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Love and Discipline

The word “discipline” has gotten a really bad reputation. Many people think of love and discipline as almost opposite things, with discipline seen almost as a necessary evil. Because kids don't like to be told "no" or made to obey, (and because they sometimes yell about it) we think it must be bad.

Still others believe it's necessary to give the child a reason why they can't have what they want, or even better, that we should use rewards to get them to willingly comply with our wishes. I think it's honestly more a case of mom or dad not being able to handle the child's disapproval! We want our kids to like us, and we hate conflict, crying, and screaming--it's just easier not to even go there.

The thing is, love and discipline go hand in hand–you can’t have one without the other. The Scriptures teach that the one who loves his child is careful to train him and discipline him. Discipline isn’t the 'meth dad' in Wal-Mart yanking his child’s arm and screaming at him to shut up–it's making your expectations clear ahead of time, and training your child--ahead of time--to obey.

For example, before taking your child to the grocery store, tell him what you are going for: “Joey, I need to get some groceries, and I want to take you with me. I want you to stay right next to me the whole time, and help me get the things I need. On this trip, we're just getting groceries--no toys or candy this time. Let’s practice.”

Then, demonstrate and practice exactly how you want him to behave. Put some groceries on the sofa, coffee table, etc., along with toys and candy, and pretend you’re walking through the aisles. Carry a bag, tell Joey to find what you’re looking for and put it in the bag. If he mentions the toys, remind him that you're not getting toys this time.

Before you actually head out, make a good list--you don’t want to spend time trying to think about what you need when you get there. On the way to the store, remind Joey what you expect of him--"The rule is, stay with mom, no toys or candy." As you get out of the car, make eye contact, and say, "Before we go in, what's the rule?" and have him tell you. The next time you go, all you’ll need to do is remind him by smiling, making eye contact and saying “Remember–grocery store rules!”

Okay, so what if your child decides to test the grocery store rules? Nearly all kids will test you from time to time, to see if you really mean what you way. So, if Joey disobeys, stop--make eye contact. Then calmly say, “What's the rule, Joey?” Depending on what Joey does, you can probably keep going--just offer an occasional reminder.

However, if he is disrespectful, blatantly disobedient, or starts to throw a fit, don’t say another word–just calmly leave the store. Don't huff and puff, make threats, or gnash your teeth, just leave. Yes, this is a hassle, but long-term, it's more important than your groceries; you're teaching Joey that you mean what you say, and it's best to obey.

Don't overlook the behavior, don't nag, try to persuade, or offer a reward if Joey shapes up--and for Pete's sake, don't say "We don't behave like that", or "We don't allow that kind of behavior" and then go right on! If you do that, you're demonstrating that you actually DO allow that kind of behavior, because there were no consequences!

When you say "We don't allow that behavior" but don't correct with some kind of consequence, you're showing you actually DO allow it!

To love your child is to discipline him. Children are at the mercy of their desires and impulses--they don't have self-control. Every time you correct them by some kind of unpleasant consequence, they're gaining the strength of self-denial and self-control; you're setting them free to choose their actions instead of being slaves to their impulses.

And that's the most loving thing you can do for a child of any age. Don’t wait another moment to show your child how much you love him.

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