Relationships Matter. God Is A Relational God.

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.

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The Forgiving Nature of Children

So many people believe children are born “sinful.”  Yet, young children are quick to forgive whether we apologize to them or not. They don’t make us pay for our mistakes before they forgive us.  Rather, they offer forgiveness freely.

If you ever watch young children playing, even with their peers, one minute they are fighting and the next minute they are best friends again. Young children are incapable of holding a true grudge against anyone. Yet, we often take advantage of their unconditional love and forgiveness by making them pay for their mistakes against us.

Even abused children will often forgive their abusive parents and will ask to go back home with them despite the horrible abuse. Perhaps this is one reason Jesus calls us to be like them in Matthew 18:3.

Forgiveness, despite the fact that it isn’t listed in Galatians 5:22-23, is a fruit of the Spirit. You need everything listed as a fruit of the Spirit in order to forgive. Children have most of these. The only reason they lack self-control is due to an immature brain. Calling something out of their control “sin” is not fair.

Children are forgiving in nature, therefore, they cannot be “sinful.”  It’s only when we become adolescents and adults that we begin to struggle with forgiveness. I truly believe that being raised in punitive homes, especially Christian homes, where children must pay for their mistakes before they are offered forgiveness leads to this struggle most of us have with freely forgiving people as Jesus has freely forgiven us.

We need to help our children keep their forgiving natures by connecting with them and giving them our forgiveness without making them pay through punishment. This does not mean we don’t allow them to experience the natural and logical consequences of their actions. It means that we become more Christ-like and do not inflict pain on our children.

The nature of children is forgiving, not “sinfulness!”

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