By Sarah Evans
See Part 2 here.
As I was planning to discuss the issue of consequences and punishment, I realised how much of a huge topic it is and that there is a lot to cover. I will therefore finish the house rules series before starting a new series dedicated solely to this particular topic.
This week I want us to think about the importance of consistency and standing firm in our decisions as parents.
After my work with many children who have severe behavior problems in the school setting, it has become extremely clear to me that consistency in discipline is paramount, when aiming to help our children mature and thrive in accordance with God’s plan for their life.
Aside from the common environmental influences of abuse, neglect and conflict that are often present in the lives of the children I have worked with, the other thing that is often missing is clear and consistent discipline. In fact for some, the parents swing on a pendulum from one extreme to the other, either ignoring their child’s inappropriate behavior one day and then severely punishing them for the same behavior the next (often out of intense levels of anger and frustration). Now even though these are extreme cases and probably do not represent the average family, it is still important to recognize the importance of consistency in our own discipline methods, and recognize that inconsistency causes feelings of confusion and frustration for our children.
So when we are thinking about how to apply house rules we need to remember the following:
Do Not Discipline Out of Anger
The Bible tells us that it is ok to feel anger but that we should not sin in our anger. This clearly tells us that if we discipline our children when we are angry, in the ‘heat of the moment’, we will likely sin against them. It is not imperative that we discipline our children in the instant that they do or say something inappropriate. It is always better to wait and pray first. In this manner we will be acting upon Godly counsel and out of His wisdom, instead of in our own weakness.
I want to open up a small section here for parents with toddlers. When parenting these little curious bodies, it is much better to be a preventative parent than a reactive one. When you see your child running into trouble, redirect them onto something else to avoid the inevitable instead of watching the whole scene play out, and then find yourself experiencing frustration and disappointment. I find that giving these little ones two clear choices (that will achieve the same goal) is the best strategy to use in getting them to ‘work with you’.
Do Not Make False Threats and/or Promises
If we want our children to grow up with integrity of heart, we need to be a good role model to them of honesty and truth. And so we need to mean what we say, and say what we mean. It is better to say nothing and to discipline later than to make false threats and promises to our children that we have no intention of keeping. Many of us have made the mistake of telling our children that if they do something ‘one more time’ that we will do this and that, but then they do it one more time and we do not follow through. This develops mistrust and our children learn the following ‘mum and dad never mean what they say, so I do not need to listen to them until they scream at me really loud’. This is a sad reality because if they have difficulty listening to us the first time, it is likely that they will also find it difficult to listen to God the first time when He exercises His discipline upon their life.
Expect the Limits to be ‘Tested’
Remember that the ‘testing’ stage is a normal part of putting discipline in place: our children want to know if we are serious, and if they can really trust us to be firm and consistent (on a subconscious level). And so, When this ‘testing’ happens, we must ensure that we do not give in. It is crucial that we stand our ground so that in time things will calm down significantly. We will then see that our children begin to respect and esteem our God-given parental love and authority, and so as a result God’s love and beauty will be clearly reflected through our family and this will cause other families to follow in our Godly example.