Hope in a Losing Battle

I have to be honest, since the beginning of this whole quarantine thing my daughter has ruled the roost, so to speak. She has worn down my wife and I to the point that we at times have become resentful to her, and to each other. We are exhausted, out of ideas, and losing an extremely important battle on our home turf, one for supreme house dominance. I’ve got to tell you, it’s a sinking ship and we’re going down quickly. I’d like to say we are like the violin players on the Titanic, playing a calm soothing melody to help deescalate the situation, but to be truthful, we’re the people throwing other people into the water to get a lifeboat. I’m not proud of it. But yesterday we had to leave the house for a doctors appointment and afterwards we sat in an empty parking lot eating salads and having a very open conversation for the first time since being hurled into pandemic. We need a game plan, but neither one of us really knows where to start. I wanted to know how to handle discipline from a Biblical standpoint. Here’s what I discovered:

Discipline is correction driven by love. It is correction, not because we are powerful parents, but it is driven by our heart to love our children. Hebrews 12:5-6 says “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you because the Lord disciplines those that he loves.” It is correction driven by love. How important is this? Proverbs 19:18, “Discipline your son, for in that (discipline) there is hope.”

As I mentioned above, we need to understand that there is a major battle going on for who is going to be in charge in our households, and this is a battle that we must win, and we must win it decisively. If you find yourself consistently nagging and yelling and bribing and threatening, (all things my wife and I do regularly) you are losing the battle and the tide must turn, and it must turn now. But you say, “I don’t want to be mean to my kids. I don’t want to discipline my kids.” Discipline is something you do FOR your child. It is not something you do TO them; it is something you doing for them. Zig Ziglar said it like this: “A child who has not been disciplined with love by his little world will be disciplined without love by the great big world.” In my prison ministry I see this all the time. Good people without boundaries.

Discipline. It’s correction driven by love. Let’s talk for a little while about what they call “undisciplined parents”, and unfortunately for Michelle and I, we see a lot of ourselves in some of these different examples. The first is what I would call the lifeguard parents. A lifeguard parent rescues a child from consequences. Little girl or boy is in trouble. Super Mom sweeps in to save the day. It’s not allowing our children to face the consequences of their own sins. God’s word tell us this in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” In other words, in God’s divine economy, He set up the world with a system of consequences. You live according to His Word and there will be blessings. You live outside of the parameters of His Word, and there will be consequences. We must give our children the gift of facing the consequences of bad decisions. If you don’t prepare well, you are not as likely to succeed.

Then there are those “push parents”, inconsistently pushing the line or the boundaries to suit the situation or the parent’s own agenda. We all have some lines set in our households, and then, the next day, the lines move. And our kids are saying, “Where are the lines? Where are the boundaries?” We are inconsistent oftentimes! Scripture says this, Proverbs 29:15, 17, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” Discipline your son, the Bible says, and he will give you peace. He will bring delight to your soul. Notice, scripture doesn’t say discipline them today and then not tomorrow, draw a line here today, but then move it again tomorrow. A lot of our kids want to know, where are the lines? Why are they always moving? And honestly, I can be rather inconsistent. I get tired sometimes, and I’m frustrated, like I am always saying the same thing, “This again!?” And it is very, very dangerous on my part. I can be military dad one day, all in line, and the next day I’m like cruise ship director dad, you know. And it is inconsistent and it can be very, very dangerous

I remember growing up and asking my mother for chocolate milk and she would say “No”, so I would immediately go to my father and say “Mom asked that you get me some chocolate milk because she’s busy”. Split-decision parenting. These are the ones that are often un-unified. They disagree or aren’t on the same page. Amos 3:3, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so.” One of the most important things we can do as parents is to agree to keep a unified stance in front of our children. If you need to disagree with each other, and you will, do it behind closed doors. In front of the kids, you stand unified. Do not show any weakness or they will take you out the very first chance they have! The other day Giovanna ran in and asked Michelle for a snack even though she refused to eat her dinner, and Michelle explained why she wasn’t allowed. Our daughter huffed and yelled which set Michelle off and in the middle of it all I took my daughter’s side. Bad news. Guys, I did not win any points with my wife that night. You must keep a unified front. I completely undermined my wife which made her and I both look bad and gave the control to our daughter. Big mistake.

Let’s look for a minute, though, at some things that we as parents should expect of our children and of ourselves. The first thing is we should expect first-time and cheerful obedience from our children. Scripture says this, Colossians 3:20, “Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord. Notice scripture does not say children, obey your mom and dad after they say, “Cut that out. Stop that. Don’t make me come over there. I mean it this time. I really mean it. I mean it. Don’t make me count to three. You know I will. One, two, don’t give me that look. Two and-a-half,” NO! We must expect first-time obedience, just as God expects it from us, we expect it from our children, and not only do we expect outward obedience, we expect inward obedience, as well. Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining or without arguing.” Put that up on your refrigerator like I had to, a little memory verse for your family. Do everything without complaining or arguing. Why is that so important? Someone told me this one time, discipline more for attitude than actions. Not only would outward obedience matter, but so does inward obedience. Discipline as much for attitude as you do for action, and when the attitude is right, the actions generally follow. It’s okay to expect first-time and cheerful obedience, outward as well as inward.

Second point, never, under any circumstance discipline in anger. The Bible tells us clearly, Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger do not sin.” If children disobey, take them into a separate room one-by-one, so there’s no humiliation or embarrassment, and decide on discipline. It may be a loss of a privilege. It may be an added responsibility. It may be a spanking. Then hug them, love them, be strong, and always remain Biblically correct. I mentioned spanking there and I want to set this straight because as parents Michelle and I have heard so many conflicting opinions. If you choose to spank at your house, if that’s the direction that God leads you, never, ever do so in anger. If you strike out and hit your child, let me just tell you right now, you need to repent before God. You need to repent to your children. You need to get help. And if you do not, one day you will answer to God and you will wish you had never, ever harmed one of His little ones. While spanking in the right situation may be an effective form of discipline, you never, ever, ever discipline in anger.

Number three, discipline promptly, with instruction and reconciliation. Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Instead, bring them up in the training and the instruction of the Lord.” Let’s talk about instruction. The first thing you should do when correcting your kids is talk to them about what they did, and I ask the question, “What did you do wrong?” We are instructing them, because a lot of times, they still don’t think it is their fault. What we have to do is bring them to a point of admission that they have sinned in an understanding of what they did wrong. Once they admit that, then the second question should be “How could you handle it better next time?” This is instruction. This is training them ahead of time that God always gives us a way out from whatever we are tempted. What is the way out? Let’s name it ahead of time so that we can make the right decision next time. Then reconciliation. What is that? You did wrong. This is the punishment, and now, you are forgiven. You hug. You kiss. You pray. And you go about your day, never to bring it up again. And what does that do? That plants within a child an understanding of what the cross of Jesus Christ is all about. They start to understand, maybe intuitively at first and then at an even deeper level later on that our sin must be punished, and Jesus took the punishment for our sin. Once we believe that what He did was enough for us, then God declares us forgiven because justice has been satisfied. And it teaches our children the principles of God’s divine economy even before they are able to understand, and one day they will be able to say, “Yes, I am saved by grace because Jesus paid the price for me,” and they will not take their salvation for granted, because for the rest of their life, they will be devoted to serving and living for the One who gave His life for them.

This is correction driven by love. Not something that we do to them, but something that we do for them because we want to love them toward righteousness and knowing and serving Jesus Christ. What are some of the discipline methods that have worked for you and your kids?

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