As a parent I have found that one of the most difficult things for me to do is to provide discipline to a child who has stepped out of line. Instead of always remembering the reason for discipline in the home I am often too tired to do what needs to be done or overreact and throw a tantrum worse than the one I am trying to correct. Discipline often makes us feel bad which is the reason parents say things like, “I love my kids too much to discipline them.” I believe that real love is a decision that we make to do what is best for the one we say we love. That means that sometimes the MOST loving thing we can do is provide discipline even when we just don’t want to. I love my kids too much to let them play in the street no matter how much fun they are having! But if we are going to discipline, we want to do it right. While I will not offer suggestions on particular techniques of discipline (I believe that different situations call for different approaches) I do offer the following thoughts to help keep you on the right track.
1. Have a clear goal. You need to know what you are trying to accomplish so that you are applying the right discipline at the right time. Trying to get a child to learn to stop throwing temper tantrums is not the same thing as teaching them responsibility through chores or a job. Understand what is at stake and discipline accordingly.
2. Realize that everyone is different and tailor discipline to the person being disciplined. What works for one may have no effect on another.
3. Examine your motives before disciplining. Is this discipline for the benefit of the one being disciplined or because you are angry or embarrassed? Take a moment to examine the real reason you feel like discipline is needed now.
4. Related to this is don’t discipline angry. Emotional discipline is more often hurtful than it is helpful. Get yourself under control before trying to control someone else.
5. Let love be your guide. This is not a “touchy-feely” approach to discipline. It is simply the principle that says, “If love is doing what is best for the object of my love than I will do whatever is necessary to serve them even if it’s hard.” This principle will motivate you to discipline when you don’t feel like it and will keep you from doing anything harmful. You will discipline for the benefit of the one being disciplined.
6. Play the long game. Remember, this is not about the most recent incident or surviving a storm. It is about equipping for a life of service to God.
Hebrews 12:11 reminds us that even though discipline is difficult when we are going through it, if done right, it will bear the “peaceable fruit or righteousness.” Let that be the goal as we lovingly and consistently apply discipline in the home.
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