Christians that lived in the first century were well aware of the practice of disciplining children. They had experienced such discipline firsthand: “we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence” (Hebrews 12:9). A number of references in Proverbs serve as a background to this New Testament instruction (Proverbs 3:11-12; Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 23:13-14). Proverbs 29:15 points out the value of both verbal and corporal discipline: “The rod and reproof [rebuke] give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
I make no claim to be an expert in child discipline. I am a son, son-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, father, father-in-law, and a grandfather. Along life’s way I have learned a number of things about disciplining kids. Many lessons I learned from my own poor choices as a father. Others I observed in the practice of other parents. I have also heard a number of true stories about how parents deal with their kids. Some of those accounts are delightful, while others are real horror stories. For what it is worth, I recently jotted down a list of principles for parents to consider when it becomes necessary to discipline their kids. The order in which I have listed them is irrelevant. Here goes.
- Give oodles of positive reinforcement for things well done. Verbal pats on the back can help a child develop positive self-esteem. Things like: “good for you,” “way to go,” “great job,” “we’re proud of you,” “we love you,” or “you’re such a good ____.” It seems that the only things that some kids hear from their parents are negative, things like “No,” and “Quit it.” Those words definitely have a place, but kids need to hear positive things, too.
- Make the punishment equal to/fair for the misbehavior. A teenage boy purposely hitting his little sister in the face with his fist is a more serious offence than him arriving home one minute after curfew, don’t you think? If so, should not such action receive a more severe punishment?
- Watch your tone of voice. Excessively raising our voice or using stinging sarcasm can cause our kids to resent us.
- Express disappointment when a child has misbehaved, but never refer to him/her using such terms as stupid, dumb, moron, or idiot.
- Set your rules/boundaries of behavior, and keep ’em! As soon as you do not enforce a rule that you have set, you immediately have the reputation of being a non-enforcer. Your words no longer carry the weight that they should, and that spells big trouble.
- Pray with your kids. Pray for them. Pray for them in their presence—if you are willing to tell God how much you care about them and their lives, then that lets them know that you really do care for them. That’s important. —Roger Campbell, Cleveland, Tennessee
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