We recently adopted a rescue puppy at our house. Training her to obey commands is a daunting task and sometimes it just seems easier to give in and give up, rather than to stand our ground- resisting the urge to give in to those pouty puppy dog eyes!
The struggle to cave is real!
But anyone who has ever gone through the puppy stage knows that it only lasts a season, and if you can endure and remain tenacious, the results will be beneficial to both puppy, and puppy parent, in the long run.
This is also true for us as human parents. The temptation is to do what is easy, both emotionally and physically. We often know we have limited time with a child and therefore are tempted to spend what time we do have ‘just having fun’ instead of stepping into the sometimes-exhausting process of laying out boundaries and following up with discipline when lines are crossed.
Rather than looking at discipline as a burden we bear as parents, we must choose to see it as a gift we can give our children- no matter how many times we have to ‘open’ that gift with them. One thing to help shift focus in that area is to answer the question ‘Why is it important to discipline my child?’
Some important reasons to discipline our children are: to help them to learn right from wrong, and to help them learn how to make good choices- both of which help to keep them safe as they learn to navigate life. But an even more pressing reason to discipline our children is to teach obedience. And why do we care if they obey us, especially if it may cause us to lose some favor, even if temporarily, in their eyes?
We must teach our children to obey their parents (and elders and authority figures for that matter) so that when they are older they will be willing and able to obey the Lord.
This is one of the most important gifts we can give to our children: the knowledge, understanding and practice of obedience. If we do not make this a priority we are essentially setting them up for failure.
A couple of key “do’s and don’ts” on discipline are:
- Be sure they know what is acceptable and unacceptable- set rules and boundaries. We can’t ask children to obey rules they don’t know exist.
- Clearly explain consequences of disobedience.
- Carry out consequences/punishment when they willingly disobey- too many times today children see no consequence to disobedience and therefore no reason to obey.
- Don’t back track on consequences- this leads to idle threats, when we ‘threaten’ a punishment or consequence and then don’t follow through.
- Don’t bail them out. Allowing children to deal with ‘natural consequences’, even to irresponsible actions, will teach them to obey and think through situations.
- Don’t excuse disobedience. Making excuses for why a child is disobeying encourages further disobedience as they expect to not be held accountable for their actions or choices.
When the Lord asked the Israelites to obey Him, He did not allow excuses to delay discipline. When the Lord asks us to act in obedience He does not want us to give Him a list of excuses as to why we cannot, or do not want to obey Him. He wants us to obey Him for no other reason than that we love Him and trust Him, and respond in obedience. When we teach our children to obey the instructions of parents, people in authority positions throughout their lives, or those who enforce laws, we are teaching them the principles necessary to obey the Lord.
Here are just a few verses of scripture that speak to us about disciplining out children. God believes it is important enough to include in His Word and therefore we should take the directive seriously.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
I wanted to share a couple of good resources regarding discipline and obedience:
Shepherding Your Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp – learn more here: http://www.shepherdingtheheart.org/shepherding-a-childs-heart/
Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp – learn more here: https://www.paultripp.com/products/age-bk
Here is a great series from Focus on the Family about discipline. There are different parts that address different topics about discipline so be sure to check them all out.
~~Getting to the heart of issues will help understand why children don’t want to obey. Next week we will discuss one more gift that is invaluable to give your children for a lifetime.~~