More Effective Than Grounding

“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:13 NIV

When our oldest daughter Gwen started taking driver’s education classes, my mother gave us an extra car she didn’t need anymore. It was a little Chevy Citation hatchback – nothing fancy, but the price was right and it was in great shape. Unfortunately, Gwen hated the car. She was embarrassed to even be SEEN in it, and horrified to think of driving it. Grant took pity on her, and as soon as she got her driver’s license, she got his sporty red Nissan and he drove the Citation. Life was good – for Gwen and for me. As the mother of four, I was thrilled to have a new driver in the house who could run errands and drive herself to and from school. The time savings was huge – except when she did something wrong and Grant took her car keys away. It easily added an extra hour of driving to my schedule every day. After a few “groundings”, I had a heart-to-heart with Grant explaining that when he grounded Gwen by taking her driving privileges away, he was in effect grounding me too. Because then I had to drive her everywhere. We were in agreement she needed to be punished. We just needed a different plan – something that would motivate her to make good choices without making my life more difficult. The answer was simple. We wouldn’t keep her from driving. We would make her drive…the Citation.

This was the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) punishment EVER. And it worked! Just a hint Gwen might have to drive the Citation was enough to keep her moving in the right direction.

Staying on the right path is never easy. Temptation is constantly pulling at our kids …trying to seduce them into making harmful choices that can affect their lives forever. As parents, it’s our job to steer them in the way they should go without breaking their tender spirits. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another. As “painful” as it was for Gwen to drive that Citation, she was better off in the long run, and likely saved from situations that could have caused her real pain. We must stay on our knees and seek God’s direction for the right kind of discipline needed in each circumstance, so our kids stay healthy and safe as they grow into the young adults God wants them to be.

PRAYERHeavenly Father, I pray You will continually guide each of my children towards the path You have set out for them. When they stray, help me know how to discipline them in a way that brings repentance and not rebellion, in a way that molds but doesn’t tear down and in a way that plants in them a desire to follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


When NOT To Discipline

IMG_0004“…do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

Colossians 3:21 NIV

A young child’s mind is filled with wonder. It is one of the things I suspect God chuckled about as He created their DNA. As parents, we have to keep our sense of humor well-oiled, because interesting (ahem) things will happen when children ask themselves, “I wonder what would happen if…”

One of the funniest “wonder moments” I can remember happened in 1980 when Gwen was only five years old. We were seated at the dinner table…Gwen sitting directly across from her dad. Grant and I, caught up in our own conversation, didn’t notice our daughter’s cheeks bulging from a mouth filled with milk. I looked up just in time to see her place a hand on either side of her face. The look of “wonder” shone through her eyes as she squeezed her cheeks flat with a SQUISH! Instantly her mouth became an erupting “milk fire hose” and Grant was the unsuspecting target.

For a few very long seconds, we all sat in silence and shock…until Grant, followed by the rest of us, broke out in hysterical laughter.

That event was a multiple choice option for us a parents. Was Gwen disobeying us? No. We had never thought to tell her not to spit milk at the table. Would we use it as a teachable moment? Of course. Otherwise, we’d be sitting targets at every meal. Was it funny? Absolutely! So laugh, have fun, and learn together.

Discipline should be reserved for willful disobedience – when your children deliberately do what you’ve taught them not to do. They must learn to value and respect rules as a part of their character development. But when they do something they didn’t know was wrong, punishment (to them) isn’t fair. During those situations, take great care to discuss and train, but never discourage a child by holding them accountable for something they didn’t know.

Have rules. Make sure they are fair and age appropriate. Clearly define both expectations and consequences for your children, and follow through with what you say you’ll do. Oh, and one more thing…it’s OK to laugh…and then tell them not to “ever do that again!”

Prayer: God, help me keep a sense of humor so accidents and messy acts of “wonder” don’t cause me to lose my temper and lash out at my children. Give me wisdom to respond and not react, so I never cause my children to be discouraged. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.