Last week, I threw out a blog post on “Three things you should do BEFORE you discipline your children.”
I wrote it on my phone, crouched in a hotel bathroom, at 4:40 in the morning. I had determined several days earlier that my writing needed to go a different direction, that I needed to fill a void in Christian blogging.
And I didn’t want to do that.
So I stalled.
Put it off.
And ultimately woke up at 4:40 in the morning with a guilty conscience, no laptop, and a quiet hotel room full of 5 other people. Hence the bathroom scribbles you read last week.
Here’s where I’m standing: God’s word has answers. Not just vague, general, esoteric, “isn’t-my-deep-theology-astounding” truth. It has real, nitty-gritty, daily, foot-to-the-floor wisdom. And this wisdom should drastically impact and direct our lives.
So far I haven’t said anything that 98% of you don’t agree with. You’re nodding your heads, and someone is getting excited about the phrase “nitty-gritty” because it sound intentional and real.
But here’s what I’ve found… while there are countless people willing to distill the truth of the Scripture, people who are far wiser and much more godly than I, there doesn’t seem to be a huge on-line resource for practical biblical parenting. They’re out there. But they’re a minority.
I know whining is bad… but how do I stop my 18 month-old from whining?
I agree. Kids should be taught responsibility… um, how exactly am I supposed to do that?
I definitely want to raise teenagers that are passionate about Christ… but my kids already scare me and hate going to church, and they’re only 9 and 11.
And when I felt the nudge towards this gap, my boldness froze. My children are 2 and 3. And while I’ve worked with kids in a variety of setting and roles for the past 15 years, have my master’s in speech pathology, and was raised by rock-star-godly parents, I had absolutely no desire to set myself up as a parenting guru. I mean, we don’t even know if our kids will “turn out.”
But I had forgotten. Parenting is not about results (although, as my mother says, “It’s also not a game of roulette… you can’t control your kids’ hearts but you can give them truth.”). Parenting is about faithful adherence to God’s commands. I may not have parented through the teen years. My kids may not be successful missionaries around the globe. I may not be as wise as I’ll be when I’m sixty (oh, please God, let me be wiser!). But ultimately, if I was the source of your parenting knowledge, we would have bigger problems. Right? Of course, right.
So, without further intro (oh, my word, that was probably the longest introduction of all time, don’t tell my high school English tutor), let’s talk about three things that need to happen AFTER you discipline your kid.
Here’s the deal, what I’m going to outline, and what I covered last week, they require time. Discipline and teaching are life consuming. Not all the time, but there are certain stages that it’s going to feel like this is the only thing you do all day. To you I say, Do not “grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9) If that’s not a parenting life raft verse, what is? Just don’t buy into the lie that on those days “I got nothing done.” No, sister, on those days, you did forever, eternal, heart-changing things. They’re just harder to see and measure.
Re-visit why your child received consequences. Talk about what the Bible says about those choices. All kids learn differently, but most kids don’t learn thoroughly with discipline (regardless of the form you choose) looming over their heads. It is important that they walk into the situation knowing why they’re being disciplined, but some of the most fruitful teaching and redirection will come after the misery of discipline is over. We are to teach our children diligently. (Deut. 6:7) One of the best times when this can take place is right after discipline.
The wonderful thing about this? While talking about this is best done immediately after the consequence (especially with younger ages), if you’re completely stumped you can tell your child, “Mommy knows that the Bible says something about ________, but I can’t remember. Let’s see if we can find out what God thinks together.” Look at that! You just taught your kid two things: the truth about their sin, but also that God’s Word has answers that are important to search out!
I would also encourage you to jot down on your calendar several creative ways you can address this weakness in your child later in the week. Don’t know how? Um, email me. I’ll send you some stuff/resources/maybe even make something new to give away.
Actually, this point could be more clearly stated with the phrase “restore the relationship.” But cuddling is just an easy way to do that… If you’re not a touchy-feely family, well, find your way of expressing affection. Invite the kid to do something fun with you (e.g. make cookies, tackle a project, pull out art supplies, etc.). Look up jokes together. Build a pillow fort. Take a few minutes to sit on the floor and play.
Especially if you’re going through a rough season with a child, these times are crucial. God’s Word tells us that true wisdom is brings peace. It is gentle. It is full of mercy. (James 3:17) You want to parent your child with wisdom, so make sure that any discipline and time after that clearly comes from a place of gentleness and mercy. We talked about avoiding sinful anger last week, this is just another way to make sure that your child knows you’re not upset because they made your life difficult. You’re upset because sin saddens God.
But seriously. Just learn to cuddle. It’s my favorite.
3. Let it go.
This is the most challenging bit.
You need to walk your child through forgiveness. They need to ask you to forgive them. And they need to ask God to forgive them. And then they need to hear something like this, “Forgiveness does not mean that we forget what you’ve done. Because God can never forget! But it means that we won’t hold it against you. We won’t be mean about your sin. Mommy promises to love you as much as ever.”
After a couple of repetitions, kids will get this. They will love it.
But then your tough work begins.
If you’ve forgiven your child it is critical that your threshold of “tolerance” doesn’t decrease. Your kid has sinned so many times, that just the sound of them eating potato chips sets you on edge. Christ modeled this, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
God’s grace, in abundant richness, is ready to help you forgive as Christ forgives. You just may need to lock yourself in the bathroom and pray that the Holy Spirit would give you grace and love. (Um, it’s making it sound like I spend a lot of time in the bathroom as a parent… and I do…)
I leave you with this…
You can do this.