This weekend at Oak Grove I talked about “Weird Parenting” and how as parents we are called in leave a legacy with our children by equipping them to follow Christ. At the end of the service we conducted a question and answer time where people texted in their questions, however we received so many questions that we weren’t able to answer all of them live. Continuing our questions from the Q and A this weekend at Oak Grove, today we are going to deal with a very sensitive subject in our culture. Here is the question:
“I struggle with discipline. I never spank. This is not a judgment, just a question. How is this type of discipline important spiritually?”
This is an amazing question and one that I believe is potentially dangerous to discuss, however, I realize that many parents have questions about this. Let me lay out a few principles.
- FIrst – discipline with your children is a must, but the method and mode of discipline will change from family to family and with the age of your children. Discipline is a must because our actions have consequences in real life and if we are sheltering our children from those consequences, we will be sending a few unintended messages. One message is this: the rules don’t apply to you. Another message is: you can do whatever you want. Now, that may work within the confines of your home, however eventually they will run into situations and authorities when that won’t go so well.
Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. Listen to advice and accept discipline,and at the end you will be counted among the wise. – Proverbs 19:18, 20
- Second – discipline is a must because our children aren’t morally neutral, they are touched by sin in every aspect of their lives. If our children were born morally neutral, they would only need information: instruction and direction. However, the Scripture is clear on this one:
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?” – Jeremiah 17:9
Since our children are not morally neutral, they are born with a proclivity toward sin, we need to correct it in order to see change. This is where discipline comes in. My child’s soul is in danger of spiritual death and God has ordained to use discipline…properly administered discipline as a means of rescue. Proverbs 22:15 says this: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” So, since my children are in need of heart changes, discipline helps correct and expose those heart needs so that rescue and change can occur.
- Third – utilizing wise and loving principles in discipline is imperative…not optional! Part of the reason that discipline, (whether it involves time out, loss of toys and/or fun opportunities or even spanking) is so weird in our culture is because so much of it has been utilized in a wrong way. Discipline for discipline’s sake or for establishing demeaning authority over your children is not right. Discipline that is harsh, negative and destructive or even abusive is always wrong. But that is not the only option with discipline. Loving and wise discipline will include the following:
- Establishing the rules long before correction takes place. This safeguards the children from confusion and helps them understand their own responsibility.
- Disciplining with consistency. Your children should not be surprised by your choice of discipline. They may object but they shouldn’t be surprised.
- Listening to and instructing them first. Have a conversation with questions and refrain from lecture.
- Going after their heart motivation for their actions. This may take some listening and time to be able to expose. Ask questions like, what were you trying to accomplish? What did you want?
- Explaining your course of discipline right there. Let them know that they will be in time out for 5 minutes because of their actions.
- Reminding them incessantly of your love for them and refusing to attach your love for them to their performance. God never does that with us.
- Owning your own sins and failures and refusing to avoid consequences. Let them know when you’ve handled things poorly and let them see the changes in you.
Let me close with this thought, harsh and mean-spirited discipline is never acceptable, nor is discipline that the child doesn’t understand, however discipline is designed to safe guard and protect our children. Why does it matter? Becaue left to themselves…things won’t go well.
I am in a position in life where I “get to” and “need to” have difficult conversations on a regular basis. Any time you are in leadership you will have to discuss, evaluate and try to encourage improvement in yourself and others, and that process can be difficult. In my position, most of my difficult conversations have to do with life choices and heart issues and at times those discussions can be challenging. However, over the years there are aspects of these conversations that I have grown to appreciate and therefore I would say that I have a love/hate relationship with difficult discussions.
I think it’s pretty easy to understand why I hate hard discussions, however there are so many good things that come out of “well thought out” difficult discussions – and these apply across the board to way more areas than just church life! If you are married, on occasion you need to have difficult discussions. If you are an employee or employer, on occassion you need to have difficult discussions. If you are a parent, or a student or even just a friend to someone, on occassion you need to have difficult conversation. Now before I share with you why I both love and hate these types of discussions, let me define some situations that might fall into this category. When I say “difficult discussions” I mean: you need to talk with your spouse about spending patterns…that’s difficult. You need to talk with an employee about his refusal to meet your expectations…that’s difficult. You know that you should talk with your friend about the way that they are treating their kids and their spouse…that’s difficult. These are just a few examples, you likely have some of your own right now, but let me share with you why I love/hate these talks.
