Imagine if every time we disciplined our children we kept these powerful teachings at the forefront:
- “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17–18).
- “The goal of our instruction is love” (1 Timothy 1:5, NASB).
- “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
- “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16).
Since God’s very essence is love, it only makes sense that we practice His love as we discipline our children. Most of us parents say we deliver even our firmest consequences out of love for our children. We desire to teach right from wrong and to protect them from even harsher real-life results in the future. Yet while parents believe their discipline sends the message “You are loved,” hundreds of the kids we’ve asked about this perceive an entirely different set of messages:
- “I’m a problem.”
- “I’m a pain in the butt.”
- “I’m a bad kid.”
- “I’m not important.”
And so on. This is the great disconnect. What parents want their kids to hear and believe, and what kids are hearing and believing, are often polar opposites. To explore whether there’s some disconnect going on with your kids, we invite you to consider a few questions:
- If a camera were recording me when I discipline, and I gave the video footage to an unknown Sunday school class of kids my kids’ age and turned down the volume, what would those kids say it’s like to be the child receiving the discipline?
- Judging by my facial expressions and body language, what would my child say are the messages I’m delivering? (Begin with the words, “Child, you are ______!”)
- How would my kids say my love for them changes when they misbehave?
- When was a time my child would say he felt loved by me during discipline? What did I do to make that happen?
How might I talk about my unconditional love with my kids? When there’s opportunity for relaxed, open conversation, I can ask my child, “Do you feel like I love you when you misbehave?” However he/she responds, also ask, “Would you share with me anything I do that causes you to feel that way?”
I can share Romans 5:8 and express my honest desires to better share my love with my kids when they misbehave, just like God does with us.
Excerpted from Jim and Lynne Jackson’s Discipline That Connect with Your Child’s Heart. Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2016. Used by permission.