Parenting 101 - A Look at Loving Discipline
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Parenting is HARD.
Can I get an Amen?
From sleepless nights, messes, and physical demands to lessons learned the hard way, rebellious sin natures, and temper tantrums… Parenting is HARD. (Don't believe me? Check out THIS blog post.)
And what remains consistent for the 18 years we have our children in our care?
A need for DISCIPLINE.
More specifically, LOVING discipline.
We love our children. And BECAUSE we love our children, we discipline. But discipline out of ANGER is wrathful rage. And ineffective.
Therefore, those two words- loving and discipline- go hand-in-hand. You can’t love without discipline, and you can’t (or shouldn’t) discipline without love.
How do you feel when you think of disciplining your child?
Angry? Annoyed? Frustrated? Hopeless? Inconvenienced?
Are you and your spouse united in parenting/disciplining styles? Or is your child’s behavior dictating your days and stressing your marriage? (If this resonates with you, check out I'm Sick of Fighting with My Spouse! Should We Just Agree to Disagree? )
What about joy? Do you ever feel joyful when you get to discipline?
Thankful for another opportunity to lovingly correct your child’s repeatedly bad choices?
Truthfully, that has been my heart-level, gut-wrenching honest answer for most of the 10 years I have been parenting. But God is teaching me a new way…
Your child is disobeying again and frustration is rising. As you try to correct him, he yells, “You’re stupid! I hate you!” Add a spoonful of disrespect to the pot. You put him in timeout. He cries and yells, “See? You don’t love me!” Throw in a dash of guilt and stir. Meanwhile, your other son and daughter are fighting in the next room. “STOP FIGHTING!” you yell. There goes a heaping scoop of annoyance. “MOM! She broke my lego set!” Your son cries. Turn up the heat, it’s about to boil over…
Can anyone relate?
In the heat of the moment, are you feeling the rage of uncontrollable emotions?
Are you suffering the recurring consequences of an undisciplined child?
Perhaps this has caused friction in your marriage?
Do you feel stuck? Stuck with your kids and their defiance? Stuck with a co-parent who is not doing their part? (If you are feeling stuck in your marriage, read THIS.)
Rebellious behavior in our kids creates anger and frustration in us. When we respond to our children out of that anger and frustration we are venting, not disciplining Biblically. The wrath we pour out to get them to stop inconveniencing, annoying, and frustrating us is for our benefit; they reap no positives from such a reaction. Over time, they lose trust that our reaction is for their good. So, they rebel even more. The cycle repeats over and over. Both child and parent in sin.
If you are:
Spent on the kids
Tired of having nothing left for your marriage
Fighting with your spouse about how to effectively discipline
Defeated from the constant discipline issues that arise
Feeling angry, annoyed, frustrated, hopeless, inconvenienced, etc. when it comes to correcting your children…
Keep reading! Find out how you and your spouse can be allies; two parents on mission for God and the children HE gave you. (For more on this topic, read See the Big Picture: How to Plant Seeds of Faith, Grow in Obedience, and Leave a Lasting Legacy.)
We all had parents- caretakers, guardians. Some were active, others absent. Some were passionate and giving, others present, but un-engaged. Some were easily manipulated, others ruled with an iron fist.
Whoever raised you had a profound impact on how you view parenting and discipline- for better or worse. Combine that with your spouse’s picture of parenting and it’s a recipe for division; two parenting styles, shoved together, hoping for a peaceful outcome.
So, we must come to God- the Father who knows best- and look at His Word for a Biblical definition of discipline. Then, we move from our definition to HIS, standing on common ground.
It’s important to realize:
God is often working through discipline in our own lives. Our resistance to God’s discipline makes us ineffective parents. But the effects of allowing God’s discipline to change our lives will flow into the lives of our children.
How does this work?
God’s Word Tells Us
Take a moment to read Hebrews 12:1-11.
Good. Now let’s break it down.
