A Christian Parent's Guide On Disciplining Children
As parents, when you think of disciplining your children, you might think of spanking, sending them to a time out, or putting them in bed without dessert. However, the word discipline comes from the Latin word "discipulus", which means knowledge or to instruct. When you think of guiding, teaching, or instructing your children, you probably feel pride, hope, and joy in your parenting.
The Bible describes God as our shepherd who guides us. That is what discipline truly is! Guiding your children through the different stages of childhood so that you can confidently release them into adulthood.
Importance of Boundaries
There are different boundaries for various stages of discipline in Christian parenting. Boundaries are vitally important for the safety of your children, the structure of their world, and allowing their trust in you, as their parent, to grow. It is the job of every child to explore their world. Therefore, it is every parent's job to structure that exploration.
When your child challenges your boundaries, ask for good and logical reasons as to why the boundary should change. It is okay to negotiate! Consider your child's reasons and change the boundaries if you see that it makes sense to do so. This breeds a system of trust between you and your child while you remain in the authoritative position as the parent.
Once you have set boundaries, it is important that they are continuously enforced. Without consistency, the structure will suffer.
Proactive and Progressive
Discipline should also be proactive. In order to effectively discipline, the boundaries need to be in place from day one. Otherwise, your rules will only be reactionary and will lose their potential effect.
Discipline must also be progressive, and this is why acceptance of negotiation is important in your relationship with your child. Children mature into a new stage approximately every three years and each stage has a different set of needs, skills, and disciplines.
Christian parenting in this stage focuses on love, safety, and trust. Disciplinary practices in this age group will guide your child's personality traits.
The focus in this stage is on social skills and education. It is now that your Christian parenting must begin helping your child learn consistency, patience, and persistence.
This stage focuses on discovering your child's gifts and skills and becoming rooted academically. It is now that they'll start joining sports teams, practicing musical instruments, and is when you should begin enforcing consequences for not following rules or outside your boundaries.
In this age group, your child will begin to be self-aware, gain the ability to express a personal point of view, and should become drawn towards an area of giftedness. Continue enforcing consequences and encourage your child's gifts and passions through this stage.
As a teenager, your child will grow in self-awareness and become much more independent. He or she will greatly desire to express his or her point of view, begin to judge his or her surroundings. Also, keeping consistent consequences, remembering to keep an open line of negotiation, and being a loving, understanding guide is of equal importance through this stage.
Your child will continue to grow in self-awareness and will become an independent member of the community. It is at this time that you will need to allow your child more independence and respond to him or her with love, respect, and understanding while still keeping a system of negotiation and consequences for breaking the boundaries.
It is in this stage your role will change as an active parent. They will be graduating high school, going off to college, getting jobs outside of the home and perhaps entertaining the idea of long-term relationships. It is your job in this stage of Christian parenting to be a counselor (and direct them to the ultimate Counselor; the Holy Spirit) while allowing your children to make their own decisions.
God has provided us with a loving example of what Christian parenting should look like. Setting boundaries and being consistent with rules is very important to aiding children’s maturity. Children exhibit immaturity for their age because they have either needed to figure out their growing process on their own, or some of their needs were not met. Of course, personality is the variable that is least controllable or changeable.
Each of your children will exhibit a unique personality that will be attracted to any number of helpful or harmful things. It is your job as a parent to do the best you can to focus the energy of your child towards growth in happiness and holiness.
If your child's needs are met and proper discipline (training and guidance) has taken place, your child will have the best chance to mature gradually into an independent, faithful, trustworthy, and hard-working adult.