As I have been corresponding with people who are on the fence about gentle discipline, it hit me that God is a relational God. Everything He does is to get us to become closer to Him. That’s why it makes me sad that so many Christians believe that He does bad things “for our good.” That doesn’t make us feel closer to Him unless we have some sadomachistic tendencies going on in us.
When it comes to disciplining our children, I find myself covering the same issues with punitive parents who just don’t understand what discipline really is. So I am going to cover it again here.
Discipline looks at the whole child instead of focusing on behavior. When you understand the child and where he/she is in his/her development, you can set appropriate limits and figure out the whys behind behavior. Children are so much more than a set of behaviors or “sins.” They are complicated, competent human beings that need our guidance. They are new to this world and have immature brains and bodies. This should not be used against them, but it often is.
Going from using external control such as spankings, time-outs, and taking away privileges in an arbitrary way to using internal motivation by meeting needs, setting limits, allowing natural consequences of choices to happen, validating feelings, allowing appropriate choices, giving alternative appropriate behavior and/or ways of expressing feelings, using time-in to settle down with the children and connect instead of isolating them is tough. It takes a lot of work and patience.
We use the Fruit of the Spirit A LOT when we choose to discipline rather than punish. But this is true discipline. To grow heathy fruit, we must cultivate it, water it, and give it plenty of sunshine. We must also do our best to protect it from the enemy, usually bugs and other animals. We don’t beat the sprouts and fruit as that would ruin it. So why do it to our children by beating them?
God is a relational God, so using discipline is focusing on keeping our relationships intact with our children. You may think that your relationship with your children is fine despite using punishment, but it isn’t what it could be as all children want to please their parents. They may behave out of fear instead of out of respect. We want our children to behave because it is the right thing to do! We want our children to have healthy relationships with others and with God. Only true respect can teach children respect. We must model respect to our children by respecting them and other people! They are learning from our actions more than our words
Also, I am sure I have covered this in other posts, but I know people learn through repetition too so I will cover this again. Fear and respect mean two totally different things.
The definition of fear is “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”
The definition of respect is “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.”
Notice fear contains the word “evil” in its definition but respect doesn’t. And throughout the Bible God tells us to NOT be afraid. Therefore, to be reverent means to respect, not afraid.
Since God is a relational God, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to treat our children in a manner that produces a healthy relationship with us? We work hard to have good marriages by treating our spouses with love and respect. Why should it be any different with our children? God is over us and yet He calls us His friends (John 15:15, James 2:23, Romans 5:10). May we treat our children how God treats us.