…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
What sin slows you down? Selfishness? Pride? Angry outbursts? Confess these to God and your spouse/children, repent, then turn and RUN with endurance, a marathon of love and holiness.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame.
In other words, He had JOY knowing He was saving us, helping restore our relationship to God the Father.
What about you? How do you endure the hardships of parenting when…
Your tired, inconsolable toddler is throwing his 6th tantrum today?
Your disrespectful teenager says another terrible, hurtful thing to you?
Your disengaged spouse seems oblivious to the chaos around you?
Do you endure these hardships with JOY, knowing you are loving and helping those God has placed in your life? Or do you blow up like a bomb?
Me? Well…… just call me Tick, Tick, BOOM. (Smack my head).
What are we to do? Like verse 2 said, keep our eyes fixed on HIM (Jesus). So the real question is: what did HE do?
Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
Jesus faced infinitely more hostility from those He loved than we ever will. HE KNOWS what it’s like and has endured worse. We must get our strength from Him.
Like the Father loves us and knows we are sinners, so we love our children, in spite of their sin. Our struggle comes in taking that sin as a personal attack on our authority as Mama and Daddy. Over time it feels intolerable and becomes easy to lose heart.
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (ESV).
Things are bad, but not as bad as they could be. Don’t miss that truth.
You may be thinking, Okay, maybe things aren’t that bad, and thank goodness I can draw strength from the Lord, but WHY does it feel so darn hard? WHY is my attitude toward disciplining the children God gave me so terrible?? (For more encouragement on training up a child, click HERE.)
God answers us in the next few verses:
And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as His children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.”
(We see the same message in Proverbs 3:11-12.)
What is God saying?
He is saying that although others (i.e. our children)- being motivated by sin- may push us to our limit and hurt us, GOD pushes us to bring about loving change through Fatherly discipline.
It doesn’t always feel like that, does it?
Sometimes we just feel the pain and sorrow of being hurt by ones we deeply love, then react out of those feelings.
Do you ever get resentful of your child’s recurring disobedience? (I’m nodding my head over here.) If you’re disciplining them but nothing seems to work, perhaps a new process is needed?
After all, we’re supposed to be more Christ-like, and verse 2 tells us Christ JOYFULLY suffered the cross because He loves us. He didn’t go to the cross with resentment.
(Do you struggle with resentment toward your spouse? For help, read How Do I Stop Resenting My Spouse? Part 1 and Part 2.)
Like Jesus, for the sake of showing God’s love, we must withhold our wrath. We must forgive.
God is in charge. He uses our struggles and feelings of frustration to bring about change in us. He knows how the sins of others affect us (our sin is the reason He suffered and died on the cross!). But He doesn’t want us to be blinded by pain, sorrow, frustration, or resentment. Instead, in His perfect, loving discipline, He wants to use our response to others’ sin as a way to teach and model Jesus’ love for them.
As parents, we need to understand that goal, not lose sight of it in our suffering. (Just like Jesus didn’t lose sight of why He was enduring the cross.)
Loving discipline leads to change.
That’s the main point of Hebrews: how God’s discipline of us brings about change.
God’s discipline is NOT mechanical, or one-size-fits-all, it is:
Personal- that’s why it is effective
Prescribed with an eye for what will change our hearts from rock-hard to soft and moldable
Passionately desiring us to know that, in some instances, hardship and suffering is the only true thing that will take us to the end of our sin
Custom-made, with a firm and unyielding love
Teaching, correcting, transforming
Painful enough that we either try to run from it, or run TO God IN it, where He greets us with arms wide open
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
In other words, what feels like hardship and sorrow now, will last only for a season if we submit our will to God. This season of discipline WILL yield: holiness, peace, and righteousness when we recognize, confess, and repent of our sin (James 1:2-4).
Tick, Tick, BOOM
Perhaps you are that parent- the ticking time bomb- whose bent is to discipline out of rage. You find it very difficult to control your wrath. There’s a lot of yelling, “venting,” anger. (If you struggle with anger, click HERE.)
