Redefining Discipline

“That's it. Off to your room!” Sherry was done with Billy's disrespectful attitude. Like one of his action figures, Billy was transforming from a polite, mild-mannered boy into a why-should-I-have-to-do-anything-around-here future resident of Cell Block 9. “What happened to my little Billy?” Sherry asked herself in tears, wondering if aliens really could inhabit the bodies of 5th grade boys.

Ever been there? Where you’ve tried every trick in the book and nothing seems to work? You’ve reasoned, given second (and ninth and tenth) chances, counted to 10, sent them to their rooms, called the National Guard, and even spanked on occasion. When nothing worked, you cycled through the same list again, this time louder and longer. You had always hoped that once the labor pains were over, things would get better from there. You never dreamed they would get worse.

You want to keep the kids, but you want them to lose the attitude. Is that too much to ask for the person who gave them life and an early supply of dairy products? Or if you are a father, you single-handedly supplied their last name. Perhaps you feel like Rodney Dangerfield, pulling at your overly tight collar and grimacing, “I don’t get no respect!”

The purpose of this blog is to help you change all that. I will show you the best strategies available for teaching your children how to obey God by treating their parents, siblings, and peers with respect.

· Listening the first time.
· Expressing angry feelings in a respectful way.
· Being flexible when they don=t get their way.

But first, we have to redefine our definition of biblical discipline. Making discipline biblical does not mean quoting a Bible verse while you scream at your child. Proverbs 22:6 summarizes the biblical approach to parenting: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Part of that training includes providing appropriate negative consequences for misbehavior, to be sure (Proverbs 29:17). The problem is that this is all we usually do. It is like trying to build a house with just one tool. It may be a good tool, but adding few other tools to your tool belt will make the job much easier.

What are the other tools you can use to teach your children to listen and be respectful? There are two. First, Proverbs tells us that the corrections of discipline are the way to life and that wisdom brings rewards (Proverbs 6:23, 9:12). You want your children to learn that listening to mom and dad and treating others respectfully is fun! These behaviors are not only a natural outgrowth of their relationship with God, they are also the best way to make friends, build a healthy self-concept, and enjoy fun privileges. Obeying God is not a bummer.  It's a blast!

Secondly, you can teach your children how to handle daily situations in a thoughtful and respectful way. Remember Proverbs 22:6 (“Train a child in the way he should go . . . .”). Most of us don't really know how to do this, so . . . we don't. In future blogs, you will learn how to teach your children to listen the first time, be respectful, and handle conflicts effectively.

There you have it. Three approaches for teaching your child the value of obeying their parents and treating others respectfully: 1) building your children's skills at handling everyday situations respectfully, 2) teaching your children that positive behavior brings great results, and 3) providing effective negative consequences when negative choices are made. That’s biblical discipline in a nutshell.

The psalmist wrote, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” (Ps. 127:1). But it sure helps speed up your housing project when you are using the right tools. Begin today to think beyond merely using negative consequences to change your child's behavior. Using all three “discipline” tools (positive skill building, positive reinforcement, and negative consequences) will help your children learn that obeying God and listening to mom and dad are some of the best choices they will ever make. In my next blog, I’ll show you how you can lead the way.

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