Discipline by Design

Well, I have decided to go there—the place few parents want to go when talking to other parents. You know what I’m talking about. Oh yes, the oft forbidden elephant in the room, “your way is wrong,” “this parenting book says differently” topic: Discipline.

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
I have three kids—two are boys. I’m not sure how it is in your house, but in mine our couch looks like a trampoline, my soft robe is a superhero cape, and our bathtub morphs into an Olympic pool when they enter in. My boys are fun, curious, and active like little knights in training. In our home, I remind them daily that their job, as Pastor Dave has said, is to “rescue and protect.” And it goes without saying that they take their job quite seriously.
Sons need fathers who are involved in their lives—dads who will love them, teach them, and discipline them. But clearly, sons also need a masculine vision…Knighthood, as an outline, offers all this and more. “Raising a Modern-Day Knight”, Robert Lewis.
When I get compliments on my “incredibly well-behaved children” from strangers, I know they would think differently if they lived with us. If only they could see all parents go through when challenged by their little knights (or princesses). When asked what my secret is, I usually smile, nod and keep quiet. There have been times, however, that I have admitted my children know to behave in public because we believe in a little old school thing called discipline. Now, what they assume that means and what it actually means can be two very different things. Assumptions are never good, and the word discipline is met with many. Generally speaking, parents live in a fog of confusion and concern for their family when it comes to approaching discipline—because there are so many approaches and so many voices vying for attention (and book sales). No matter what you determine is best for your family, someone, somewhere (usually hiding behind a screen) will tell you why you are wrong. Well, I have news for you: It is only wrong if it’s in contradiction to God’s Word. This seems to be the running theme permeating my parenting choices. If you are struggling with what to do or what someone has told you, I encourage you to take these tips to heart.
1) Read every book on discipline. Read no book on discipline. But whatever you read, always read and filter it through the preeminent book on discipline: The Bible. Recognize that people can be powerfully persuasive. Just because something sounds good does not mean it is good or right for your family. Know your Bible. Study to show yourself approved. Apply God’s Word as you parent the children He gave you!
2) Know your children. There is no one size fits all approach. It can be tempting to fall into the trap of thinking if something worked well for one child, it will work well for the others. But if you really look at your kids and see them as uniquely created by God, then you will quickly recognize different people require different strategies. It is only by trial (and some error) that we learn what gets through to another.
3) Listen to the Holy Spirit and how He is leading you. Just as people are unique, so are the days and situations you will encounter. What worked yesterday may not work today. We are all (hopefully) growing, and sanctification is a process. Be discerning with your discipline decisions. As God molds and shapes the clay, we must be open to how He wants us to change.
4) Whatever your method, focus on the heart you are helping to shape. Most Christian parenting books, with all their different methods, will agree on one thing—the point is to win a child’s heart and get to the root of the issue. Well, you do not need a parenting book to tell you the issue is sin. You cannot spank, talk, or hug that out—though any of those things may be in your toolbox. You pray, you model, and you discipline as best you can, ultimately trusting God with the results.
Long before there was the internet filled with chatter, before degrees were awarded in child psychology, and before bestselling books on family dynamics lined the shelves, Christian parents trusted in Who they knew to be true and unchanging. Search and decipher what is best for your family based on God’s Word—not words based on the opinions of others. No voice, no matter how compelling, can compare to the only voice you need to hear. While there are valuable insights available from brilliant minds, the living and active Word of God is your primary source of information on every matter! And as always, remember: God gave your children to you. Not to your neighbor, not to your cousin, and not to the author of your favorite parenting book. He entrusted them to you, and you can trust Him to help you do what is best as you seek to discipline well.
Praising Him,

 Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and recently welcomed the arrival of their first little girl. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city and loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.

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