Disciplining our kids is usually the most frustrating, confusing part of parenting. The stakes are high, because what kids learn when they are disciplined will last a lifetime. In our work with parents, we have seen that well-intentioned efforts often miss kids’ hearts as parents struggle to figure out, “What is ‘biblical discipline,’ and how do I do it?”
As parents tackle this issue, we have found it extremely valuable to shift our focus from a few controversial proof texts to consider a broader view of biblical instruction on this matter. We’ve found it helpful to ask two questions in particular:
How did God the Father discipline key Old Testament saints that clearly had a “father-child” relationship with him?
What do we learn from Jesus’s response to struggling sinners?
How do we begin to be set free from life-long patterns of rigidity and control that affect lots of areas in our parenting lives? I remember when the kids would make endless messes or bicker repeatedly – it would drive me nuts! I just wanted it to stop. So I would engage with angst and negativity, and wonder why it wasn’t helping. Jim would ask me the question, “What are you going to do to be okay if they don’t change?” I hated the question. It made me even madder. But it was a good question. As I learned to look first at myself and my let go of my need for control, I could let God’s peace begin to infuse our challenges. I was able to engage with much more wisdom, insight, and even creativity, and became more effective in my parenting. I had to change my perspective about what was happening to me spiritually as a parent. It changed the way I disciplined. I began working toward long-term life change in my kids by starting with change in my own heart.
David Mathis, executive editor at DesiringGod.org, an online Christian website, and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis, shared how he made a small change in the way he viewed his role as a parent after taking the online Discipline That Connects course, and he shares below about how a shift in his thinking led to some big changes in the way he thought of himself as a parent…as well as how he thought of his children.
Big picture thinking is important when it comes to parenting. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment with your child’s misbehavior, responding in knee-jerk fashion to attempt to get a certain behavior to STOP. Sometimes, our swift discipline does make the misbehavior stop. But, does it teach grace and result in a child’s changed heart or in a deeper understanding about the way actions affect others and his/her relationship with God?
As parents who hope our children will walk in love and truth, we would do well to consider: How do I want my child to view God when she messes up?
Your child might be one of the kids who struggle to wake up on the “happy side of the bed.” One day your little darlin’ is sweet as can be, but the next day you sense it will be Meltdown Morning. Other days your child might be sluggish and difficult to rouse. Some kids often start the day in meltdown mode until they get a decent breakfast. But the challenge of getting them to the table to eat can be overwhelming. When our days start off rocky, sometimes it is difficult to regain our sense of balance, but it is possible.
Most of us agree that respect is an important skill to build in children which will empower them for their entire life. Whether it is for future work or family relationships, having the ability to set aside frustrations and grievances out of respect for one another is a life skill that will serve our children well. But, teaching respect and teamwork is a “ground up” operation. When kids are young they struggle to find ways to compromise and get along. It can be frustrating as parents, to know how to guide our children in respectful interactions with us as well as with each other.
One couple I recently coached, Don and Layna, were discouraged about the disrespectful language between the children in their home. They worried that things were not trending well and, with four kids, they had a lot of challenges! Their intense daughter, Alicia, especially seemed to struggle with respect, and often fired hurtful verbal zingers at her siblings and parents.
Kids make messes. Parents ask and ask (and it really sounds like nagging) their kids to take responsibility for their things and it seems like it is hard to come up with a strategy that works. At Connected Families, we believe that there is a gift behind every misbehavior. It’s true! It might be hard to see how your kids’ messiness could be a gift, but with intentionality, and a change in perspective, both parent and child can often come to a solution that eliminates the nagging and encourages the child in her gifts.
I worked with a family recently that came up with a very practical suggestion for helping kids manage their messes, and it seemed to work. Read the following to spur your own ideas for helping your children through a particularly challenging behavior. Whether it is a messy bedroom, messy entryway, missed or lost homework, forgotten chores– consider how you might adapt this family’s solution to your own special circumstances.
