God calls parents to discipline their children in love. However, sometimes parents slip into “punishment” mode which connects their misbehavior to their identity, which can have long-term negative effects. On top of that, punishment implies repaying someone with what he or she deserves, the opposite of the gospel.
Genesis 1:27 says, “God created mankind in his own image.” Every child is God’s image-bearer; the goal of parenting is to feed this understanding in a child, rather than punish them in a way that communicates they are the opposite (bad, evil, not good enough, etc.) As a parent, you too are God’s image bearer. Strive to parent in a way that models God’s grace and love to your child.
Here are just a couple of suggestions for ways to discipline your children in a healthy way that does not link their negative behavior to who they are in Christ:
Time-outs: Time-outs are effective modes of discipline, but a tool that must be used in conjunction with other tools. For time outs to be effective, keep them short. Psychologists recommend one minute for each year of your child’s age. Also, eliminate “reinforcers,” such as allowing your child to play during a time out or watch television. Thirdly, use a timer,and if the child leaves a time out too early, restart the timer. Finally, shift to other discipline options if the time-out is ineffective.
Removing privileges: For children 18 months and older, removing things of importance such as toys or playdates works well. However, be careful about making meaningless threats. If you tell a child they will have something taken away for poor behavior, and the child chooses to disobey, don’t go back on your word. Also, increase how long the item is removed according to the child’s age. A few hours might be effective for a three-year-old, but to impact a seven-year-old, you may need to remove the item for a few days.
Logical consequences: The idea here is “the punishment fits the crime.” Look for creative ways to connect the child’s poor behavior to the discipline. For example, if the child was told not to eat his or her red popsicle on the carpet, and chooses to do so anyway, have the child help you clean up the stain.
I’m praying for you and trusting God is meeting you each day as you strive to “train up [your] child in the way he should go” (Psalm 22:6). Press on!
Partnering with you,
p.s. If you haven’t checked it out already, this post goes with the original found in our Online Parenting Class! (click text to go to link)