Discipline is one of the ways that we mentor our children to be disciples of Christ. Discipline and Discipling go together. Giving guidance and setting limits show our love to our children. Proverbs 3:11-12 shows us that discipline flows out of love. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
Conversely, it is not very loving to let our children rule the roost and never gain the necessary social skills for functioning in society. We want our kids to have respect for others so they can hold down a job and have healthy family relationships. These skills of engaging respectfully with authority and developing compassion for one another are learned first in the home. The home is the crucible for teaching our children to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves.
As parents we set the example of what it looks like to live a life of faith. Children follow our passions. Others will be drawn to faith when we live our faith in a genuine way. We can’t expect our kids to obey rules that we ourselves refuse to follow. If we expect our kids to use polite speech in our home than we should not have curses falling from our lips. Our lives are the book our children will read and follow.
Set a tone of thankfulness in the home. Complaining about things is far less effective than positive affirmation. Catch your children doing good things and affirm them for their good behavior. Let them know that you love it when there are a good helper or share nicely with their sibling. We can get into negative patterns were we feel like we are always scolding which creates a downward spiral. Choose instead to take a path of encouragement.
Make your expectations clear, don't leave your kids wondering what you mean. They should understand what the house rules are so they don't have to wonder where the boundaries lie. Establish rules for your house that reflect what God saw as most important: loving God and loving one another. From the youngest ages, faith engagement and loving respect for one another should be the guiding principles behind the rules for the household.
Too often we want to step in and rescue our kids when they forget their responsibilities. Natural consequences can be great teachers. If we forget to pack a lunch we will be hungry at lunch time. If we bail our kids out we rob them of the opportunity to learn responsibility. It can be hard to see our kids flounder, but it is through these failures that valuable lessons are learned.
When a line is crossed you need to follow through. Show that you love enough to set limits that you are willing to enforce. Your words will carry more meaning when you back them up. Consistency is crucial for kids to understand that we mean what we say.
There are no guarantees that our kids will respond to our discipline and grow up in a way that seeks God and respects one another. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is not an all-encompassing promise, but rather a general truth. Not every child raised in faith will embrace truth, but the best chance they have is for us to train our children to walk in God’s truth. Choose today to give your kids the loving discipline that they need to be disciples of Christ.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster