Quick word association: discipline. What jumps to mind? For me, like most moms – I think of correcting my children for misbehavior of some type. Connotation usually – if not always – negative.
Now think of the word “disciple,” which is derived from the same word. “Disciple” elicits a picture in my mind of Jesus and his band of twelve inner-circle followers. For three years Jesus taught, led, and instructed these guys, and served as their role model and mentor. He corrected them too, of course, and not infrequently. But that was just one component of the larger deal. Wikipedia (that great, sage, trusted source throughout the ages) says this: “In its most general sense, discipline refers to systematic instruction given to a disciple.” It goes on to say that the Latin origin includes the root discere,“to learn.” So discipline is really an umbrella word that covers teaching, instructing, and leading our children – including but not limited to correction.
All this to say, wouldn’t it help us moms to keep discipline, the Big Picture, in mind in our daily lives with kids? Correction alone will certainly not produce what we’re after in our children – kids who love God and have his attributes (like wisdom, kindness, and self-control) growing in their hearts in increasing measure.
Of course, the correction part of discipline is a huge component, vitally important, and not something Christian parents can afford to ignore or gloss over. But it’s not considered particularly valuable by society at large, and many adults in our culture don’t actually expect children – including their own – to obey them or to exhibit self-control. As I see it, the bar for kids today is set pretty low, particularly in comparison to other generations, as I mentioned in a previous post about obedience.
On this subject, I find this post entitled “When the Person that ‘wears the pants’ in the Family is a size 2T” from Making Home to be pretty compelling, and the author closes with twelve bullets straight from Scripture on what the Bible says about discipline. Her initial point – that it’s easy to get sidetracked by surface issues in childrearing like eating and sleeping, and not fully study and employ biblical principles in our parenting goals and methods – certainly rang true for me.
When correcting our children, I find it’s easy to focus exclusively on the methods we’re using and to 1) ignore key quetions behind the methods and 2) assess the fruit they’re bearing. I know my husband and I have done this. Different methods can produce different results for varying situations or with various kids, and sometimes one size doesn’t fit all. To expand our thinking a bit, I recently drew up a list of questions that my husband and I ask to assess the disciplinary methods we use with our son in our journey to “train him up in the way he should go.” It’s a humbling process, and we need wisdom and clarity from God as it unfolds. Here’s the list:
- Am I approaching disciplining my child with a prayerful spirit?
- Is my discipline consistent, calmly rendered, and administered in love?
- Does the discipline method I’m using appropriately emphasize the God-directed importance of my child’s obeying me and respecting his parents? Is the child accepting and receiving my input and role as an authority in his life?
- What fruit is this discipline method yielding over time? Is the child receiving it, and does it appear to be reaching his heart?
- Is this disciplinary method contributing to the promotion of an atmosphere of love, order, and harmony in our home (and in the child’s spirit)? To the promotion of a God-given view of family as a place in which parents are honored and respected as authorites?
- Or conversely, is it a process in which parent and child go through the motions in a rote way without ever reaching an instructive/corrective level for the child… Or even in which the child is maniuplating the parent so there’s a show of the parent being the authority but the child remains obstinate and rebellious?
Any others to add? Or additional thoughts to ponder on this topic?