Disciplining Children

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The below article takes a look at what the Bible has to say about disciplining children. It is written by my mother (Pat) who draws upon years of experience raising 8 children. Many people have noticed her successes in raising “good kids” and have wanted to know the “secret”. This article shows the principles behind her methods for teaching, disciplining, and raising children. Enjoy!

Disciplining Children – Tips on Toddlers Part 3

See part 1 of this article on raising toddlers.

See part 2 of this article on parenting a toddler.  

H.     And I do want to just say a word that we discipline for disobedience at this age but not for childish mistakes. Kids just will spill their milk sometimes. They will knock things down or break them. Until they get much older than a toddler and really have the ability to control their bodies much better, don’t discipline for childishness. Be wise. Pray for discernment about what your child is or is not capable of doing. My two favorite parenting verses are James 1:5 James

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

And Gal 6:8-9

 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

5.      Parents often complain that their children don’t listen to them or don’t respect them. I like the way Elisabeth Elliot addresses this. She says that our words to our kids really need to MEAN SOMETHING. When we speak to our kids, they need to know that we’re serious and that we really expect kids to do what we say they should do. Often parents use a series of threats to try to intimidate their children rather than simply giving instructing, expecting obedience, and disciplining lack of obedience. Children learn early that Mom doesn’t really mean what she says or that her bark is worse than her bite. Instead they need to learn that Mom really means what she says.

Parents fall into the habit of giving orders and then getting increasingly angry each time they are not obeyed. Rather, the parent should give careful instruction once, then immediately follow up with discipline if obedience doesn’t take place. This will save mother and child a lot of frustration. No counting to ten. No humoring, begging, or cajoling. Just very simply, the parents carefully tells the child what is expected, the child either obeys or disobeys, and then the parents reward good behavior or discipline bad behavior.

In the same way, we should not make promises to our children that we can’t keep. Don’t say, “I’ll take you to the park tomorrow” and then not do it, rather say, “If everything goes according to plan, we’ll go to the park tomorrow.” 2 Cor 1:17-20

17 When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes , yes ” and “No, no”?

18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes ” and “No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes ” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes .” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes ” in Christ.

James 4:13-15

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

Children need to know that their parents’ words mean something and that if Mommy tells them something, she will follow through and do it- whether it is to give discipline and correction or whether it’s a promised outing.

6.      Other seeds we plant in the seeds of our children’s hearts. Other than the seed of obedience to God by obedience to parents, there are some smaller seeds that we like to plant.

A.    Honoring Daddy. Mothers often make mistakes in raising their children because they teach disrespect toward fathers, which plants seeds of rebellion in their hearts. We need to model and teach respect and love for Daddy to our kids in order to help them grow up sweet and submissive toward authority. We do this by speaking highly of him to our children. From the time they are little, we don’t say, “Isn’t Daddy silly to expect you to eat your peas?” but rather we say, “Don’t you have a wise and good daddy to help you learn to eat healthfully?” We teach them to look for ways to encourage and help their daddy in the vision he has for life or ministry. A lot of people are raising kids who will never fit into real life situations because they have learned to be rebels from birth! They’ve never learned reverence or respect for authority. How will they ever learn in school or succeed in a job? In life we all live under authority- parents, church leaders, teachers, husbands, governments…. God sets up a series of authorities. He says that all authority comes from Him. We need to help our children fit into God’s plans by learning respect for authority figures in their lives, beginning with Daddy.

B.     Another seed I like to plant I call “Putting kind words in their mouths.” Around my sixth child, I discovered that if I helped my child say kind words to her siblings, she would begin to develop good habits in that area. Col 4:6

       Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that               you may know how to answer everyone.

 Eph 4:29-30

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

This is a simple idea and easy to institute. With young children I just start with giving them a thankful heart about the people around them. “Didn’t God give you a kind brother? He shared his ball with you! Thank you, God, for Faith’s kind brother!” “Wow! Daddy thought of you today and brought you home a pretty leaf. God gave you a sweet daddy, didn’t he?” Throughout each day at any opportunity I remind the child of God’s faithfulness to them through the people around them. I help them see the good in their family members and to learn early to thank and praise others. “Your good brother is sick today. Can you give your brother a hug to tell him you’re sorry he’s sick?”

As they grow, you teach them to say the kind words themselves. “Oh, your sister fell and got hurt. Can you tell her you’re sorry and that you love her?” Or, I want you to put away your race car. Can you tell Mommy, “Yes, Ma’am, I’ll be GLAD to?” I teach my kids this from an early age- if I ask them to do something I expect them to do it cheerfully and quickly. I teach them to say, “Yes, Ma’am, I’ll be GLAD to!” It’s a small thing but they truly do learn to serve with a cheerful heart rather than to grumble and complain about the tasks they are given to do.

