In the months leading up to having another baby, one of my daughters was brimming with anticipation. We just knew she was going to love this baby like her own. I believe she thought she was getting a real-life baby doll for Christmas. Honestly, I was as excited about watching her love her baby sister as I was about meeting this new precious princess.
About one month after our new arrival, I had to talk to my daughter. Her behavior had surprisingly gone downhill since her sister came to town. That particular morning, she had intentionally hurt another sibling. I was following our usual routine when we discipline behavior. Per protocol, I took her away from everyone else to speak with her in private in our downstairs bathroom where we have our “Wise Words for Mom [and Dad!]” posted on the door.
Our chart reminded me to begin with questions. So I did.
“Sweetheart, what is going on? You seem to be upset often and you are hurting others.”
To which she tearfully responded, “I need attention.”
My daddy heart was instantly pricked. It was true, we had been so focused on the new baby, that she felt left out. Long story short, I let her know she would receive a consequence for her hurtful behavior, and then I would also make sure we get a date at the “Orange Spot” coffee shop that week.
The reality is she did hurt someone else and she needed to be disciplined.
The goal of discipline is to restore relationship, not break it. And relationships are restored through repentance and forgiveness, both with God and the offended parties.
Not only was her relationship restored with her sibling, but our relationship was also enriched through getting to know her heart better and then setting up a date to get to know her even more.
Knowing the greater purpose of discipline helps give me the courage to do it.
I write all of that as an introduction to the following blog on parenting. We often look for shortcuts and reasons for not disciplining our children. It would have been convenient to overlook her escalating behavior, but that approach would have allowed her to stay on a path of relational destruction.
My flesh often tries to avoid disciplining because it seems so disruptive at the moment, but the reality is we are building a house on a rock and not sand. That takes time and energy (lots).
There is a reason Proverbs says that the parents who do not discipline their children actually hate their children. It’s true. My desire to avoid discipline is rooted in my own selfishness and not the good for my child long-term.
Here is a link to Tim Challies’ blog on 5 Bad Substitutes for Discipline.