“…he will turn the hearts of the parents to their children,
and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous” Luke 1:17
What if the way you disciplined your kids had the power to turn their hearts toward or away from the safety of your love, your home, and even God? We think it does. Our conclusion comes from extensive work with kids since 1985.
When kids steal, disobey, defy, cheat, lash out, or otherwise sin, in their hearts, they leave. They leave the safety of trustworthy relationships. They leave the safety of boundaries and limits placed for their protection. They leave the purposes for which God created them. These are acts of rebellion. All kids do this. All humans do this.
The way we are treated when we sin determines whether or not we’ll feel safe to return to the protection of the relationships, the love, the boundaries, and the purposes of God for our lives. In our years working in youth groups with other people’s kids we sometimes learned this the hard way. Many of the unchurched kids we were hoping to reach would quit coming after they were caught doing something they shouldn’t do – and disciplined. Especially if the discipline was reactive or shaming, we could pretty much guarantee that unless a strong relationship of grace was in place, we’d never see those kids again.
As parents we tend to take for granted that our kids will not leave. So we are not as thoughtful as we could be about what sort of graceful discipline is needed to woo our children’s hearts back to the safety of loving relationship and God’s purposes. In the name of immediate obedience, angry control, and getting our kids to do the right thing, we tend to get harsh. We act in ways that turn the hearts of our children away from us, not toward us. Sometimes we even sin. It may be very small ways. Slight condescension. Subtle shame or control. Punitive but shaming consequences. If our kids hurt us, our sinful inclination is to somehow hurt them back.
Because our sometimes sinful and sometimes thoughtless methods tend to gain quick results for the time being, we tend to think our discipline is “working.” But if “working” means that we are effectively turning our kids’ hearts away from us, and ultimately away from the safety of God’s love and purposes, then as a body of parents who call ourselves Christian, our efforts are largely not working!
The research is quite clear about this. While our discipline may be working to modify kids’ behavior, a majority of our kids are not embracing our faith when they grow up. So if the measure of effective discipline is passionate Christ-followers, we are generally failing.
In a day and age when kids’ hearts are more readily wooed away from parents than ever before, it’s time to quit taking for granted that our kids won’t run away. They will. It may not look like it did once upon a time, with a hobo stick or a suitcase. Running away these days is just a matter of powering up their devices to escape to anywhere and anyone they please. If you take away their devices they’ll just find another device.
The real question is, what do you need to do so that when your kids require discipline, and are tempted to “leave”, they’ll ultimately want to run to you, then through you right to God?
We have found an answer. Over the past 30 years God has shown us a simple but profound approach for parenting in a way that influences kids toward God’s purposes. As we’ve taught parents these principles we’ve seen dramatic transformations in families’ lives. And we’ve captured the most potent of those principles in our book: Discipline that Connects with Your Child’s Heart.
When you purchase this little book, soak it in. Embrace the principles. Share this with your friends and family. Join the community of parents who are being transformed by the “Discipline that Connects” approach to parenting.
If you feel you would like more content like this, but you are not sure you want to purchase the book yet, check out these two FREE resources:
Discipline That Connects – 1 hour audio
When Your Child Misbehaves: 4 Strategies for Lasting Change [FREE ebook!]
Our kids need this, and our world needs them.
Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash
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