If you’ve been a parent for any length of time, you know that discipline is one of the hardest and most intimidating parts of parenting.
As parents, we don’t really WANT to discipline our kids. We would much prefer they just do what we want them to do the first time and us needing to get involved on a deeper level. Right??
What Happens at 3?
When I was a kid, I had no idea how complex this issue really was. I just knew I didn’t want to get punished.
So when I heard my mom start counting, “1………..2………..” you better believe I was getting my rear in gear, because I honestly had no idea what happened if she got to “3” and didn’t particularly want to find out.
Now that I’m a parent, I have been enlightened. I now know that, my mom never wanted to get to 3 either. Because, as parents, WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENS AT 3 EITHER! And we are every bit as terrified as our kids to find out.
While we are slowing dishing out numbers in our most convincing, authoritative voice, “1……..2………..,” internally we are desperately trying to figure out what happens if our kids don’t do what we want by 3. What will happen? Will we go into a hulk-like rampage? Will we throw back our heads and growl from the depths of our being? Will the universe implode and life as we know it come to a screeching halt? Nobody knows, parent or child alike. Why do you think we invented “2 and a half………2 and 3/4…..”?
It’s just not right for our kids to put us through that.
Our newly turned 2 year old has been testing our counting abilities. Oddly enough, she likes to take over the counting. Apparently we aren’t doing it well enough for her liking. I heard my husband say to her recently, “I need you to get down off that table by the time I get to 3. 1……..” To which she rudely interrupted and insisted that SHE count instead. And she promptly counted to 3 and got herself down off the table.
The True Heart of Positive Discipline
As intimidating as discipline is, we tend to overcomplicate it lots of times.
The heart behind true, godly positive discipline is this: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV) But what does that really mean?
The Latin root of the word “discipline” is “discipulus,” meaning “pupil” or “student.” This is the same root as the word “disciple,” just like the the followers of Jesus were called. So discipline, by nature, is about teaching and training.
When most of us hear the word, “discipline,” we automatically think punishment. Or maybe we think of self-discipline, which involves exercising control over one’s self, usually for a beneficial purpose.
Either way, we often associate discipline with control rather than training.
But discipline is actually a really good thing, and ultimately serves to benefit the individual being disciplined.
It’s Not About Punishment
Healthy discipline is not about punishment. It’s not about rewards or praise. And it’s certainly not about control.
It’s about training for a purpose. It’s about instilling Kingdom values in the hearts of our children.
True discipline is about building a relationship that is a safe place for them to ask hard questions and bring their problems and insecurities. It’s about recognizing the treasure inside them and calling it forth.
Positive discipline is about inviting our kids into a lifelong process of learning and growing. It’s about helping them to know God’s heart and walk in His Spirit.
It’s about giving them room to make mistakes and standing with them through the journey. It’s about setting healthy boundaries and expectations for them and communicating confidence in their ability to meet them.
It’s about modeling a life lived passionately and intentionally for Jesus. THIS is discipline.
It’s not a short game; it’s a long game. Because we’re not ultimately trying to control our children. We’re teaching them how to control themselves.
We’re raising little humans who were created in the image of God to bear his likeness and express his unique creativity in a way only they have been called to do.
Children are a gift. God has given them to us not to control, but to steward. We have an incredible opportunity to be their first look at the love and kindness of their Heavenly Father. What are they seeing?
Positive Discipline is Discipleship
Think about how Jesus trained his disciples. He invited them to follow him. The primary ways he discipled them were…
1. Modeling: He welcomed them to walk with him and experience the Father’s heart through relationship. He showed them how to operate in the Spirit.
2. Teaching: He taught them from the Scriptures. He taught them how to pray.
3. Empowering: He let them try what he was doing. And when they made mistakes, he corrected them and empowered them to try again.
He still set boundaries. He still expressed his expectations. But he extended grace through the process.
What if we approached discipline with our children this way as well? What if, instead of just creating “rules” and attempting to control our kids’ behavior, we invited them into a relationship with us in which we model what we are asking them to do?
How can we expect our children to say sorry to each other if we’re not willing to apologize to them when we lose our temper, or to our spouse when we hurt their feelings?
True godly discipline is rooted in discipleship, which is a relational model of training.
The student is an apprentice to the teacher. They learn first by watching, then by working alongside, then by doing it on their own.
Often times we do the reverse. We tell our kids the expected outcome for their behavior and skip the invitation for them to watch us or deny them the opportunity to practice it with us.
It’s Not About Control
No matter how hard you try and how sophisticated your methods are, you cannot ultimately control your child. And it is not your responsibility to do so. So let it go.
As author Danny Silk says, “The only person you can control — on a good day — is yourself.”
Does that mean you let your child do whatever they want? Absolutely not.
Numerous research studies have demonstrated that an authoritative style of parenting (that involves an emphasis on relationship as well as high expectations) is associated with a number of benefits to children, including doing better in school and practicing fewer risky behaviors like drug use, just to name a few.
Godly discipline is not simply about punishment and reward. It goes so much deeper than that. It’s about relationship and imparting values.
And the best way to discipline our kids is to establish a secure attachment with them that can handle the weight of training, boundaries, and expectations.
Healthy discipline means that your role is to control you, and through that process to help your child learn how to control himself or herself.
It’s About Family
Yes, discipline by nature involves an element of discipleship. But the beautiful thing about God is that how he interacts with us goes beyond simply a student and teacher relationship. To God, it’s about family. All throughout Scripture, we see family language expressed to describe our relationship with God and the way he interacts with us, his people. He doesn’t just invite us to be his students; he adopts us into his family as sons and daughters.
Family is the most powerful form of training and discipleship. Because we are all in this together. God invites us in, as family, to begin to take on the attributes of Christ and to partner with him in a higher purpose.
What are we inviting our children into? Simply obeying the rules? Or are we inviting them to become like Jesus because they are called to a higher purpose?
Want to be more intentional with shaping your family culture? Grab your free copy of Shaping Your Family Values: A Simple Guide below!
Want to learn more on this topic? Read Part 2 in this Series: 8 Reasons Discipline is WAY Better than Punishment
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