsenal of weapons parents used to communicate the seriousness of their children’s “crimes”. As time passed, however, I became personally convicted about spanking my children, because too often, my anger took control and I spanked them harder than was necessary.
In my last post, I wrote about how God brought order to my home after I surrendered my heart to Christ. It was at that time that He replaced my penchant for perfectionism with Himself. It was also then, that I became convicted that my efforts in parenting were too often motivated by:
- My anger at my children, and/or
- My fear of losing control, thinking–If I can’t control them when they’re small, what on earth will I do when they get into their teens?
The problem was, I didn’t know what to replace it with. Initially, I recognized my children still needed discipline so, I replaced spanking with yelling–A LOT! (It was amazing how quickly they were able to tune me out!) I struggled with feeling helpless and foolish most of the time in my efforts to parent.
It was not until I learned:
- Discipline and punishment are NOT synonymous.
- “Disciple” is the root word of discipline.
- God shepherds the hearts of His own by leading (not beating) them!
that “the lost art of Godly discipline” came into view.
So what is the difference between discipline and punishment? The simple wisdom of Christian motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, is full of insight:
“We need to understand the difference
between discipline and punishment.
Punishment is what you do TO someone;
discipline is what you do FOR someone.“
The difference between the dictionary definitions of the two is stark:
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary affirms Ziglar’s assertion with this definition of discipline:“Training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”
- Punishment is defined as, “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.”
Between the two choices, discipline is certainly preferable to punishment when it comes, not only to raising children but also in how we want to be treated by our Creator.
Yet, as I look at culture today (even Christian culture), it is very apparent that many children are not receiving the benefits of discipline. Sadly, as culture has embraced the notion of developing high self-esteem, parents have been remiss in teaching the difference between right and wrong, as well as God’s mandate that we love Him and our neighbor. The results? Just listening to the nightly news says it all.
So how was I to proceed as a Christian parent? The wisdom and truth of II Timothy 3:16, 17 drew me:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.”
It was then that I committed to depending on the Scriptures, prayer, and the leading of God’s Spirit to teach this servant of God, how to discipline/disciple my children. Along the way, I received the assurance that God did not expect perfection from me as a parent. All He wanted from me was a teachable heart:
“He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”
The following are insights that guided me through the process of discovering the art of Godly discipline:
Insight #1: Godly discipline has to be learned before it can be applied.
God convicted me early-on with this thought:
If you want your children (or your grandchildren) to take you seriously,
MAKE YOUR OWN BED BEFORE REQUIRING THEM TO MAKE THEIRS!*
Insight #2: Godly discipline is meant to be a lifestyle, not a series of events.
I found great encouragement in this beautiful word picture given the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.”
Insight #3: God does not have grandchildren; He only has children.
This piece of wisdom came from Corrie Ten Boom, author of one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place. I had read her book to my children, so they had great respect for its author. I reminded our children of this at various stages in their lives, pointing out that being raised in a Christian home did not make them followers of Jesus Christ.
Insight #4: Make regular worship at a Bible-teaching church and fellowship with other Believers a priority.
Early in my walk with Jesus, I learned: “There is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian.” Worship of God with other Believers became our priority. I remain grateful for how our church family has loved us through good and tough times. Having relationships with other adult Believers benefited our kids greatly through the “teen years”–when Mom and Dad were “uncool”.
Insight #5: Help your children think biblically by reading to them–A LOT!
Early on I discovered God uses reading to shepherd our hearts. I especially loved summers when we had larger blocks of time to read all kinds of books. As my children grew (early elementary age and above) we enjoyed reading true stories about the lives of other Christians–Corrie Ten Boom’s, The Hiding Place, Joni Ericksen Tada’s story as well as Hudson Taylor, Eric Liddell, Gladys Aylward, David Livingston, and George Muller are but a few of those we enjoyed. We also read the Narnia, Little House and Lord of the Rings series as well as delving into the wisdom of the Bible. (Reading The Hiding Place and Joni’s Story in the shelter of our home, gave opportunity to talk about sin, the human heart and how God blesses His children through adversity.)
Insight #6: When disciplining your child–draw them in–rather than isolate them.
I’ve never understood the practice of sending children to their room when they get into trouble. When my children needed discipline, I viewed that time as an opportunity to minister to their hearts. This is the pattern we followed when they were small and required discipline:
- They stood in the corner of the room where I was working (usually the kitchen) with the timer set and their hands behind their back (to help them think about what they had done rather than get distracted.) If they fidgeted in the corner, more time was added– they soon learned to settle into their corner as I continued to work!)
- When the timer dinged, I sat on a chair and they either sat on my lap or stood in front of me. (The main intent here was to make good eye contact.)
- I then asked, “Why did you have to stand in the corner?” I soon found this to be a critical piece of the discipline process–especially when they were a bit fuzzy about what they had done wrong.
- We then talked about what had happened, the sin that was involved, and then, how to make things right again. (Often it was to apologize to one of their siblings.)
- Before we went on with our day I prayed for them–about what they had done but always with thanksgiving to God for their lives and His plan for their future.
As they grew the pattern adjusted. Rather than stand in the corner, I assigned appropriate passages of Scripture for them to read and apply in a short essay. (The intent was to help them take sin seriously by going to God in confession and faith.)
Insight #7: Along the way, watch for ways to bring laughter, adventure, and opportunities to serve others into your family routine.
I Timothy 6:17-19 pictures this beautifully:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant
nor to put their hope in wealth . . .but to put their hope in God,
who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Command them . . . to be rich in good deeds . . . to be generous and willing to share.
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves . . . for the coming age,
so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Through the years God proved Himself faithful to our family, even when we were not entirely faithful to Him. What our middle-child, Amy wrote in her early twenties sums our family up quite well: “I come from a family of five sinners . . . . “ Over time we have grown to be a family of fifteen, still delving into the lost art of Godly discipline . . . .
All to His Glory!
*Underscoring the warning against saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!” (Such an attitude breeds disrespect and contempt.)