Almost every parent I’ve spoken to has mentioned or asked about discipline.
How should I handle this behavior?
Is this form of discipline ok?
Is this form of discipline effective?
What if we changed those questions out for this one: where is this discipline headed?
When my friends and I go backpacking in the backcountry, we always get strange looks from our fellow outdoorsmen. Why? Because we know how to EAT! They’re there to walk and then walk some more. We’re there to make our way to a destination, unload our gear, and cook some epic meals while we shoot the breeze around the fire.
Our walking is all about the destination!
Take the story of Peter. He was warned about his sin. He sinned. He was disciplined by being left out of some key moments. He was restored. Just as the glow of the charcoal fire defined the ambiance as he denied Jesus, the same glow stood between him and Jesus as he rushed to the seashore. In one moment it serves as a symbol of his shame. In the next, it is an invitation to fellowship. Jesus is taking Peter to a destination, and it doesn’t climax with discipline, but rather restoration.
This morning, my 5 year old was in the midst of playing with something he knows he shouldn’t. I said his name and he immediately dropped it and ran into the bushes to hide. He was really ashamed to have done wrong. He was hiding from my disapproval. He was feeling beat up by the exposure.
Watch what happened next. I yelled for him to come and help me with a task we’d been working on together. Immediately the shame fell from his face, he stepped out of the bushes, and sprinted enthusiastically to help. That moment brought the discipline to its desired end. It brought us to a destination.
This is a crucial piece of the discipline puzzle. Many parents have a hard time separating their emotion from the process of discipline. But discipline should never be emotionally motivated for a parent. We are the only picture of God’s grace that our kids have access to, so we want them to see that their acceptance is not based on their behavior. They are accepted because they’re ours. Yes, at times they must be disciplined, but at all times they must be accepted. When we follow discipline with restoration, we help them see this clearly.
Here are three simple tips to help you keep restoration primary in your discipline.
1. Never discipline in the heat of the moment. Kids need to experience discipline as an orderly and loving part of your parenthood. When you introduce chaos on your side, you also introduce insecurity and fear on their side. None of us will live up to this standard perfectly. That’s ok. Confess your sin to God, and apologize to your kids for letting your feelings get the best of you. They’re resilient and often extraordinarily forgiving.
2. Don’t let shame and guilt linger. Your continued moping or fuming is unhealthy for your kids. They need to trust that you will be “over it” immediately. When you can’t let go of their mistake, or their behavior, you teach them that they need to perform in order for you to love them. That same notion will bleed over into their perceptions of God.
3. Be intentional and immediate about restoration. Demonstrate clearly and quickly that you are ready to continue having fun together. Demonstrate clearly that you want to get the relationship back to normal. Don’t let them doubt or wonder where they stand with you.