5 Truths to Teach Your Kids About Discipline
My daughter Daisy just turned one year old. I’m flabbergasted. My little one is less little with every passing day. To edit Bob Dylan’s words, “My little girl, she is a changin’.”
PRONE TO DANGER
As Daisy changes, I’m quickly realizing she needs not only my protection and provision, but my correction as well. Daisy has a penchant for dangerous paths. She’s decided light sockets are best enjoyed with fingers in them, and that the only proper place for small objects is her mouth. As she sees it, big dogs are just asking to be poked in the eye. Daisy’s desire for danger means Daddy must be diligent to discipline.
But, as Daisy grows, she’ll need not only my discipline, but also an understanding of what my discipline actually is. She’ll not only need me to practice discipline, but to explain it as well. In my years of youth ministry I have seen this to be true: it’s easy for parental discipline to go awry when it goes unexplained.
FIVE KEY TRUTHS ABOUT DISCIPLINE
With that in mind, here are five truths to help your children understand what your discipline is and what it isn’t.
1. Discipline Isn’t Our Idea—It’s God’s.
Since discipline is practiced less and less by parents today, it is especially important our kids understand that discipline is not our idea, but God’s. In Proverbs, God frequently calls parents to discipline their children for their good (Proverbs 22:15; 23:13–14; 29:15). Make sure your kids know discipline isn’t something you decided, but something God designed.
2. Discipline Isn’t Punishment—It’s Correction.
Sometimes people will refer to their parental discipline as “punishment.” This is unfortunate because punishment and discipline are two different things. Punishment is what a judge gives to a criminal for his crimes. Discipline is what a parent gives to a child for his errors. Punishment seeks justice for past acts. Discipline seeks development for future good. Informed of this distinction, my friend always explains his own discipline to his kids as “corrections.” His children know that Daddy doesn’t punish them, but he does lovingly correct when they’re off track. They know they don’t have a judge, but a father.
3. Discipline Isn’t Hatred—It’s Love.
Loving discipline isn’t grounded in anger or hatred, but in love. Since our kids can be quick to interpret our discipline as acts of anger or malice, we must be intentional to explain that our discipline comes from our love. In love, we’ll have our children experience temporary, present discomfort to help them avoid permanent, future destruction. In fact, Proverbs says that the neglect of discipline is hatred toward one’s child because it means parents are allowing their kids to walk headlong into harm! (Proverbs 13:24).
4. Discipline Isn’t for Sorrow, But for Joy.
Upon receiving discipline, it isn’t unusual for kids to say things like, “Why are you making my life so miserable?!” It’s easy for kids to assume discipline is ultimately designed to bum them out. It will, therefore, help our kids to understand that discipline isn’t meant to steal their joy, but to protect and increase it. Just as God disciplines His children away from immaturity and sin to ensure them a joy-filled future (Hebrews 12:10-11), so our kids must know that our design in discipline is not to bring them present bummers, but future blessings.
5. Discipline Isn’t Easy—It’s Difficult!
No parent enjoys disciplining her child, but not all our children know that. Help your child understand that it’d be far easier to allow them to do what they want and not discipline them, but that you love them too much to take that easy road. Assist them to see that your love for them is what drives you to choose the hard, difficult, and wearisome work of discipline.
In communicating these truths, you won’t only help your child understand your own discipline, but God’s as well. Ultimately, it is our Heavenly Father who does the hard work of lovingly disciplining us (not punishing us) in order to correct us from destructive paths and ensure our eternal joy. By explaining our discipline now, they’ll better understand His later.