This post is just being reposted in its entirety partly because I thought it was just right as it was originally written and partly because I'm on vacation with my family this week. Discipline is hard! Ha! (But I'd still love your thoughts in the comments!)
It’s funny that I should be writing about discipline because, truth be told, sometimes I feel like the most undisciplined person ever.
It’s not that my parents didn’t discipline me—they did. For sure. They made sure I behaved properly. They made sure I finished piano practice and homework before I watched T.V. They made me play outside and get plenty of exercise.
My parents tried their best to raise disciplined children . . . and yet . . .
And yet I fail so often.
I have many days that my lack of discipline has me getting up late, rushing to get kids to school, foregoing my workout in order to get other things done, leaving my kitchen a mess until dinner, neglecting my time with God.
And just last week I found it much easier to rationalize the behavior of one of my kids so that I didn’t have to do the hard work of disciplining her. I just didn’t want to do it. (But I did.)
So, really, me? Write about discipline? I want to laugh and tell you it’s a joke, but that wouldn’t be the truth. The truth is, I know how important discipline is in my life because I lack it so much.
And another truth . . . I see how important it is going to be in the lives of my daughters because they aren’t naturally self-disciplined either. Who really is?
So today I want to explore this idea of intentional discipline. What is it? Why is it important? What does it mean for our kids?
What is Discipline?
First of all, let me say what discipline is NOT. I am not talking about the old “to-spank-or-not-to-spank” question. (Remember, intentional parenting asks “why” not “how.”) There are plenty of how-to-discipline-your-children books out there—some of them very good.
I’m not here to tell you how to discipline your kids, but rather to encourage you to really do the hard work of discipline so that your children will enjoy happy, productive lives and relationships.
So, I’m not talking about spanking. I’m not talking about shaking a finger at your child for spilling his milk. The discipline I’m talking about is self-discipline—helping your kids monitor their own behavior so that, ultimately, they will become well-disciplined adults.
Does this require sacrifice on the part of a parent? You bet it does. It also requires paying attention, giving your time, and doing some hard work.
A lot of hard work.
I’ve already hinted at this, but I’ll say it a little differently: I’m afraid that undisciplined kids become undisciplined adults. And being an undisciplined adult is a very hard person to be.
This may seem like a simplistic example (and it probably is), but even on the days when I give in to my slothfulness, I feel out-of-sorts. I feel like my day just doesn’t go quite right. I feel like my lack of discipline affects not just me, but everyone around me. I can’t imagine living like that every day.
And, worse yet, when I am undisciplined about my time with God, my relationship with Him is affected. I don’t enjoy the peace that I would normally enjoy on a day when I’ve taken time with Him. I don’t enjoy that closeness with God, all because of my own lack of discipline.
So, you see, my relationships are affected when I lack discipline.
Undisciplined adults also tend to lack stick-to-it-iveness. When situations become hard, undisciplined people give up. They don’t have the inner fortitude to just hang in there and keep going. A strong sense of discipline will help a kid become an adult who can handle tough situations without wilting under pressure.
Finally, we discipline because God calls us to do it. The Bible has a whole lot to say about discipline. God disciplines us for our own good—because He loves us; as parents, we should do the same. God calls a person who lacks discipline evil (Proverbs 5:22-23). Now there’s a scary thought, huh? And the Bible says that a person who is disciplined is called “blessed” (Psalm 94:12).
To show our children love, to save them from evil, and to ultimately bless them—these are the reasons we take discipline seriously.
So when I encourage you (and me) to discipline your kids intentionally, what do I mean? I mostly mean don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to set rules and to follow them consistently. Do the hard work it takes for your kids to become the well-disciplined adults you want them to be.
Some friends of ours have been fantastic examples of this. They have set the expectation that each of their children will spend time reading their Bibles every morning before breakfast. (What a wonderful discipline to instill in our children!) But just telling their kids to read their Bibles every day wouldn’t be particularly intentional. Our friends take their expectation to a new level when the family meets together for breakfast in the morning. Our friend (their dad) asks each of his kids what they read in the Bible that morning. If one child has not had time to read that morning, perhaps choosing a few more minutes of sleep over Bible reading, our friend sends them back to their room for a few minutes to spend time reading the Bible. No breakfast until his children have fed on God’s word first.
Personally, I have a thing about getting homework done (probably because my mom did too), so one rule in our home is that homework and practicing instruments must be done before any television is turned on after school. (My parents were more strict—no T.V. until 6:30 p.m.) If my child chooses to put off homework for a little while after school, that’s O.K.—they do need a little break sometimes—but they understand that they will not watch T.V. until all chores are done.
It might sound like a small thing, but I hope this is teaching my girls that they must be disciplined with their use of time. Sure, they have choices about how they use their time, but they also need to realize that they have to prioritize their time in order to get the most important stuff done first.
So guess what? It takes discipline to discipline your kids. Really. It takes determination. It takes setting rules. It takes follow-through. Sometimes it takes time and energy and even tears on your part in order to see the fruit of strong discipline in the lives of your kids.
And I fail. Every day I fail at this. But I have to keep telling myself that it’s worth it. It really is. Because I’m seeing results every day.
So, let’s talk. What are the things that you are intentional about in the area of discipline? What discipline is it important for you to see in your child? What’s hard about discipline for you?
Intentional Parenting :: Reprise :: Introduction
Intentional Parenting :: Reprise :: Introduction, Part 2