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Disciplining or Training the Heart of the Child

I write about discipline very tentatively. When I read disciplining articles or books I always image in the author to have these perfectly obedient children! I do not- I have four very different children. The oldest two in particular could not be more different. To be honest if I only had my oldest daughter, I would probably feel highly qualified to write about disciplining children, she is obedient and good- the type of child you can take anywhere!

However, The Knight Boy is far more challenging! He has been sent from on high to humble me, and kill off any notion of perfect parenting!

Having the Knight Boy has challenged everything I would think about parenting. I have had to really meditate and pray over scriptures like: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.” Proverbs 23:13, and “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6. What do these scripture look like when worked out in life?

With such very different children I have quickly learnt that one size fits all will not work in discipline. With one child a gentle word is enough to correct them, with others they need more serious consequences. I have also come to learn smacking is not necessarily the best option. I have nothing against smacking, I do not believe it a evil of society that needs to be banned. But I also have found it does not always work.

Children are complex humans and an ABC of how to take them from being babies to good, well adjusted adults does not exist. Raising a child is more about knowing that child than a how-to-manuel. I have found my style of parenting soften as time has past. The scripture I find most challenging is, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21. Being firm and strict is not a problem for me- I am not afraid to discipline bad behaviour, however I am learning to train more the heart of the child.

The Jedi Boy is not a naughty child, he is deeply inquisitive and determined. It is better to call him spirited. Over the years I have started to now see his behaviour, not as the problem, but as a symptom: the fruit of something. As a parent I need to find the root behind the behaviour. And then tackle the root! That does not mean if he has just been rude to his sister he “gets away with it”, because I know he is tired. But these triggers have to be taken into consideration. For example, the other day he was very tired (don’t know why, he may have been going through a growth spurt) but his behaviour was making everyone fed up. But more and more discipline would not correct the behaviour. So I let him have time on his own on the computer, he needed alone time. He re-appeared for dinner a charming and relaxed child.

Like us our children have a big ball of flesh. They have it from birth. Only the Holy Spirit can deal with our flesh. We can only prepare the way, to allow God to move in our children. We train them in godly principals, coping techniques for when temptations come along; but it is the Holy Spirit who changes the heart. The rod of discipline will not remove that flesh. We also have to recognise when God uses his Rod of discipline in our own lives, we still know his love and gentleness- children need to feel they are loved even when disciplined.

Training the heart has become the goal of my parenting. Recognising each child’s uniqueness, strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Looking for what that child needs to flourish. For example, the boys need time and space to run and make noise- if they are deprived of this for too long their behaviour will suffer, it is my job as a parent to facilitate this. This means practically keeping an eye on the weather (we live in Scotland- it rains!), factoring in a trip to the wood or park in the day etc. The Girl needs time to be quiet, time where gentleness prevails, this means time away from the boys. If their hearts are touched; if they feel loved and their needs met (even though they do not consciously recognise this) then their behaviour will be better. It is not always easy, and it is a journey full of many mistakes. But is there any journey more worthy of making?

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