Keys to Disciplining Children

It was the last day of school. Sarah had planned a highly anticipated party for Joseph, John, Anna, Jesse, and Mary. There were water balloons, a toss game, races, soda, cookies, and chips to be enjoyed. However, before the games could begin, the bickering had started. Children were being sent away from the party for unkind behavior. When they were allowed to return, there would soon be another incident. A fun-filled morning was beginning to feel like a disaster. Determined to not let these difficulties destroy the festive mood of our day, we continued happily through the party, dealing with discipline issues as they arose.

Discussing the troubled last day of school with Steve on our next date, I said I was not sure I really wanted to take the two weeks of school vacation we had planned, if they were going to be like the last day of school had been.

I began praying and asking the Lord how I should handle the upcoming vacation days. I quickly realized that I was disappointed with the children’s behavior because I saw it was going to have an impact on MY vacation. I had wanted to have two weeks off. I wanted them to be perfect children so I could take a break. The Lord reminded me that my expectations needed to be straightened. I had to let go of what I thought I had to have to enjoy the vacation days. The Lord’s calling on my life to bring up my children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) did not end when vacation started! As a matter of fact, this was the perfect time to really focus on some of their weak areas, since there were not the normal schooling demands on our time.

With changed expectations, we entered our vacation, and the children lived up to those new expectations. There were numerous situations calling for discipline each day. As I was working diligently at being consistent with the children’s discipline, I was quickly becoming “weary in well doing,” wanting to “reap” right away (Galatians 6:9).

Again, I sought the Lord for help. He brought this question to my mind. If I truly believed, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13), what did that mean about any discipline the children might need? I realized I was relying on my parenting, my discipline, and my consistency, but not the Lord because I was not praying with the children when they were in need of discipline. It seemed the way to rely on the Lord for this teaching time in the children’s day was to spend a portion of that time in prayer.

It may be that some of you are already doing this, but I certainly was not. It took too long. I was prone to lecturing the children instead of spending that time praying with them. This prayer time became very fruitful. I was alone with one child. I would pray first. Sometimes I would need to start by asking the Lord’s forgiveness for feeling frustrated or discouraged, or maybe for having an impatient or resigned spirit toward the situation. This has become a sweet time for me as it gets my focus off the problem and onto the One Who can work it out.

The next thing I would pray has proved to be much more powerful than a lecture. “Lord, this child wants to be a wise child. He could have chosen to be kind and waited for the toy rather than trying to grab it away. Lord, You want us to learn to have a servant’s heart. You want us to love each other and to be patient. Please forgive this child for his unkindness. Help him to see his need to cry out to You when he is tempted to be unkind. Please give him strength to not do this again. Thank You Lord, for this opportunity to learn and to grow in You.” This prayer says all I would say in a lecture, but it is strong where my lectures are weak. I am calling out to the One Who has told me, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Then my child is given the opportunity to pray out loud with me. This child needs the peace of God to guard his heart, and I need it to guard my heart. Both of us could become discouraged if we feel we are trying to overcome these problems on our own, in our strength. If we focus on the problem, then we feel failure. If we focus on the fact “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), then our hearts are right.

I can’t tell you that in those two weeks my children became perfect. I still have to battle discouragement over their behavior and my expectations that they will not need any correction. However, I know we are doing what the Lord would have us to do when we pray as we face these teaching opportunities. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

What about you? Do you take the time to pray with your children when they need correction? Are you relying on your strength as a parent to change the behavior of your children? Are you calling out to the Lord, setting the example for your children, and showing them how to rely on the One Who has numbered the hairs on their head?