#12 Discipline in an emotionally healthy manner. Children do not feel good about themselves when they “get away with things.” At the same time, discipline that is arbitrary or angry is unhealthy and frustrates our children. We encourage our kids when our discipline instructs and teaches rather than serves as an avenue to “get even” with our disobedient child.
In the early years, children are motivated by discovery and feeling, not by reason. As they develop their understanding of right and wrong, we need to make the rules abundantly clear as well as the consequences or punishment if the rules are broken. One of the areas we need clarity is recognizing the distinction between childish irresponsibility and willful defiance.
Things like leaving their baseball glove out in the rain or spilling their milk at the dinner table are examples of childish irresponsibility. These things happen because children are forgetful, clumsy, immature, etc. Children should not be punished for being children.
Willful defiance, on the other hand, needs to be addressed with immediate and appropriate discipline. What do I mean by willful defiance? Let me give you an example from our household without identification to protect the miscreant. We had a gymnast toddler who somehow managed to stand up in her high chair no matter how secure we made the seat restraint. On one of the occasions when Houdini stood up in her chair, I calmly said, “_____, please sit back down in your chair.” Her response was classic toddler. Rather than sitting down, she put her tiny foot up on the tray in a Captain Morgan pose and looked at me with the clearest, “NO and what are you going to do about it, Dad?” expression you have ever seen. This is willful defiance. The child clearly knows and understands what is expected and goes in the opposite direction. So, I did something about it. I administered an age-appropriate spanking in a controlled manner and gave her a another opportunity to obey. We celebrated her new choice to obey her parents.
An expanded version of Ephesians 6:4 might read, “Fathers, do not provoke, antagonize, or exasperate your children to the point of harming your relationship. Instead, nourish them by establishing a training program that puts into their minds the ways and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.” When we discipline in an emotionally healthy manner, we encourage – not frustrate – our children. And a training program that follows this path will nourish your kids.