February 23, 2010

Before You Discipline Your Child…

Written By Cary Schmidt

Discipline is a sacred thing. Too often we parents take discipline too lightly or treat it too flippantly. In the big picture, all discipline is about bringing our children into a right relationship with their Heavenly Father, that He might bless their lives. It’s not about controlling behavior, modifying behavior, or minimizing embarrassment. Pure and simple, it’s about bringing them into proper alignment with the laws and favor of their gracious God.

With that in mind, there are two critical questions I must ask myself before I enter into any discipline of my children.

1. Am I Right with My Heavenly Father? It would be rather hypocritical to try to bring my child into a relationship that I will not bring myself into. It would be completely duplicitous to demand submission from my children if I myself am not submissive. I cannot expect my child to love, obey, and honor a God that I will not.

I challenge you to begin all family discipline with this question. Search your heart before you correct theirs. This will help you stay right with the Lord. It will make your discipline authentic. It will give you a spirit of humility in meting out discipline. It will give you a right perspective of your role as you are “under the authority” of your own Heavenly Father.

2. Am I Right with My Child? This one is as critical as the first. For discipline to be received, it must transfer far more than mere punishment or rebuke. It must transfer love and compassion. It must transfer care. It must transfer the heart of Christ and a passionate desire for what is broken to be made whole. This cannot happen if there is an unresolved offense between me and my child.

For many parents, the way they deal out discipline actually creates offense. We yell, scream, throw fits, and generally spout unrestrained anger. All of this is counter productive to biblical discipline. While it may temporarily curb undesired behavior (at least in our presence) it actually makes matters much worse under the surface—in the heart.

Authentic discipline only takes place when my heart is completely right with my child. Trying to throw down discipline on top of previous offense only builds and feeds a spirit of resentment. This merely invites my child to despise me.

If my own sin is standing in the way, I cannot deal authentically with my child’s—and the child intuitively knows this.

Discipline is not only sacred—it is precious. It doesn’t need to be purely unpleasant.  It can actually be sweet, restorative, rebuilding, and renewing. It can bring wholeness to that which was broken, sweetness to that which was bitter, and closeness to that which was distant. Biblical discipline brings a life out of fellowship back into fellowship. It puts joy and delight back into a relationship. In short—biblical discipline heals.

If you desire your discipline to be these things, you must first provide a “YES” to these two simple questions—Am I right with my Heavenly Father? Am I right with my child? Rest assured, if these two things are in place, your discipline will find its way into the heart and have a life-transforming effect.

Note: Quick litmus test—hug your child and pray with them after you discipline. If you are sincerely, willingly hugged back, it’s a good sign that you provided biblical discipline with the heart of Christ. If not, sit down and talk it out. Don’t stop pursuing an open heart, even after a moment of discipline. Discipline done right should bring your relationship closer immediately.