Todd and I headed to the soccer field on a beautiful Saturday to watch our 5 year old grandson play soccer. Nothing puts a smile on my face more than seeing a bunch of little ones running around orange cones, with over-sized knee pads on, and coaches trying to get them to run in the right direction to kick the ball into the goal. After all, we LOVE children. That's obvious because we joyfully welcomed each of our 11 blessings into our family and we really LIKE our children as well as love them, and they are some of our best friends.
When halftime came and little Penny was getting antsy, Grandpa decided to walk her around the field to see the sights. It was quite an eye opening experience for him to see children as young as 3 and 4 years old, screaming at their parents, hitting their parents, and telling them NO. The parents seemed to do nothing in response to these outbursts except to cajole, bribe, count to whatever number they count to, and basically have looks of exasperation on their faces that they are clueless as to how to handle this little monster. The puzzled looks and blank stares said, “ What happened to that sweet angel laying in their crib when they were born.” Now the PC answer, is to say that these little beings are simply expressing themselves and parents need to just make peace, compromise, treat the child like they are in fact the center of the world. To that I say Baloney!!
So I ask you: Whatever Happened to the Discipline of Children? It seems like in our enlightened 2019 culture, it has gone completely out the window. So what we find, is children who have very little self-control running the show, running the home, and running roughshod over mom and dad. And we have Moms and Dads having no idea as to what their role actually is in this game of parenthood, or what their mission actually is as they raise little ones. And quite frankly, if they can just pacify them, and give in to Suzy and Johnny till they can get the little tyrants, I mean tikes, into bed, or drop them off to the babysitter or daycare, then they can have some peace!!!
I am here to say, it doesn't have to be that way. I am NOT saying parenting is easy. It is hard work, and it will take everything you have to give, to be a good parent. Dr. James Dobson wrote a book Parenting isn't for Cowards. I can't tell you how many times Todd and I have said that phrase to each other. So I want to encourage you as a parent, expect to spend a lot of your time thinking about, implementing principles and strategies, trial and error, getting up and trying again, etc. to be a good parent. It will cause you many tears, and many sleepless nights as you work through the balance of love and discipline, as you find a balance of strict and kind, as you make sure you find creative ways to praise that strong -willed child. And even if you give it your all, you are still going to have some days where you feel like all you've done is correct and discipline a child. Your heart will break and everything in you wants an easier way, wants to walk away from doing the hard thing. You will want to give in to your child so it doesn't feel so hard, and you want your child to LIKE you. Believe me, all of these things I've felt and much more.
There is no formula for raising children. You see, children are eternal beings, with a soul, a spirit, a body, and a mind. Each child has different DNA that knits them together in different ways. Its not a one plan fits all. But there are guiding principles that we can glean from scripture to help us in our parenting to be the best parents God wants us to be.
This is not an exhaustive list of suggestions by any means. In fact, my husband Todd just did a huge 8 part series on Raising Children that is available on our church website:
What I offer here are more overarching helps to consider as you raise children, ones that I have learned over the years. Also, please know I made MANY mistakes in parenting. I speak as someone who has probably done every wrong thing there is to do to mess up my kids! How they have turned out relatively well-adjusted and sane is a testimony of Grace and not their Mom doing a great job!!!
1. The first thing our children need to know is that we LOVE them. I am speaking to Moms and Dads here. Your children first and foremost should have an all pervading, beyond a doubt, knowledge in their psyche that you love them. The Bible says, “You will know them by their love” John 13:35 “By this all men will know you are my disciples , if you love one another.” This needs to be expressed by words, affection, and delighting in them.
When we were going through a particularly difficult time raising teenage boys, one where they were giving this Mama a run for her money, I instituted something called the Morning Hug. I lined all the kids up and gave everyone a Morning Hug. The first couple times it was like hugging a prickly pear cactus with some of them, but as I consistently did that, they began softening, and actually looked forward to their Morning Hug! Everyone loves to get a hug, and your kids are no different. I found that at times this worked better than words, especially if you were butting heads regularly with a child with a strong willed.