Or maybe your spouse is the time bomb, and you are the fire extinguisher, trying to put out the fires.
Maybe frustration has caused you to disengage completely.
I can relate to all of these.
So, I’ll write it bluntly, mainly for my sake but also for yours:
We need to remember and internalize the fact that God has entrusted Christian influencers of the future to us. They need discipline. DISCIPLINE IS HARD WORK, and sometimes requires more hardship for the parent than it does for the child.
Slowing down enough to observe your child’s discipline needs
Knowledge and application of God’s Word
Discipline of your own heart
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God’esn’t discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children at all.
Kids that aren’t disciplined are kids in rebellion.
They may feel worthless without parents who care enough to discipline.
Vow to change: an encouraging call to action
Do you struggle with anger? In particular with regard to disciplining your child?
I’d like to encourage you: don’t remain defiant to God’s discipline. Submit to His will and repent for neglecting your call to be the loving, effective parent of (fill in your child(ren)’s names) whom God has placed in your care.
God promises that confessing our sins to one another breaks its power (1 John 1:9).
Hiding or trying to ignore sin doesn’t work. It leaves us stuck until eventually we’re unable to cover up the consequences.
King David said it this way:
When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone (Psalm 32:3–5, NLT).
Confess your sin to God. God, I’m sorry for sinning in my anger. I lose my temper and pour out wrath on my children instead of loving them when they least deserve it.
Remember what Jesus endured- the pain He joyfully suffered- because of God’s love for us, and thank Him for it. Lord, THANK YOU for taking on my sin and enduring the cross so that I could be in relationship with You. Please help me to show that same mercy and grace to my children. The next time my child sins, keep me from reacting in sin. Instead, show me how to respond in a way that teaches and models Your love for them.
Read James 5:16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Spend time in prayer, asking God to help you forgive each of your children. God, (your child’s name) has hurt me many times. Please help me forgive them for their past (and future) sins. Don’t let me hold onto grudges. When I want to hold them accountable for their sin, remind me of the work You did on the cross to pay for their sins. God, please work in my child’s heart as I seek his/her forgiveness.
Confess your sin of built-up anger to each of your children (no matter their age). Seek forgiveness for how your anger has impacted them. Have you: disciplined in anger? Screamed? Left disunity? Neglected your role as parent? Been disobedient to God’s Word?
Pray with your child. God, thank You for Your grace, and for loving us even in our sin. Thank You for Your discipline, kindness, and mercy; we trust You are making us more like You in this season. Please strengthen our relationship and keep us united, glorifying You.
Remember: GOD’S discipline enables SELF discipline to empower a discipline of our kids without wrath.
Ask God to help you discipline like HIM. Take time to pray:
God, thank you for our children. Please make me and my spouse intentional in our loving discipline. Open our eyes and direct our attention to what their needs are. Help us to slow down, learn Your Word, and apply it to those needs, not with rage or anger, but with a desire to correct them for their own long-term good, holiness, peace, and righteousness.
When I start to feel the pain of Your discipline, help me run TO You, seeking Your forgiveness, wisdom, and guidance. You give it freely (James 1:5). Thank you, Lord!
When you model God’s way of discipline, your child will learn how to:
Give and seek forgiveness
Confess and live in freedom from sin
Discipline their children in love
Model God’s love for others
Your child(ren) will learn there is nothing he/she can do that will cause him/her to lose God’s love (or yours). Talk about softening a heart!
When you model God’s way of discipline, the rage monster reaction goes away. You will no longer have pent up anger, but a tender heart toward your child’s weaknesses.
Your marriage will grow stronger as you and your spouse- on mission together to reflect God’s love to your child- look at their life with hope and joy; knowing God is at work.
For further encouragement, read God Says to Train Up a Child HIS Way... But How?
and listen to Parenting 101: Discipline :: [Ep. 140].