Why I hate these talks
I’d guess that it’s pretty easy to understand why I don’t like the responsibility of sharing my observations with others concerning their lives, but there are some pretty particular reasons that I struggle in this area. First of all, fear and anxiety makes it difficult to have these conversations. Fears about what others will think, how they will react and what will happen to our relationship are very real. Maybe you’ve experienced those feelings and it’s kept you from saying anything. I know I have! Second, all of the “what if’s” roll through my head as I am preparing to have a difficult conversation. What if they get mad? What if they don’t respond well? What if they quit? These are some of the things that we all experience when we need to step into someone’s life.
Reasons I love difficult conversations – Despite finding these conversations difficult, there are several reasons that I’ve grown to love them and would encourage you to embrace a gracious, loving and truthful approach to your relationships!
- Having difficult conversations allows both parties to grow and improve! It doesn’t matter if your conversation is revolving around work, school, home or spiritual life, everyone has room to grow and improve. I’ve found that we don’t tend to grow when we are allowed to coast! When we drift, we drift down stream…not up! I also think that each of us want to be the very best that we can be in the different aspects of our lives, therefore at times we need to be challenged and encouraged. Having difficult conversations can accomplish this as long as the conversation ends with help and hope!
- Generally, these conversations strengthen your relationships. Recently I had a conversation with my wife where I shared a few things that I had been thinking about. I was nervous about sharing these thoughts, however after we were able to talk and discuss them, our relationship was strengthened and even more trust was built! This is why I love these types of discussions. My closest friends are people that I can absolutely tell the truth to and they can do the same to me…and we do.
- Difficult discussions force both parties to check their motivations and fight drift! Whenever you are going to talk with someone about something you’ve noticed in their lives, you need to check yourself first. I think it was a famous philosopher (jk) who said: “Check yourself before you wreck yourself”. When I’m struggling with something and a friend talks with me about it, it guards me from coasting and vice versa.
- Difficult conversations cause me to pray and rely on God. I love difficult conversations because they make me uncomfortable, which causes me to run to God for help. This is a good thing for all of us to embrace. I am naturally inclined to taking care of things myself and so when I feel out of my comfort zone I am reminded that I need someone bigger than me!
Let me leave you with this: I know these discussions are not fun, but they are fruitful. Proverbs 27:6 says – “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” In other words, someone who tells you the truth in a gracious way is to be trusted over someone who simply says whatever we want to hear!
So…how about you? How do you feel about difficult conversations? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.
Tonight I enjoyed again one of the greatest privileges of my life: standing in my boys room as they were both peacefully sleeping and praying for them. Years ago, when my oldest child was born I developed a habbit of walking into his room while he was sleeping just to check on him before I went to bed. While I was in there I was often overwhelmed with an incredible sense of the privilege that I had to be his dad and it made me cry out to God for him. Since then, I have continued the practice, not every night, but on a regular basis. Once again, I stand here tonight and I am reminded of why I love being a dad. Don’t get me wrong, there are times that I don’t love being a dad, but I promise you I would never trade it and here is why:
- I love being a dad because it keeps me humble! Whenever I see how much my children are learning every single day I am reminded how much I need the help of our great God and the help of other people in order to point them in the right direction. I am so thankful for the amazing people at our church who reinforce what we teach our children at home. I am so thankful for the amazing teachers in our oldest son’s school who selflessly pour into the children (and it’s a public school). But most of all, today I realize how much I need God’s help in shaping and molding the hearts of my children. All of this shows me just how small I really am and just how much I need help.
- I love being a dad because it shows me that some things are bigger than me! When I spend time with my three children I am quickly reminded that the biggest thing that I do everyday often involves sharing with them. They have way more potential than I do. They have a huge ability to impact others, a wide open life ahead of them and many, many decisions to make. This reality is much bigger than me and the potential that they have is much greater than me…I love it!
- I love being a dad because it shows me that some of the things that I think are big…really aren’t. Being able to come home at night and to see the amazing faces of my three children helps to put things in perspective. After a day of working through difficulties, putting out fires and investing in people, there is nothing better than coming home to three children who run into your arms (or two and one who is carried there :-)). Seeing their faces reminds me that people, especially the people that God has placed in my care are the most important things in the world.
- I love being a dad because it’s a privilege to invest in others. The fact that God would entrust these three little, impressionable children to my wife and me is an incredible responsibility and privilege. I love seeing my kids learn how to be gracious, be kind and how to care about others. These are some of the most important things that I will ever do. Teaching them about Jesus and seeing them grasp it, these are the most important “sermons” I will ever deliver. This is why I love being a dad. So, when I am tempted to grow tired of being a dad, I want to remind myself of why I love being a dad!
How about you? Are you a parent? If so, what are your reasons for loving being a parent? Let me know with your comments.