In my last post, I proposed that there are 3 main theories of disciplining children: Flesh-based; Formula-based; Faith-based. I discussed the flesh-based aspect of parenting, and came to the conclusion that, according to the Bible, nothing done in the flesh lasts. Therefore, any parenting that resorts to flesh-based strategies, while they may momentarily accomplish the purpose intended, in the long run will fail to meet the requirements of reaching your child’s heart.
Today I am going to discuss the other two disciplining methods.
Formula-based. There are some great parenting theories out there. Just like with most things, you can find parents who adhere to the 10 Steps, or 5 Must-Dos in raising great kids. We all want simple instructions; the easy secret method. We listen to experts and try to fit ourselves and our families into their models.
However, I have found that the one-size-fits-all in parenting isn’t big enough to encompass the variety present in my kids. I’ve found that if you put faith in a belief system other than God – even if it is a sound belief system – you’re being led by a human’s theory rather than Divine leading.
I began my parenting journey with a theory in my pocket that ascribed to first-time-obedience-every-time-with-a-happy-heart. What could be wrong with that? Of course my children should happily obey my voice every time I speak.
Thankfully, during my early years as a parent, I attended a Bible study in the home of a great friend with 6 children. I respected her tremendously, both as a parent and as a godly woman, and watched her every interaction with her kids. What I saw was love, individualized parenting, consistency and an expectation for obedience. What I didn’t see, however, was an adherence to a formula, an expectation of blind obedience, or legalism to a philosophy that helped her feel in control, but left her kids and their wills and opinions completely out.
By her example, I realized that formulas aren’t all they’re built up to be, and that only God knows our hearts and our kids’ hearts. Relying on formulas prevents us from searching for God’s voice in each circumstance, and it forces our children into a mold that wasn’t custom made for them.
Faith-based. Nowhere am I challenged to walk by faith more than in parenting. On a moment to moment basis, I am reminded that I am in over my head, and that my lifetime’s experiences aren’t enough to raise my kids in a loving, consistent home.
II Corinthians 3:4-6 “We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.”
Very early on as a parent, I saw the limits of myself. I think most parents do. About the time our beautiful baby begins to show its opinions about things and chooses to act in defiance of our will, we realize that we don’t have enough patience and wisdom to complete this task. It is at this point that parents reach for either methods of their flesh or formulas that will guide them.
I propose that it is at this point that what we should reach for is the leading of God.
It is a continual moment by moment reaching for His voice, His direction, His answers.
It requires taking a few moments, even in the heat of the moment, to take a breathe and ask for His guidance.
It is a conversation with your kids to make sure that you’ve listened to them, and that you have your finger on the pulse of their motivations, their ambitions, their weaknesses and strengths.
It is spending a few moments each evening going over the events of the day and asking for His perspective on various situations.
It is time spent praying for each child.
It is resisting the urge to correct out of the flesh, or to hold on tightly to a theory that would bind your family to a set of standards that, while may be comfortable, may not fit with each member’s personalities or unique situations.
I had a little boy who was, simply stated, a huge behavior problem. He was my instigator. He stirred up strife and seemed to be at peace only if siblings both older and younger than him were angry. However, this was at opposition to who he really was. In his heart, he was a kind, thoughtful little guy, and I knew that he hated disappointing me.
I began with a very strict stand on his behavior. Discipline was firm, fast, and consistent; however, because of that, it seemed like he was constantly in trouble with me, and I was constantly disappointed and/or angry with him. I quickly realized that this strong correction wasn’t touching him. His behavior wasn’t changing, and I wasn’t reaching his heart.
So one night, I stopped to listen to what God might be trying to say to me about my son. Almost immediately after asking God, I heard the phrase “circle of 3” followed by an explanation of what that meant. This son didn’t know who he was, and he was striving to find his place within a family where the other 3 siblings were great friends and fit easily. God showed me what a sensitive kid he was, and how these circumstances were causing him to not be able to find his sense of self, and therefore, he was acting out in a desperate attempt to find his place.
With that new information, I was able to radically change my parenting strategy. I was able to initiate different kinds of conversations and implement different discipline techniques. In short, I was able to reach his heart.
This would not have happened had I disciplined out of my flesh. This would also not have happened if I had disciplined with a formula. This kind of connection only happens when you discipline with faith in a God who knows you and knows your kids.
For my sweet parent friends, I encourage you to put the formulas away and stop trying to parent with the limitations of your own wisdom and strength. Start practicing hearing His voice and using His wisdom to guide your discipline practices.