Here are some things that help me when I have to consider how to discipline my children. I added bold text to highlight the “take home” in each point for you if you’re interested in a quick list!
- Discipline is supposed to be about love for the child. My actions and methods must be tempered by a heart that dearly loves the child (or it will show). I need to make sure I am being loving.
- Discipline is about a desire to see him learn. Discipline is not the same as punishment which is retribution or revenge. Punishment is designed to make the offender pay for what he did, whereas discipline is from the Greek word for instruction and is intended to teach and correct. Discipline can include a form of consequence which is perceived as punishment, but the intention is different. I need to make sure my goal is the child’s correction, not simply that he suffer because he was wrong.
- Often my child offends me. When he does this, there is an added dimension, because not only do I want him to be corrected for his sake, but I sometimes have an angry or hurt heart. I need to be careful this does not cloud my judgment. Usually, this results in me going overboard in some way. I need to be honest about how I feel, and whether I am using that to fuel my thinking about the corrective action.
- The consequences should fit the crime. “No video games for two weeks if you interrupt one more time!” This is just silly, even just reading it. This type of threat comes from me when I am failing in one or more of the first three points. Kids know what is just and unjust (to an extent), so if I am unjustly applying way too much correction/consequences it will probably have a negative effect. This works both ways. If the bad action is great, the consequence must fit in that sense as well. If my kid steals, and I make him say “I’m sorry” – that doesn’t exactly fit the offense. Returning the item AND some other form of consequence is likely more fitting. Note: Patterns of offenses may require greater consequences for each offense to break the pattern. I need to be sure the consequences are reasonable for the offense(s).
- Side note: I also do not believe I should ever MAKE my kid say “I’m sorry.” What if he’s not? In that case, I’ve encouraged lying. Also, a true apology should come from the heart, so instead I would prefer to teach my kid repentance in my own life and encourage it in his own life. The natural outpouring of a repentant heart is to make amends and apologize for offenses. I need to encourage repentance in the heart toward the bad action, its effect on God and whoever else was offended.
- The discipline needs to be sensible for the child’s age, maturity, etc. I wouldn’t spank a 13 year old girl. I also wouldn’t ground a 5 year old boy for 2 months. Make it meaningful, but hopeful. So not only should there be a bad consequence for bad behavior, but good behavior should have a sense of a good result to shoot for. I can’t take away all food either, or deprive them of sleep. Some things, even though they may work – aren’t in the best interest of the child. That is one reason I don’t “punish” my children by making them miss AWANA. I feel that AWANA is one of the things that is designed to help them! Just because they enjoy an activity that doesn’t make it a good thing for me to take away for the sake of discipline. I need to consider if my discipline itself helps or hurts the child for whom it is intended.
- The discipline needs to be consistently enforced. If I say, “two weeks no video games,” it is paramount that I enforce that. Otherwise, the next threatened consequence will be balked at. In this way I actually hurt my own child by teaching him that consequence, even when promised, do not always occur. This attitude will also help me to not over-react and make ‘idle threats’ with which I will never follow through. I need to discipline myself to consistently enforce and follow through with good discipline.
- I need to consider if I am committing the same or similar offenses as a bad example to my child and if so, fix that or have a really good reason why it makes sense in one case and not another (which is possible).