So that’s a short summary of how to put the right words into children’s mouths. First tell them how to think right and then teach them how to speak right. It becomes a habit to be cheerful and to appreciate people and gifts with thanksgiving rather than to become grumblers and complainers early.

C.     This is also the time we begin sowing the seeds of servanthood in our kids’ hearts. As soon as they can walk, they can learn to serve in small ways. Many families order themselves so that the children are in charge of the home. If the child says to jump, everyone in the home jumps! That’s not God’s order. In God’s order, the dad is the head of the home, the mom is next under Dad, and the kids are under authority of both parents. To give children control of the home teaches children lack of submission to authority and to become self-willed and self-centered. God’s plan for all of us, including kids, is that we be Christ centered and others centered. There is a little acronym JOY- you are happiest when you put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last.

We teach this from their very earliest years. “Grace, Daddy will be home soon. Can you run to Daddy and give him a big kiss when he comes home?” “Hope, can you show our friends where the house shoes are?” It’s true that little ones can’t do much to serve at first, but they can learn and they can get an others centered perspective. Early in our time in China we discovered that with so many guests coming to our house, the little girls who were 1 ½ and 2 ½ when we got here came to expect each one who came to our house to entertain them. It didn’t take them long to become very demanding on our guests. We needed to “nip this in the bud” by pulling out that little weed and planting a sweet little seed that we helped grow and bear fruit. Years ago, a wise mom talked to me about looking ahead and recognizing times when our kids had a likelihood of falling into sin. Then she encouraged me to train ahead of time. Let me explain how we did that in relation to the problem of the girls being demanding with our guests. When we knew guests were coming we would talk to our girls and say something like, “Jeff is coming over soon. Rather than asking him to play with you, I want you to think of something you can do to serve Jeff. What can you do?” We would discuss it until they would think of things such as, “Give him a drink of water.” “Give him some house shoes.” “Give him a hug.” “Ask him how his day is going.” Or we’d say, let’s color a picture so that you can give it to Ervin when she comes over. You know Ervin always does nice things for you; maybe you could share your candy with her when she comes over and give her a blessing.

Starting in small ways, kids can learn to serve from the time they are very small. We even talk to Abby about this. She is the little girl with Cerebral Palsy who lives with us. She’s five but can’t walk, talk, or feed herself, but we still try to teach her to serve. We tell her that many people do nice things for her and that she can serve by saying “Thank you”, by giving hugs, by being cheerful rather than by whining. She understands this and we see her trying sometimes to think of others. Plant the seeds; help them to grow; water them; keep them in the Sonshine!

As kids learn, they can move from smaller to larger acts of service. They can go from bringing slippers to offering water to making a snack to taking people’s dirty cups or dishes to offering around trays of food to doing dishes to emptying trash…. Soon they’ll be doing all the housework while you sit and eat chocolates all day;-D

D.    Another small tip I can give you in the area of children learning to consider others more important than themselves is in the area of interrupting. A much younger friend has a method of teaching her children to be considerate when they wish to speak while others are speaking that I have begun to use with our kids. (Explain the hand on arm technique) This is a small thing but just one more way young kids can learn to think of others.

7.      Pray! Almost lastly but one of the most important concepts of all- we need to diligently pray for our children, knowing that it is God who brings the growth.

1 Cor 3:6

6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.

We need to recognize that though we do our best to raise our children for God’s glory, it is God who brings the increase. 1 Sam 12:23

23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.

Ps 127:1

Unless the LORD builds the house,

its builders labor in vain.

Eph 6:12-13

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We need to be diligent to train our children, but much of the battle for our children’s souls happens on our knees as we cry out to God for their salvation and growth, acknowledging that He is sovereign God of their lives.

8.  And the last thing I want to encourage you in is to really enjoy your little ones! A wise farmer gets up daily and watches the sun rise on his farm. He breathes in the sweet scent of newly mown hay. He smiles at the sound of the rooster crowing and kittens mewing. This is his land, his farm, his life. He loves it and he treasures it. His life is wrapped up in this piece of land whose good rich earth is under his fingernails. He has poured himself into cultivating the soil, planting the seeds, pulling the weeds, watching the increase of his labors and beginning to harvest the good fruits of his labors. This is his heritage. For mothers as for farmers, these days can be intense. It’s a lot of work to raise children.  But these precious days pass quickly away. These little ones will soon grow up. Keep a record of the cute things they say and do. You think you’ll never forget, but you will! Cherish the moments with them. Love them and enjoy them. Breathe in the sweet smells of clean baby. Make the most of your time with them. Sit them in your lap and read to them when they want you to. Be silly and dance with them. If your hair or your house isn’t perfect, so what? There is a little person who will think Mommy is one of the brightest stars in his universe who needs that time and attention today! Raise them for God’s glory and do your best to enjoy each day as it passes quickly away.

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