2.Praise your children as often as you can. Children love to please their parents. But if your child is met with criticism, and you are always telling them how they fail, your child will grow up with insecurities and a lack of self confidence. The Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue,,,” Oh parents, you have no idea how much power your words have in the life of your child. Here is another verse that always gives great conviction to me in my heart, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.” Proverbs 14:1
Especially praise your child for good character traits, i.e. if they show a kindness to a sibling , if they are diligent to do a chore, if they make their bed in a tidy way, if they do a loving thing by helping a younger child or sharing a toy. If we ask them to clean their room, don’t walk in and notice the one sock on the floor. Walk in and find something positive to say first. Notice all the good things they do, rather than the bad. Why is it that as parents we automatically go to negative default? That is so wrong. I’m guilty of that.
Did you ever have the experience of talking to one of their teachers in school or Sunday school. The teacher tells you how thoughtful or friendly or responsible your child is. Did you ever think to yourself “is she talking about the same person I know?” I know I have! That’s because we get into negative defaults at times. In the midst of making meals, doing mountains of laundry, homeschooling, taking care of babies and toddlers, etc, we get so caught up in our duties,that we can at times lose our joy and become negative. Hearing that positive comment changed my whole perspective. Along with this, tell your children you are proud of them.
Dad’s, this is very important coming from you. Children need to know you are proud of them. We instituted something called the Birthday Toast. The idea comes from a book called The Blessing by John Trent and Gary Smalley. On their birthday, everyone has something in their glass, and Todd toasts the birthday person. In that toast he recounts the beautiful qualities that they have. He will point out things that make them special, perhaps something that was accomplished, but more emphasis on who they are as a person. It never ceases to amaze me how that child, regardless of their age, zeroes in on Todd and doesn’t take their eyes off of him as he imparts The Blessing upon them. It is beautiful and moving and is an important tradition in our family.
Aren’t all of these things simply being loving to our children? Back to the first principle once again. Everything exudes from LOVE. It is the greatest commandment.
3. Incorporate Biblical Discipline into your parenting at an early age. There is so many practical helps in Todd’s child rearing series, but once again when I had my first Strong-Willed child, I was pretty clue less as to how to handle them. So I know first hand how exasperating that can be. Someone put The Strong Willed Child by Dr. Dobson into my hands and it was a game changer. I found specific helps in dealing with a child who has a strong will. I remember reading in his book that your child will test your authority and plant their flag against you at an early age, often before age 2. I had to work to be consistent. I had to train the child to know and obey the Boss (ME). You see, they thought THEY were the boss and they would tell me “You’re not the Boss!” Well it took a lot of hard work, I mean ALOT. Some days I felt like a failure, but I kept incorporating biblical principles anyway, praying that it would pay off in the end.
Honestly, and this is the beauty of training your children young, by the time they are 4-6 yrs old they are really well behaved and its a joy to hang out with your children. Children who grow up with boundaries feel safe. And honestly isn’t it important to know boundaries in all of life? Life has consequences and prisons are full of people who knew no boundaries and never experienced consequences until it was too late. Once again there are a lot of practical helps in Todd’s series on Child Rearing. Check it out here :
These few principles will carry you through the lion share of your parenting journey and low and behold, you’ll find that you actually LIKE your children as well as LOVE them. I always loved having my kids around. The family time we spent together has been precious, and we are a very close family because of the time and effort we invested. Let me know how your parenting journey is going. Let me know what principles you are using to raise your children. In conclusion, children do not need to be tyrants and parents don’t have to just endure bad behaviour in their chidren. There is a better way, a way of joy, hard work, yes lots of hard work but its so worth it in the end. I’ll end with a story. Our neighbor who has 5 children invited our kids to swim in their pool. The kids had a ball splashing, doing cannon balls, and playing Marco Polo with their friends. Todd at some point said, “Ok kids time to get out now.” Our friend said to Todd, “I can’t believe they all got out of the pool and listened to you!” He kind of looked at her puzzled but realizing that many people don’t incorporate the principles of training children into their parenting. Fellow parent, don’t be faint of heart, hang in there. I know its a difficult and at times thankless job, but in the end it will bear the fruit of joyful happy children and a joyful life for you.
Scripture says, “Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but whoever loves him is diligent to correct him.” Proverbs 13:24
God bless you as you raise your little ones for Him.