By now, you’ve probably heard the news about NFL running back Adrian Peterson facing felony charges for child abuse. As I looked at the graphic images of the bruised and marked legs of the four-year old he spanked with a switch, it got me to thinking about my views on discipline and why I believe the way I do. I don’t doubt my views about discipline might evolve over time; but as of now, here are some thoughts about discipline I feel are timeless that every parent should consider.
1. How we discipline doesn’t have to be nor should it be etched in stone.
It’s ok for the way we discipline our kids to change over time–whether it’s because our children age and mature or because of the varying severity of offenses. For instance, it’s ok for our views about discipline to change in between the oldest child and youngest child. We also shouldn’t be afraid or hesitant to vary our method of discipline if we find something isn’t working.
2. Discipline is not a one-size-fits-all formula.
Just because we were disciplined a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the right way to discipline our kids. It could be the right way, but it might not. Likewise, we shouldn’t feel compelled to discipline each one of our kids the same way. It could work out, but it might not. Think about yourself compared to a friend, relative or coworker. I’m guessing you all are pretty different and motivated in different ways. It’s no different with our kids. The way we discipline a child should be based on that particular child’s personality, interests, likes and everything else that makes them unique. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages of Children and The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers are good resources to help determine how your child is wired.
3. Discipline should never be doled out when we’re angry.
It is not the time to discipline our children when we’re heated or upset. I don’t know about you, but I rarely carry out rational actions when I’m angry. If our kids do something to get our temperature boiling or we find ourselves doing a lot of yelling and screaming, we should take a few minutes to gather ourselves before moving on to discipline our children.
4. Discipline should always include correction or teaching.
Punishing bad behavior is good, but explaining to a child why a behavior is not good or showing them a better way to act is even better. The goal of discipline should always be to shape and mold godly behavior for the long-term.
5. Discipline should not be taken lightly.
Rather than defaulting to what we’ve grown up knowing or what everyone else is doing, at some point, we need to really think about how we want to discipline our children and why. Whether it’s praying about the best way to discipline our children, seeking guidance from the Bible or reading books on discipline, we should take a very thoughtful and measured approach to how we discipline our children.
6. Discipline may need to involve spanking.
I don’t think every offense warrants a spanking, but there are some offenses that are so flagrant and egregious, that a spanking might be necessary. As much as society is heading away from physical discipline, I don’t feel parents should be stripped of our ability to spank our kids. I also don’t believe, however, that spankings should ever be so intense that they leave physical marks, cuts and bruises. Nor do I believe we should spank our kids in such a way that our children grow to fear us.
7. Discipline is best doled out in private.
Given the age gap between ourselves and our kids, we sometimes forget that our children also have feelings, egos, pride and dignity. I don’t know many adults that would appreciate their boss or other authority figure disciplining them in front of their peers or in a public place. It’s no different with our kids. They might be young, but we still must honor them. If we consistently discipline our kids in public, we could be doing great damage to their dignity and causing unhealthy emotional walls to grow around their heart. I know it’s not always convenient, but as much as possible, we must try to discipline our children in private.
8. Discipline works best when mom and dad (or other caregivers) are in agreement.
When disciplining our children, they must see a united front from mom and dad. If dad dishes out the punishment and mom discredits everything he does in front of the child (or vice versa), that child is going to learn real quick not to take the punishment or the one doing the punishing too seriously. You might think you’re currying favor with your child; but more than likely, it’s only giving them a distorted view of authority and how it works. I know presenting a united front might be hard, because what if you don’t agree with how your spouse is disciplining your children? If that’s the case, it’s best to voice your concerns to your spouse in private and work together to come up with a discipline plan that works for both of you.
I’m curious, what are some other thoughts you have about discipline? Have these views morphed over time?