Rewind back to Discipline

Posted by  | Tuesday, June 23, 2009  at 8:00 AM  
This post was originally posted by Leah in February of 2008. I thought we should revisit this week in preparation for another week of discussions on discipline. It seems we always come back to this topic in comments and we really feel like it needs another week of its own. If you want to see other posts on this topic - the category on the right side is "training your children."

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.


Book a Day said...
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Courtney said...

POH Ladies,
I want to address the previous comment just briefly. As she stated Ted's words are his, but something she didn't seem to acknowledge is the fact that she recommended multiple books by the same authors. Obviously she is reading books that are leaning towards her already established opinion.
I am not trying to stir of controversy, I am just wanting to encourage you to continue in what you are doing. I do not visit and read your blog because I agree with everything you say or do. I am not reading your blog as the gospel. I use your blog as one of many resources.
Please do not let this discourage you, but let it spur you on to continue in searching for God's plan in each of your lives.
I am a little frustrated that she doesn't even care to see what others say in response (positive or negative). I think that we can all use a little sharpening from others once in a while. But I know that she is also thinking about doing what is best for her and her family.

KC said...

Leah, I have always wondered how you put Mr. Tripp's recommendations into words a toddler can understand. My son is almost 8 months old and we say, "Nathan, that is a no-no." He understands what I mean by that and so if he continues to try, I swat him gently on the bottom (just enough to get his attention) and say it again. I do this until he chooses to turn away from the object.

I know that formal spankings are far off, but as I look to the future I realize that since I have not had much experience with children, I just can't imagine how I would phrase the ideas Mr. Tripp says I need to convey in discipline.

What do you think??

KC said...
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Book a Day said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KC said...

Book A Day,
I have nothing against you. My comment didn't mention anything about you or your beliefs. Please don't read that into what I said. I saw your recommendations and set out to do some research for myself. I simply wondered if anybody else thought it was strange that the authors were not married to each other. I would read the books simply because I like to read about several different view points. God gave me a mind to think for myself and the desire to seek His guidance on everything I read. Therefore, I am not scared to read books from all perspectives. I am also not afraid to change my mind about something if I feel the Holy Spirit is asking me to make that change.

This is one of those areas that Christians should not fight over. We can have sisterly love for one another though we may disagree on this point :)

Book a Day said...

KC, Thank you. :)

Leah said...

Book a Day,
I am fully aware that you disagree with us on this point and a few of us authors are reading the books you've recommended over the past few months in order to have a more informed discussion on this topic. I'm sorry to see you go - I want you to know that you are always welcome here and you are always welcome to leave comments.

I also had a hard time applying Tripp's "speak" when disciplining a young child. What I did was pull out the principles of his process and apply them in a way that Samuel could understand. That is part of what I was referring to at the end of my post when I said Samuel is moving into the next phase of the process. I wrote this post when Samuel was 18 months old. He is now two months shy of 3 years old and we still practice everything written about here. But there is definitely an added element of more of a "conversation" during discipline. The explanation of right and wrong are longer and the restoration phase requires more "speak". I hope to talk about this all in detail during the week on training/discipline in the upcoming months.

I also want to say that nothing compares to sharing time with a godly family to see training in action. It is so hard to put into words on a blog what training looks like in our house day in and day out. I STRONGLY encourage moms to find a family they respect and spend AS MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE with them. THAT is the kind of discipleship God desires for His Church and I can't recommend it enough.

Book a Day said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ChezDeshotels said...

Leah: I want to commend you on your response and I can not agree more with mentoring and or dicipleship form of parenting. I have learned so much about what I do as a parent from older and wiser women who have modeled parenting to me. I hope that I can be the kind of parent that they were to their children

Book a Day: I would hope that you could see past issues that you disagree with whether it be on the POH blog or in life to be open to what God can teach you on other issues through Godly people. I would say there are things I agree with and some things I don't put into practice in my home, but that does not mean that I haven't learned many things from these Godly women who seek to honor God, their husbands and their children. God Bless you as you seek his face in all areas of your life and in your journey of parenting their is no greater adventure!

Book a Day said...

In an effort to be honest, I ended up being rude. Only rude. I'm sorry. I've asked for forgiveness in email, and I've deleted my comments.

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