There's tension in my house. I try to navigate it every day with my kids, but it's tough to balance. I want my kids to grow to know, love, and live like Jesus, but I sometimes that seems like an unattainable goal. In parenting them to live like Christ, I've found two contrasting areas that are an especially difficult challenge: Discipline & Celebration.
Discipline is a skill that every parent learns along the way - no one comes by it naturally. All kids need to be corrected, and it's amazing to me how young kids are when they start to exhibit acts of defiance and selfishness. Without correction (and sometimes even with it!), that defiance can grow into full-blown tantrums and fits. As parents, we're tempted to choose 1 of 2 extreme responses. We can swing to one side by hesitating to correct our children at all. We let them run the show and just try to make ‘suggestions’ to their behavior. We can swing the other way and become an ultra-authoritarian ("You do what I say or else!”). This can border on tyrannical if done without compassion or restraint. Neither of these extremes is a good option because neither one points kids to Jesus.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you point kids to Jesus in correction:
Check your motives.
Are you wanting to "drop the hammer” because you're angry? Are you avoiding disciplining your child because it’s too hard? We need to make sure our motivation is to help our kids become more like Jesus. If we do, we’ll avoid both correcting in anger and not correcting at all.
Connect your discipline to God's Word.
Children need to know the reason behind discipline. Never correct your kids without teaching them how to behave in light of God's Word. Help them to see not just what they did wrong, but what they can do right next time. Share a verse or passage of scripture that teaches them how God wants them to behave.
Right the wrong.
Give your children the opportunity to apologize and make amends. For young kids, you might need to walk them through what to say and what to do. For older children, remind them they should make things right and give them a chance to act. This is also a great moment to teach the other person how to show forgiveness and unconditional love.
If there aren't consequences involved in discipline, it isn’t much more than a conversation. Far from being cruel, providing an age appropriate consequence teaches kids that their negative actions can bring negative results. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening - it’s painful! But afterward, there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way."
The other side of the coin is celebrating your kids' good behavior. Surprisingly, this is also a difficult time to point kids to Jesus. If your kid does something awesome - like great work on a school assignment or helping a sibling without being asked - it's far too easy to simply say “Good job! I’m really proud of you.” What’s wrong with complimenting your child? Nothing in and of itself. But if you never go any further and point to Jesus in your compliments, it opens the door to selfishness, pride, and behavior that's motivated by people-pleasing and not serving God.
Changing our compliments to things like: “That was awesome, I love it when you live out your faith in Jesus by…” or “Great job winning that race, God has certainly gifted you.” Small tweaks to our compliments keep everyone's focus in the right place.
In discipline, in celebration, and in every situation, we must remember to point to Jesus in our words, actions, and attitudes.