Discipline. It’s probably one of the most controversial parenting topics out there. There are so many schools of thought about how to discipline your children, and I feel like culturally I’m told to discipline my kids less and less. But I know I need to discipline them because I love them:
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
Personally, I find disciplining my kids one of the hardest parts of parenting. It’s so easy for me to let my reactions guide me, rather than a thoughtful, purposeful approach.
I appreciated Chip Ingram’s insight from his Effective Parenting in a Defective World series. In the last part of it, he focused specifically on how to discipline your children.
Four Types of Discipline
Chip started by sharing the Reuben Hill Minnesota Report’s four styles of parenting.
In this type, parents are fearful. While they have a lot of love for their kids, they have little discipline and control. It typically produces insecure kids who have low self-esteem.
In this type, parents forsake their kids. They don’t exhibit any love or any discipline or control for them. It typically produces kids that feel unloved, who don’t have any sort of positive relationship with the parent.
In this type, parents fight their kids. While they use a lot of discipline and control, love isn’t apparent. It typically produces kids that feel like they can’t measure up, who tend to rebel.
In this type, parents fellowship with their kids. They have discipline and control as well as love. They set clear boundaries for their children. It typically produces kids with high self esteem, good coping skills, and a positive relationship with their parents.
5 characteristics of authoritative discipline
Authoritative parenting is the style we can learn about in the Bible. In Hebrews 12:4-11, we learn that discipline is teaching obedience to God and His Word through consistent consequences (actions) and clear instructions (words) in an atmosphere of love.
Chip pointed out five characteristics of this type of discipline from that passage in Herbrews:
- The necessity of discipline: to deter destruction (vs. 4).
- The means of discipline: the actions and words (vs. 5).
- The motive in discipline: to express love (vs. 6-9).
- The goal of discipline: to teach obedience/submission (vs. 9).
- The result of discipline: short-term pain and long-term gain (vs. 10-11).
Punishment vs. Discipline
As my kids have gotten older, I’ve noticed I need to keep checking my motivations. Are the consequences I dole out punishment or discipline?
I liked the comparison Chip provided.
- Purpose: to inflict a penalty for an offense.
- Focus: past misdeeds.
- Attitude: hostility and frustration on the part of the parent.
- Resulting emotions in the child: fear and guilt.
- Purpose: to train for correction and maturity.
- Focus: future correct acts.
- Attitude: love and concern on the part of the parent.
- Resulting emotion in the child: security.
How to Focus on Authoritative Discipline
In addition to checking my motivations, there are a few tips Chip provided that I’ve found especially helpful to keep reminding myself about.
One is to be consistent with our consequences. Define clear expectations, establish responsibility, communicate grief over their poor choice, and show them unconditional love.
We also need to provide clear instructions. Say no firmly, provide clear warning of consequences, create and use contracts with your kids, and follow through on consequences.
I also really liked the practical tips Chip provided, especially in developing a game plan as your kids get older. He recommends:
- Identify the top two behavior problems.
- Honestly identify your parenting pattern.
- Have a family conference.
- Set goals together.
A lot of times, when your kids are involved they’ll think of consequences that will help keep them on track even better than you can think of. The hard part is that as the parent, you’re the one that needs to hold them accountable to follow through on the consequence.
I’m Still Learning
It’s helpful for me to look back at Chip’s advice every once in a while as my kids get older and I gain more experience as a parent. Parenting definitely isn’t easy! But I find it really reassuring that God intentionally gave me the kids I have, that He loves them even more than I do, and that He’s holding my hand each step of the way.
Father, I ask you guide our steps as we learn how to discipline our kids effectively. Help us know when to show them grace and mercy, and when to hold firm to the consequences we’ve given them. Help us parent out of love and discipline, and give us wisdom as we guide each of our children in a way that is best for them. Guide our conversations and speak through us, so they hear what you want them to learn. Thank you for equipping us in ways we aren’t aware of, and that we can turn to you when we aren’t sure what to do next. Please open our kids’ hearts to your truth and raise them up to be men and women that love you and follow your ways. Amen.