Thursday, March 24, 2016

Discipline: Structure and Grace

Discipline comes in many forms. There is physical discipline, of which I thought I knew about until I started running marathons. There is work ethic, which really is a job related discipline to do and be all that you can for your place of employment. There is spiritual discipline, which help to smooth out the rough spots of faith that inevitably will come. Then there is disciplining your children...which makes all of the other forms of discipline seem easy.

Last night in a small group I lead, as we were discussing what discipline looks like in a home that is trying to follow an almighty Father God, I came to a realization. Discipline is really a combination of structure and grace. Yes, it takes both. No, there is no magic formula.

Much like the discipline I had to learn in marathon training, there is a rhythm a "structure" if you will, to discipline. But this must be constantly injected with grace. Here's what I mean.

I have a set training schedule when I begin to prepare for races. Mondays and Wednesdays are workout days. I have a simple focus that involves some complex movement leg and arm exercises. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays are running days (there is a formula to it...but that is another blog...). Fridays are a flex day, sometimes body weight bearing workouts and sometimes runs. Sunday's I take off...completely for rest and recovery.

Here is where the grace comes in. Sometimes I choose to run on Monday night, with my favorite running group, instead of Tuesday morning. Sometimes I miss a work out. Sometimes I move a run to Friday. There is flexibility to listen to my body. There is grace when I miss. I just pick up the next workout/run or modify.

Disciplining our children works much the same way. My goal number one to help the children realize that the reason they are being punished isn't because they did something "bad." Instead I want them to realize we are helping them to reach their full potential of what God created them to be and become. So I want them to fully understand what specifically it is that they did wrong. Take time with them, explain the "why" as much or more than the "what" of what they did wrong.

Secondly, I want them to know how much I love them. I really desire what is best for them and their life and that's why I can't allow this unhealthy habit or action to continue. They need to know they are loved. This may need to happen multiple times throughout the process.

Thirdly, I want them to understand the act of asking for forgiveness. Our world could really use some people in it that understand taking responsibility for their actions and asking forgiveness appropriately. This means asking for forgiveness from those who they may have hurt, from their parents, from God, and from themselves. By the way, if you didn't handle yourself well in the heat of the moment when correction was needing to be given to your child, this is a good time to ask their forgiveness too.

Fourthly, administer appropriate punishment for the action. If possible this needs to be predetermined so that you don't get caught up in the moment. If you are married you should consult your spouse if possible (especially if it is a bigger offense or not something with a predetermined discipline). There is no silver bullet to punishment. It's different for every child. It's different for every family. The key is consistency and follow through.

Lastly, leave the child space to think about his/her actions and the subsequent punishment. We don't often enough ask our children to reflect upon their actions, what lead to those actions, who they were following, why they did what they get the picture. Let them sit in it. Let them stew in it. Then when they come back around show them love. Love them and remind them that they are a good kid and this is just part of growing up and becoming a Godly man or woman.

At all steps in this process be quick to give grace and love. Sometimes we overreact as parents. Sometimes we come down to harshly. Sometimes we aren't tough enough or fail to follow through. Give yourself some grace: you're not a perfect parent! Give your children some grace: they aren't perfect either!

Our ultimate goal in parenting, as in life, is to draw those around us to a loving relation to our Father in heaven. In everything we do, we have the challenge reflecting the Father's love, to draw them near to him, to let them see our struggle with it as well. We are praying for all of you, who like us, struggle with this on a day to day basis. May you know the Father's love for you, as you seek his wisdom in every situation.

Proverbs 3:5-6, 11-12
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in

(Basic structure adapted from "Dedicated: Training Your Children to Trust and Follow Jesus" 
by Houser, Harrington, and Harrington) 

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