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.


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