I'll be honest. The topic of discipline is one I like to avoid. It's a topic that can become heated really quickly and because of that, can become very hurtful as well. I'm speaking from someone who has been deeply hurt over this topic as well as regretfully said some hurtful things myself.
Because of the tenderness of this topic, I want to cut through the methods of parenting and go to the heart behind the parenting choices that Kyle and I make for our family. I've known Godly people whose methods are contrastingly different but the heart is still for the same goals and purposes.
For us, in our home as believers, we view discipline through the lens of discipleship. A disciple is a student, someone who is being trained to follow a particular way. Discipleship in parenting looks like "training them up in the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6). As a Christian home, we know that "the way they should go" is the ways of Jesus and to learn and follow what the Bible says. We want to be disciple-makers, not just disciplinarians.
Discipleship looks beyond behavior to what the root and oftentimes sin behind that behavior is. This is a motive shift for a lot of parents who might discipline to produce a certain behavior in their kids. Discipleship is more concerned about the heart than the behavior because a heart right after God will produce fruit in their behavior. That's called the fruit of the spirit and we can read about that in Galations chapter 5. I talk about this more in another post I wrote, but I want to re-address this idea here. Yes, discipline is important to teach that there are negative consequences to our behavior choices. But I think we have to be very careful to not lean on rules to produce fruit and the way we should train our children to go is to connect to the source of the fruit. Rules can punish disobedience, and there is a need for that, but they cannot MAKE someone more loving, joyful, etc.. They can make people compliant but they are not what produces transformation. I don’t want to teach my kids that they can behave their way into joy. I want to teach them to connect to the source of joy, and the joy will take care of itself.
The Bible says that "Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord" (Psalm 127:3). Here's the thing: it doesn't say that the gift is conditional on how the blessing behaves and acts. This verse actually means that the riches of your heritage are INCREASED. This is really important because when we start viewing and remembering that our children are truly a GIFT, then our role as a parent becomes a stewardship idea. Meaning, our role is to manage well the gift(s) we have been given. It's one huge opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
I think oftentimes, we as parents (myself included) are geared and maybe steered by society, to discipline to produce behavior either because we care so much about how we look to others or because it's more convenient for us. The problem with both of those ideas is that they are still focused on the behavior instead of digging to the root. And if you just address the behavior and not the root, it's not going to produce any kind of transformation. My ultimate goal as a parent, my only goal really, is lead my kids to follow after Jesus. Can I produce salvation in them? No I cannot. But I can be faithful to teach them about Jesus and His perfect word and about God's ways. We can set the precedent in our home of faithfulness to follow after Him, and we can model those ways every day for our kids.
I'm not saying we're awesome at this. As we are walking out this parenting gig, we are also walking out the ways of a child with our Heavenly Father. We are still very much being trained ourselves. And we're going to get it wrong sometimes. And when we do, we have another opportunity to model repentance for our kids, the very same thing we are asking of them when they mess up. We don't ask our kids for perfection, but for soft and teachable hearts, the same that we want to have with our good Father.
If you're interested in reading more about my heart behind parenting, you can check out these three articles that I have written previously:
I Don't Want To Teach My Kids To Be Loving
Dear Mighty Warriors
This week, the ladies in the Babywise Friendly Blog Network have been discussing the topic of "discipline". Be sure and check out all of their posts linked below!