Independence apart from Christ is never a good thing. This rebellion against authority is not a new concept, but we must teach our children not only to respect our authority, we need to discipline them.
It's crucial to accept that discipline is biblical.
One day, after church service, my two-year-old son went to the back of the gymnasium where the service was held and got a drink of water. Then he proceeded to play with the water, pushing the button on and off and laughing as the water spilled onto the ground. I ran over to him, pulled him away from the fountain, and told him not to do that again. Yet, just three minutes later, I found him back at the water fountain playing again. He did this several times, and I pulled him away, my tone becoming firmer each time. I wanted him to know that he was causing a mess and that the mess would damage the floor if he didn't stop. Eventually, I took him home, put him in his room, and told him to stay there as punishment. He cried when he found he couldn't come out and play like he wanted. Through this discipline, I had to teach him respect for other people's property, and above all, respect for me.
Those years when he was two and three were the most difficult. I constantly had to punish him for bad behavior and reward good behavior. When I noticed his rebellion was becoming an issue, I had to come up with stiffer punishments for him to stop the behavior. That was a difficult season of being a parent. But my son, who is now in college, respects me and understands not only the rules but the reasons behind the rules.
Conviction and Correction Are Linked
Today, we are more rebellious than ever. People disrespect authority, including pastors, government leaders, bosses, and other authority figures. Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Whether it’s a child or an adult, people need to respect the authority figures God has placed above them. Although we may not agree with every decision they make, we do owe them our respect.
Discipline is the tool for helping children understand and learn the essential role of respect. Yet, our society dictates that discipline is equivalent to punishment, and punishment is equivalent to shame. However, the book of Genesis teaches us that shame is a part of the fall and not God's intention for us. However, shame, due to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, is a good thing in that it helps us recognize the conviction the Holy Spirit brings to sinful behavior and allows us to correct it. After Satan tempts Eve with the fruit from the tree, and she and Adam both eat it, they hide. The shame, a feeling they've never felt before, now comes to the forefront of their lives. God must now put them outside the garden to make decisions independent of him. Instead of spending their lives within his authority, they have now vowed to live by their own choices. Independence apart from Christ is never a good thing. This rebellion against authority is not a new concept, but we must teach our children not only to respect our authority, we need to discipline them.
However, we don't want to discipline them in a way that makes them feel discouraged about themselves, so here are some ways to discipline them without discouraging them:
Explain the Rules
I grew up in a home where my father often said, “Children should be seen and not heard.” It sent an unspoken message to me that my opinions thoughts and feelings didn't matter. I knew there were rules in place in my home, and I received grounding from time to time. But I never quite understood why those rules were in place. It is important to explain to our children why we have the rules we have. Giving our children an explanation helps them understand why they are receiving the punishment in the first place. This may help them not act out of rebellion but rather out of submission.
Give Discipline out of Love
When we discover our children have disobeyed us, we feel anger, disrespect, and sadness. While we are doing what is best for them, they are doing what is best for themselves. Before giving them disciplinary action, take some time and cool off. Resolve your issues with the Lord regarding your negative feelings. Think soberly about the best course of discipline for your child. Allow them to know that you love them and are doing what's best for them, not merely to punish them out of anger or retaliation.
Discipline Them Based on the Offense
Parents who would rather be liked rather than respected sometimes give softer discipline in the hopes the child will not act out in anger or rebellion against them. Don't give discipline without being willing to change your schedule or experience inconvenience. If the child has truly offended you, you must give a consequence that will curb future disobedient acts. For example, if a child is disobeying curfew, take away their car privileges for a week or two. It may cost you extra time in the morning to drop your child off to and from school or work, but in the end, they will learn a lesson that what you say should be obeyed. They must know that there is a person in their lives with whom they cannot cross a boundary. Once a parent sets a boundary, make it difficult for them to cross it. This will help establish proper rules in the family and give you the respect you deserve.
Evaluate the Past
Take a moment and think about the ways in which your parents disciplined you. Although you may not have liked it at the time, what lessons did those actions teach you? If you can't remember what you learned out of that discipline, perhaps it's not the best course of action. Take a moment and write down all the ways you were disciplined as a child. Which were the most effective? Why? Adapt those strategies to your child. Your child is a unique individual and should be treated as such. Will those same strategies work on your child? Do they need stiffer or fewer consequences?
Additionally, consider your child's disposition. Some children are more sensitive than others. Some children experience more conviction than others and are more aware of their guilt. If your child is someone who feels a strong amount of guilt associated with a bad action, do they need a stiff consequence or is what they're feeling enough? Discern what is best for your child based on their personality and strategies that have proven worthwhile in the past. Don't discipline simply because your parents did it that way, but rather discipline with your unique child's personality and level of tolerance in mind.
Speak the Truth in Love
Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” The Apostle Paul teaches us that it is important to help others grow. We do this when we correct other people's behavior. We do not correct to feel superior but rather to let them know how their actions have directly affected us. Your children need to know that you are a human being too. Their actions hurt you just as much as your actions hurt them. Let them know in what ways specifically their actions have made you feel. Sometimes a child knowing she has disappointed you is worse than the discipline itself. Help them develop emotional intelligence by being considerate of other people's feelings.
Discipline is an important element in parenting. Don't forsake the act of discipline altogether simply because you or your child may feel shame, embarrassment, or disappointment. By disciplining with their needs in mind, you will not only gain the respect you deserve but also help develop emotionally, spiritually, and mentally healthy children.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/BorisJovanovic
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.