Your children need you for many things as they grow up. Disciplining is just one of those things. It’s a necessary responsibility, even though it’s not the most pleasant part of parenting. God’s Word has some things to say about this essential family value. Discipline is part of God’s heart for family. See: Colossians 3:21, “Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.” (The Message). Another version says “Do not be so hard on your children that they will give up trying to do what is right.” (NLT)
It’s a difficult balance to correctly discipline children, and maintain a relationship that encourages them. There are two keys to maintaining this balance.
1) Let your child know what your expectations are. Be very clear about them and let him know the boundaries of acceptable behavior.
When my first child was 4 years old I was trying to get him to understand the importance of chores to help out around the house. It’s probable I didn’t explain to him with clarity what his job assignment was. But it’s pretty simple to feed the dog. I realized he needed more instructions when I found he had dumped an entire bag of dog food on the floor of the garage to take care of what he explained, “A whole week of meals!” While I did have a moment where I thought he may be an efficiency genius, that was fleeting. He needed much more specific direction from his Mom to get the job done well and right. I had obviously give him just enough information to be dangerous!
2) Give fair and consistent consequences when those boundaries are crossed.
So here’s what I did. I gave my willing and somewhat manipulative little boy a lesson in filling the dog bowl with the food, using the enclosed scoop from the bag. I showed him specifically how much he was to feed the dog each day it was his job to do so. I then warned him if he forgot to feed the dog he wouldn’t get a sticker on his chore chart. But when he did, he could choose the sticker he wanted. Those were stickers he was collecting so that when he had enough we would go get his favorite slush drink. I know he was encouraged to do a better job next time and things did go well.
Consequences are key. And consistency in dolling them out is essential. That’s kinda tough, I know. But kids are pretty black and white in their thinking. Skipping a time or two confuses a child about what Mom really wants. There are excellent parenting books at your Christian book store or online with suggestions about consequences. Consequences delivered with loving firmness is Biblical and fair to your child. Highly emotional reactions are not.
Let me ask you: What behavior would you like your child to change. How will you teach the appropriate behavior? What will be the consequences if they misbehave?
Let me suggest: Whatever you decide, approach your discipline plan with firmness, as well as care and love.