Leah's Thoughts on Discipline

Posted by  | Sunday, February 10, 2008  at 8:20 PM  
I must say first off that I am very thankful for the many families that have modeled godly child-rearing to me before we even had Samuel. So much of what I learned didn't even come from these parents directly explaining to me what they were doing but from observing the way they interacted with their children. I also received good advice from many parents whom I respected as I prepared to raise Samuel. Reading "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp helped me to focus my attention in teaching Samuel. And finally, but most importantly, I have learned an immense amount from studying Scripture and considering the relationship that God calls me to as his daughter. I have learned what it means to be a compassionate parent, a servant, and to be concerned with matters of the heart, not just external things. So, here follows a summary of how we have approached child-rearing in our home and where we hope to take it over these next few years.

We started out Samuel's "discipline process" by teaching him clear boundaries. In the beginning, we used the word "NO" to keep Samuel from hurting himself. This started when he was around 6 months old and was becoming more mobile. Over the next few months, Samuel began testing these safety boundaries, as well as pushing the envelope in other areas to see how we would react (i.e. throwing his food off his tray). This was when he was around 9 months old. It was at this point that "NO" was also used to begin to mold his behavior. My husband and I decided between us what was acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior and set our minds to enforce these things.
Advice #1: Start setting boundaries early. It is so much easier to have a "Battle of the Wills" with a 9 month old over throwing food than it is to wait until a child is 2 years old to start enforcing rules. I can say that so far this is true in Samuel's life. Starting early with him has clearly established authority and obedience (more about these two words in a moment). At this point (~9 months) our "NO" was also accompanied by a hand swat. This was very short lived - Samuel thought we were playing. Elizabeth Krueger at Raising Godly Tomatoes (an AWESOME resource on this topic) does not encourage swatting hands, but bottoms instead. We switched to swatting Samuel's bottom when he would not obey. Advice #2: Teach First Time obedience. Don't give your child ten warnings and threats when they disobey. If they learn early on that "NO" means "NO", then they know what to expect from you. If they are given a variable number of chances, they don't know when you are finally serious. I find that this also leads to more temper outburts on my part. It isn't that I say "NO" and deal with the problem, but I keep giving warnings until finally my patience wears out and I discipline in anger. Learning to obey the first time is beneficial for both child and parent.

Now, to address the words "authority" and "obedience". First, let's consider "authority". I'll yield to Tedd Tripp to explain: "As a parent, you must exercise authority. You must require obedience of your children because they are called by God to obey and honor you. You must exercise authority, not as a cruel taskmaster, but as one who truly loves them. The purpose for your authority in the lives of your children is not to hold them under your power, but to empower them to be self-controlled people living freely under the authority of God." When I consider how to be an authority to Samuel, I consider God's fatherly relationship with me. He is my authority and He disciplines me because He loves me. He has compassion on me and He is the initiator of love within our relationship. He is always there to love me, listen to me, and forgive me. I try to model these same things to Samuel. Second, we have the word "obedience". True, I do want Samuel to be an obedient child. I want him to respect rules and respect others. But this is not the goal of my child-rearing. Here again is a quotation from Tedd Tripp that guides my parenting: "The central focus of parenting is the gospel. You need to direct not simply the behavior of your children, but the attitudes of their hearts. Your children desperately need to understand not only the external "what" they did wrong, but also the internal "why" they did it. You must help them see that God works from the inside out. Therefore, your parenting goal cannot simply be well behaved children. Your children must also understand why they sin and how to recognize internal change." Advice #3: Help your child to understand why they do wrong, not just what they do wrong.

At 18 months old, Samuel is still in the phase of the "disicpline process" of learning to obey the safety and behavior boundaries we have set for him. But I can tell that we are quickly approaching our next phase. He has just recently began to show signs of willful anger. He will also quickly be faced with having another little one in the house, which should bring about the opportunity to learn even more about the sin that lurks in his heart. Our next phase is that outlined in Shepherding a Child's Heart. The "when" of spanking will still be the same: when Samuel has been given an instruction that he is capable of understanding but does not obey without challenge, excuse or delay. But as his ability to understand and communicate grows, our approach to this time of discipline changes. Tedd Tripp suggests this pattern: 1. Tell your child specifically what they've done wrong. 2. Secure an acknowledgment from the child of what he has done so he knows why he's being spanked. 3. Remind him that you are spanking him because he has removed himself from the place of proper submission to your authority and you are restoring him to that place. 4. Tell the child how many swats he will receive. 5. Place the child over your lap and spank. 6. After spanking, take the child in your lap and hug him. This is the time of restoration between you both. 7. Pray with your child. Advice #4: Seek restoration with your child. The focus should always be on teaching your child that there is a circle of blessing when we are obedient and when we step outside of that circle there are consequences. Again, we teach them that the sin in their heart leads them astray, but by the power of Christ's forgiveness, we can find grace to be restored to the circle of blessing.

10 comments:

Jen said...

Well said. Great, practical advice. Thanks for this post.

jen

marymstraits said...

This is for anyone out there . . .

Have you tried any other methods other than spanking? We are entering into "spanking" (not enough to actually hurt him), but I'm curious if there's any other way to discipline effectively. My sister does "time out" with her baby (12 months) and swears it works. ? Just curious!

Anonymous said...

