Practical Discipline

I vaguely remember what life was like before I had kids. I had lots of free time. My house had a coffee table and breakable knick-knacks on the bookshelves. I always had time to do my hair and dress nicely before I left the house. And I had lots of ideas about how other people's children should behave.

I knew exactly what I would do if my kids ever screamed their way through the grocery store or kicked another person's seat for the entire two-hour plane ride. I just knew that my kids would never act that way because I would know how to discipline them.

Ten years later, I'm older and wiser and have drug a screaming child out of the grocery store and apologized profusely to the person sitting in front of my 3-year-old who kept kicking the seat. I've sat on the front porch while a child sat in her room screaming at the top of her lungs for the entire neighborhood to hear.

Disciplining our kids isn't easy. Sometimes the constraints of our location or the people we're with limit our options. There's not much you can do to discipline a child in the confines of an airplane without making the entire plane of people miserable.

Sometimes our own mental state makes discipline difficult. I don't know about you, but there are days where I'm simply too tired to want to deal with the same behaviors I've been trying to work on for the past month. I'm simply happy if the kids aren't tearing up the house.

But discipline is so important. No matter the circumstances, disciplining our kids has to be a priority -- not because we enjoy it or because we want to punish our children. Discipline needs to be a priority because it's through discipline that our kids learn the attitudes and behaviors that are appropriate and pleasing to God.

Proverbs 13:18 says "Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored." Discipline teaches our kids the values and principles on which they should base their actions.

Sometimes, though, we find that our discipline methods simply aren't working. Either we've misread what's important to our child or our current method has simply outlived it's usefulness. When that happens, it's time to ask for some help. Talk with your friends about how they deal with certain situations, whether it's lying or disrespectfulness. God gave us Christian friends and family to help us out when we've reached the end of our effectiveness.

So, today, let me be your friend and offer a few suggestions of some things that have worked with our kids.

  • Always provide the tools to do better next time. Wait for your child to calm down, and wait to be calm yourself, then discuss what happened. Ask your child what they could have done differently to get a better result. Help your child figure out a way to resolve the situation that got them in trouble, so the next time they are faced with a similar situation, they can deal with it appropriately.
  • Provide a scripture to back up your point. Giving your kids a scripture that deals with the situation takes the authority off your shoulders and puts it on God's shoulders. Many kids respond better to a "rule" that comes from God than they do to a "rule" that comes from you.
  • Isolate a social kid. One of the most effective punishments I've found with my youngest is to have her stand in the corner facing the wall in the same room as the rest of us. She's not allowed to talk or participate in anything going on around her until her time is up. It's almost painful for her to stand there.
  • Find your child's currency. Figure out what's important to your child, then make that thing a privilege. My youngest loves her video game time, so we use it as a discipline tool. If the offense is great enough, we'll take her video game time away. Figure out what it is that your child enjoys enough that it's painful when it's gone.
  • Sports and activities are a privilege. Yes, you're paying for them, but if that's what's important to your child, then missing a practice or a game may be the way to get through to them. Letting down their teammates because they chose not to behave appropriately at home may be just the ticket to getting their attention.

Whatever method you use to discipline your kids, quit using it if it's not working. Figure out a new way to get through to your child. Use the resources available to you: friends, family, books. Be creative in looking at your child's personality and figuring out his currency.

Discipline takes a lot of work and persistence on the part of the parent, but the results are changed hearts and attitudes in our kids.