Parenting: Love and Discipline

Written by: Christianne Williams

Proverbs 13:13 “He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.”

Proverbs 13:24 “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

This parenting thing, I find it hard sometimes.  Last night was one of those times.  It wasn’t that anything terrible happened, in fact, it was an eye opening time of reflecting on the character of each one of my children. I just get hung up on the things that need improvement and perhaps feel a measure of guilt over them.  The homeschool regulations in our province require meetings with facilitators twice a year. Last night was our first ever, in all of our 13 years of homeschooling, opportunity to sit down with people who were not family and discuss goals, both academically and character related, of our sweet little ducklings.

First of all, I believe we have the best facilitators in all of the world. They were so helpful in getting us to really think about each of children as individuals with their own unique character traits and gifts.  I found it very easy to pull out the positives of some of them and the negatives of others.  Let’s face it, it’s easy to bury the memory of the temper tantrums your sixteen-year old threw when he was seven but its not so easy to forget the one your seven-year old threw five minutes before the guests arrived.  As we were going through the list, taking note of strengths and area that need attention, I began to see that perhaps my ‘soft’, guilt ridden, parenting style, was less than ideal.

I love my babies; they really are great children! They make us proud!  But the areas that need to be worked on are, at the root, things that have evolved because of my inability to follow through with discipline.  I’m a softy.  I get irritated and frustrated, I hand out a punishment, most of the time too severe and one that will punish me too, like no going outside for a year.  Then an hour later when they show up with their sad little eyes, almost managing to squeeze out a tear or two, I cave, and back outside they go.  I know that as soon as their precious little backs are to me they get a smirk on their face because they know me far too well.

As I sat there thinking about it, I realized something else as well.  My view of punishment was that if I followed through I wasn’t showing love to my children.  It was as if I was viewing love as equalling permissiveness, and that isn’t at all what it is.  Loving my children, as God loves us, is setting boundaries, ones that protect them, and seek what’s best for them.  If they choose to push through those fences and I decide to do nothing, one message I’m sending is that really, the rule I’ve set isn’t important so what’s the point of them following it? The other is that I don’t love them enough to show them “tough love”!

Two things are now going to be front and center: 1. Does the punishment fit the ‘crime’? and 2. Once I’ve said it, it has to stick! So, I must be very careful to present a fair consequence with effective results.

God loves us, and He corrects us out of His great love for us.  He wants to keep us safe and unharmed.  He wants us to walk in freedom and develop Godly character.  The same is true of the way I feel toward my kids.  I want them to develop good, Godly character, knowing that love and discipline go hand in hand, not love and permissiveness.

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