As a Mom of three kids, I think the most effective method depends on your kids. My oldest is a boundary tester, she wants to see what will happen next, and she HATES to be by herself. So for her, time out in her bedroom with the door shut is the most effective method. She hates having her door shut, and the threat of that is enough to keep her on the straight and narrow. My middle child HATES raised voices, she responds well to what I call the "Mom voice." I am very careful not to use that voice with her unless she is getting in trouble. My baby is getting along well with "No" for now. He is 10 months old and just starting to get into EVERYTHING!! When he gets a little older I will see what is effective for him. I do spank when it is a life of death situation- like running into the street or touching a hot stove. They know I rarely spank, so it must be VERY bad if I did do it. Each child is so different, and once you figure out what works for them- you stick with that and I find it tends to be very effective.
T

Brandy said...

A very helpful book that I have loved recently is Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman. It's much like Shepherding a Child's Heart, but it has a lot of practical advice and examples and it's from a mom's view, which I've really appreciated. One thing it's radically changed for me in disciplining our daughter is teaching her scripture and having Biblical reasons for all the discipline she receives. My favorite part of the book has now become the importance of stressing that we are to not only "put off" certain behaviors, but we replace them by "putting on" something else. For example, we are to put off complaining and arguing and to put on being thankful in all circumstances. I've also gotten a chart called "Words of Wisdom" that she's published and referred to in the book that gives scripture and examples for instruction. This has been particularly helpful for the "phase" of discipline we're in since the age of 2 and a half.

Brandy, Christina's sister-in-law

NotesbyNewsome said...

In an answer to marymstraits:
My son is 2 and a half. He has currently entered into a stage where spanking does not bother him in the least...he'll take a spanking and then keep right on going doing whatever as though nothing happened. So, we have switched to doing time out a lot more...this really works for us because my son extremely dislikes not being able to play. We sit him down in a certain place every time he misbehaves. We explain to him why he's there and he sits for the length of time according to his age (1 minute for every year is a common suggestion, so he sits for 2 and a half minutes right now). We set the timer, and then when it's done we re-cap why he was sitting, what he can do to avoid sitting next time, and we hug and say "I love you". Again, this is effective for us right now while spanking seems to be ineffective. I agree that discipline is different for each child, and totally agree with all of Leah's thoughts. Hope this helps!

~Michelle

Shannon said...

I think this is going to be an interesting topic this week.

We've found that thumping our 20 month old on the forehead or the back of her hand works well for correcting & disciplining when we're in public, or in a place where she needs to be quiet (like church), or when she's sitting in her high chair, and her bottom's hard to access. ;)

Can't wait to hear everyone's suggestions on this topic.

Anonymous said...

I will be very real here. I grew up in a nonchristian home where we were spanked quite hard by parents with anger problems. There was no reconciliation between parent and child. In other words, it was not done well. I am not against spanking... but I have to be honest... I am scared to! I am so afraid that it will come across in anger that I haven't done it once. We have used time outs... but my son (22 months)does't really mind them. He is starting to test me more and more and I feel like I should start spanking but I just don't trust myself. I have read the books that everyone has talked about and prayed. Does anyone else struggle with that? -Courtney (Hollie's friend)

Anonymous said...

We have 2 kids and we use timeout as our only form of discipline, and it's very effective. The key to discipline in our home is follow through. If we ask our son to pick something up or to stop doing something, and he ignores us, we will give him one redirect (so, we'd say, "we asked you to do something"), if he ignores the redirect, he gets a timeout. Timeout is one minute per year of age, and it can be done anywhere. Our youngest still goes to his crib so that he's kept in one place for the duration of the timeout, but the oldest knows that "timeout, sit here" is effective anywhere we happen to be (Target, church, a friend's house, etc.)...it simply necessitates a place to sit. The other key focus for discipline in our family is consistency. The kids know that there are certain behaviors that result in an immediate timeout, for example, physical agression toward a person or object. No redirect for that one--just an immediate repercussion for the inappropriate behavior.
We struggled with how we were going to discipline when we first had children--the Bible is clear to say "spare the rod, spoil the child", and all too often Christians seem to take this quite literally. For us, we've decided that the key is that a child needs to learn boundaries and that behaviors have consequences. We chose to not go the spanking route simply because we feel strongly that if we are trying to teach our children that it's inappropriate to hit another person, we certainly can't turn around and model for them the very behavior that we don't want them to reproduce. This is just what works for us--and it, so far :), has produced well behaved, respectful and considerate children.

Anonymous said...

P.S. The most important thing to remember when implementing *EFFECTIVE* timeouts is that you need to remove ALL of your attention from the child--we don't start the timer until our children are calmly sitting...and we don't talk to them or look at them or pay them even an ounce of attention when they are testing us to see what it will take to get our attention...timeout is a timeout from fun, from our attention...otherwise it would be ineffective.

Renee' for The Van Clan said...

Having a 15 year old, 13 year old and now a 16 month old, my ideas on Biblical discipline have evolved over the years. Some people hit the nail on the head when they said 1)every child is different... what works for one might not be the best method for another. 2)Whether you use spanking, timeout, or something else, consistency is the key to effectiveness. 3)Discipline means "to teach" not "to punish". Teaching does not necessarily require spanking. Although as Christians we are sometimes led to believe that it is "God's way". 4) We will mess up, we will make mistakes, it is as much a learning process for us as it is for our kids. (Sometimes I think it is even more so!)

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