Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One reason to discipline without guilt


This guy is giving me a run for my money lately.

He has a really big personality. Very imaginative. Even more talkative.

This picture is just what you think it is. He took a brown marker and drew hairs on his chest. Then, he posed like that. Then, he said "Put it on your blog." I'm not sure which part of that sequence of events I should be most worried about. (Perhaps the fact that I'm doing it.)

One thing I do know is that he keeps me laughing, every single day. Well, except the days when the wildness stops being funny and starts being disobedient and disrespectful.

That was our day last Monday. And also last Tuesday. Oh, also, Wednesday. It stunk, which isn't the word I wanted to use right there. I had to continue to discipline him and experience the ugly fallout for three days. My husband can attest: I was not a happy mommy.

But I was aware of one thing during the chaos and the emotion. This is a teachable moment. I knew my son needed to learn that he has a choice. He can live under my discipline, or under my blessing. The results of his choices in my home under my authority should be a reflection of the results of his choices He will one day make as a man under God. And the way I handle his rebellion should reflect the way God handles us when we decide to play by our rules instead of His.  

Last week, I kept thinking of this passage in the Old Testament. It is such an important passage. Here, God is sharing the terms of the covenant He is making, through Moses, to the Israelites. This portion is the summary of the covenant. It's the bottom line. I love it, probably because there are zero shades of grey. It's crystal clear. Deuteronomy 30:11-20 says,

This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach. It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.

But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy. “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

I kept thinking of this concept, living under God's blessing or under consequence. (We all know what both feel like, don't we? We know the reality of these truths all too well.) Now, obviously, I'm not cursing my son for disobeying. But I am disciplining him in love. And he is not a fan. He doesn't quite get the love part as he sits in his room thinking I'm the meanest mother in the world.

The point is that he was living under unpleasant consequence (in his room, no privileges, missing out on fun things) as long as he dug his heels into that disobedient spirit. And that is a good thing. Though it sometimes kills me to see him pained by missing out on some activity, and though I can feel so disappointed when things don't go the way I expected, in my opinion, those tough decisions reflect God's loving discipline of us. 

When talking to him, I used some of the language from this passage. I was offering him a choice. Disobedience was getting him discipline, and no one was liking that. I made sure he knew that I do not enjoy disciplining him, but that it is my God-given job. However, if he obeyed me, he would be able live under my blessings once again. And by that, I mean my pleasure in him. Our relationship could be a blessing again. And I would be more willing to say "yes" to fun activities also. I was communicating all this lovingly to him, hoping he'd soften up and yield. Hoping he'd choose blessings. But as you know, the human heart is stubborn and full of pride. Mine and yours and his. It took until Thursday for him to yield to me consistently.

Thursday night, making sure my husband was in the room, I took the opportunity to PRAISE THE SOCKS OFF my son for being obedient and respectful to me all day. I noted each thing I could recall that he did right. I commended each chore, and each time he offered to help me. I praised him for choosing a happy heart when asked to do something. He was absolutely beaming. He flung himself into bed so full of joy, the clear byproduct of living under blessing.

"Finally," he said. "Finally, you can say good things about me!" He was proud of himself. Oh, how I gushed about how pleased I was to praise him. Oh, how I hugged him and noted how much better it was for both of us when he chooses obedience. Yes, I hugged him on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday too. But it felt different. Our relationship was muddled with sin. I had grace for him, and still loved him, of course. But his sin was causing us both pain. It was not until after he turned from his rebellious ways and chose obedience that our relationship was a blessing once again. Like ten-fold.

This whole process is familiar, isn't it? A parable of our stories, between our Father and us.

A prodigal running home is cause for blessing and celebration indeed.  As I reflect over last week, I think we were all reminded of something very important. We are all stubborn and sinful and selfish sometimes. We dig our heels in.

Except, God loves us too much to let us stay that way. 

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.
Proverbs 3:11-12 

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11


  1. Great post. That photo is hilarious! it reminds me of this post I wrote a while ago, going through some similar challenges

  2. you said it leslie.

    i had a rough afternoon/evening with my youngest son yesterday. on one hand i am so glad he is strong willed, i pray that he uses his will to stay true to his morals, beliefs, and his love for the Lord as he ages. but right now when he uses it against the rules etc. of our home that's no bueno.

    i wish my boys would fully understand when i have to discipline them and say "this hurts me way more than it hurts you." that it is 100% true. i will keep leaning on these verses.

  3. You did it again! Your posts on godly parenting are so great and there aren't enough (Christian) parents who go about it biblically. And I love your honesty!! Thank you!

  4. Love this. My oldest is the same age as he is and I feel like we are going through a challenging stage-- constantly trying to assert her independence from me & The Rules. Thank you for the reminder-- we ALL battle this with our Heavenly Father. Ugh.

    Here's to the parenting Olympics we are all in the midst of.... May we all parent with grace and love!

  5. Yes!! His awesome chest hairs made the blog!! I bet he didn't realize the content that would be written with his photo. :)

    Great word, Leslie. Thanks for your thoughtful words on parenting.

  6. I so wish I had some real life friends like you! Enjoying the blog..

  7. you and i, we parent the same: disciplining our children because we love them, because we love God's word, and because we ultimately training them to submit to their loving Father's discipline as well.

    this disciplining thing is hard WORK! BUT the fruit i enjoy from the work is the most DELICIOUS!! my kids are awesome and so enjoyable (most of the time).

    and i agree discipline MUST be balanced with delight (blessing).

  8. I like the wording "a happy heart". When I have children I so want to help them fill their hearts with love and happiness, and when we run into situations like the one you had with your son, we will have the grace to work through it. This was such a wonderful read! *^_^*v