Emma is one of those sunny, lively kids that spreads joy and laughter wherever she goes, along with a trail of mess–a testimony to her creativity (the gift she has). Since Emma has a sister who shares the art supplies, it was difficult to enforce consequences like putting the mess/supplies into a timeout for a few days. Each of the girls were perpetually waiting for the other one to clean up after the supplies had been used. The old adage, “If everyone’s responsible, no one’s responsible” applied well to this situation.
One of the best times to show love to your kids is when they are misbehaving. Anger, frustration and lecturing are standard reactions to a kid who does something wrong, but do they work to change behavior? I worked with many troubled kids before I co-founded Connected Families with Lynne and learned quite a few things about the messages kids receive (and don’t receive) when they are getting a consequence. Many kids who did something wrong, already defined themselves as “bad.” Undeserving of love. Yet, this is not how God responds to our sin, even when we are at our worst. (See Romans 3:23-24.)
Making meaningful memories is one of the best parts of summer. How are you doing during this season? Have you been able to create memorable moments together? Connected Families consists of people like you, moms and dads who want what’s best for their families, no matter the time of year. Summer is about halfway done and we wanted to share some encouragement for our readers.
We don’t have all the answers, but we are working or have worked through many of the same issues you struggle with in your homes. We thought it would be fun to share some of the personal applications of summer rules, great memories, and intentional parenting that we are aiming for as parents ourselves. Some of the ideas may work for you, some may not. Regardless, we’d love to hear how things are going in your family this summer!
We asked some of our staff to relay some of their thoughts and challenges that come with summertime and kids.
Kids fight. Sibling conflict is a reality in just about every family. It is hard to know how to parent with wisdom and confidence in the middle of a battle over who has the most space in the backseat or who got the bigger piece of cake. These kinds of fights seem to happen every day and wear parents out the most because they seem to ramp up so quickly. Suddenly, the fight is no longer about the seat space or the cake but about bigger issues–like selfishness or your child’s character. Things can get out of hand pretty quickly and it is hard to know how to respond to conflict in a way that promotes growth and peace instead of hurt and anger. Many parents feel stuck in defeating patterns when their kids are fighting. Perhaps it is time to think about new ways to help with sibling conflict.
Connected Families developed this 4-level framework to help parents rethink about sibling conflict from a place of wisdom and confidence.
Take a look at this 5-minute video which teaches about a helpful approach to look at the ways that conflict can be an opportunity to build wisdom.
Some highlights from the video:
Attempts at solving sibling conflict by implementing a formula of “Apologize, go to your room, and don’t come out until you are ready to be nice,” often are counterproductive.
We learned to change our perspective about misbehavior and began to think of things like conflict as an opportunity to build long-term skills and wisdom in our kids.
We began to realize that our homes and our families needed to have connectionin order to thrive.
At Connected Families, we are always discussing, learning and reading about effective and wise parenting. Both Jim Jackson (co-founder of Connected Families and dad to 26 year old Bethany) and Grant Braasch (husband of our Executive Director and dad to 9 year old Almaz) recently read Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You by Michelle Watson and they had this to say:
Grant Braasch: I think this is a really good book for dads who want to take a proactive approach to building a strong relationship with their young daughters or to help mend broken relationships with their teen or young adult daughters. The author acknowledges that the target audience for this book is fathers who are struggling to relate with their teen or early adult daughters. However, why wait until cracks in the relationship have formed to try to fix things when you can use the practical advice provided in the book to help prevent things from getting to that strained place? The book provides lots of great tips on how to better listen and relate to our daughters – and an added bonus is that most of the advice can also apply to our relationships with our wives. – Grant Braasch, dad to Almaz (9) and Alex (11)
Jim Jackson: I loved this book! It’s filled with both inspiration to be a “dialed in” dad, and lot’s of practical advice. The appendix about good questions you can openly ask your daughter is worth the price of the book! My daughter is 26, and we have a great relationship. But this book will make it even better!
The subtitle of this book is “A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart.” Check out all of the resources Connected Families recommends here.
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