For what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? —Hebrews 12:7
Dealing with discipline is often unpleasant, but it’s a fact of life for parents. The Bible makes it clear that in order to love your children well, your relationship must contain an element of discipline. Without it, you can’t help your children become mature.
However, the approach to discipline varies from family to family. While some parents prefer talking out situations with their children, others prefer to hand out a consequence, such as a time out or a loss of privileges, in response to an inappropriate behavior.
Realizing that discipline is serious stuff, a caring parent will want to carry it out well. But with so many different attitudes about which approach is best, what’s a concerned parent to do?
Discipline doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all sort of thing in your home. Rather than proclaiming, “This is my method, and I’m sticking to it!” it’s okay to be flexible in your approach.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should be a wishy-washy disciplinarian. If you tell your child that you’re going to impose a consequence, then stick to that. Kids need to know that their parents mean what they say.
But as far as the discipline for each individual situation, it’s okay to mix that up. Some incidents might lend themselves best to a heart-to-heart talk with the perpetrator, while others may require him to face the music of a painful consequence.
Assess the Situation
To help you decide, consider which approach will have the greatest effect on your child’s heart. The goal of your discipline should be to help your child grow in wisdom, so she’ll make better choices in the future.
When you see that your child is acting out in response to hurt or disappointment, a discussion can help you get to the heart of the matter. While a time out might just feed the hurt that prompted the behavior in the first place, letting your child share his side of the story can help your child learn to identify his emotions and consider better ways to handle them, as well as allow you the opportunity to guide him to better choices.
However, there are times when a child simply needs to accept a consequence without negotiation. Particularly when she’s in meltdown mode, it’s not the time for extended conversation. Rather, remove her from the situation or from the rest of the family. On her own, she can cool down and consider what she’s missing out on because of her choices. And there are times when the loss of a privilege will drive home the point better than hours of discussion could.
In many circumstances, pairing a consequence approach with a discussion one will be most effective. Issue time out or another consequence, so your child will learn that poor choices have unfortunate results, but follow it up with a conversation, through which he can share his viewpoints and be guided to better choices.
In any situation, remember that you are the parent. That means that you must maintain control of the situation. Especially if you have a child who loves to negotiate, it’s easy for him to try to wrangle control of the situation with continual explaining or bargaining.
Come up with a signal for your family that indicates when a conversation is no longer open for discussion. If your child tries to continuing discussing the issue, give the signal, and refuse to engage in further conversation on the topic. Your child will eventually learn that sometimes he just has to accept your decisions.
Some people might think you issue too many time outs or give your children too much leeway for negotiation. Put plenty of thought and prayer into what’s best for your kids, and you can maintain confidence, even in the face of criticism. It’s okay to be open to honest critique, but don’t let every little opinion of the masses sway you.
However you choose to approach discipline in your home, follow it up with grace. Your home can be a place where children learn that transgressions have consequences, but forgiveness is always available.