Parenting - Limits and Boundaries

I know a lot of people who discipline their children to punish them. Shouldn't discipline be done out of love?

Absolutely. “Discipline” comes from the word “disciple” which means “to follow,” which means “to be a pupil, to be a learner, to be a follower.”

And so discipline is to teach children to follow God and to follow their parents. That’s clearly why we should discipline our children. Not to punish them, but to protect them and to train them in the way that they should go and to train them in the proper manners and habits of life.

Punishment is for those that don’t listen to discipline, that don’t follow the discipline of their parents. They’re eventually going to end up in more trouble with the law, trouble in prison, trouble with all sorts of problems.

That’s how God treats us. He disciplines those whom He loves. Love should be the motivation of our discipline, not to make our children feel bad that they did something wrong but to train them in the way they should go.

Parenting - Limits and Boundaries

My teenage son refuses to go to church, even though my husband and I ask him. Then my husband lets him out of going because he does not want to won't force him. This disagreement on how to handle our son has caused much strife in our marriage. What do you say?

The fact is you should never ask your teenage children to do anything. You must tell your teenage children what they’re going to do. And if they don’t do what you tell them to do, there needs to be severe consequences for them not doing it. They’re living under your roof, they’re eating your food, they’re sleeping in the bed you paid for, and they’re wearing the clothes that you bought for them.

You have the responsibility to tell them what to do, not ask them. As parents, you need to stop being afraid of whether they like it or not. Yes, they’ll put up a fight sometimes. Yes, they’re going to throw a tantrum here and there. You just need to be firm and not even tolerate any of that.

Both of you – you and your husband – need to go to God and go to His Word, and find out what God has to say about how to deal with our children. In the Old Testament, there were severe consequences for rebellious children. In the New Testament, the Bible says children are to obey their parents. That means we don’t ask or request of them what we want them to do; we’re commanding them to do what we want them to do.

If that’s too harsh for you, then you shouldn’t have children. It is your responsibility to make them surrender their will to you so one day they’ll surrender their will to God.

And if you and your husband are out of agreement, then you need to get some counseling. You have to both agree that something has to be the common denominator, the common bond in your marriage and in your home that is greater than your own experiences and opinions, and that needs to be the Bible. That’s the base, the foundation on which we build our lives. If you’re not in agreement with that, then you need to get to the place where you are in agreement with that because the Bible is the Word of God and that’s the only way to have successful families.

Parenting - Limits and Boundaries

I’m curious as to what kind of input you would give concerning about a 4 year old child who is pulling a sibling’s hair and pinching. Without going into good verses evil and God and the devil, I just wondered what advice you could give.

First of all, all children have to understand there are rules in the home. It is up to the parents to establish clear-cut rules and clear-cut guidelines. You say, “Here are the rules. There’s no pulling hair….and you list the others.” Write them down. Write down your rules in your house. “There’s no pulling hair. There’s none of this, none of that.” As we were raising little children in our home, we had a chart that if you commit this behavior then here is the consequence. If you commit this behavior of biting or hitting, then you get 4 swats, 4 spankings. If you do this, then you get 4 spankings and you have to write, “I will never do this again.” You have to have a clear list of rules, the violations of that rule, and then the consequence of that rule.

So with a four year old, you have to say, “Now, here’s the rule. We are not allowed to pull hair in this family. If you do that, then here is the consequence; you will be spanked or whatever the consequence is that you or whoever are the parents of that child decides. And then you have to enforce consistently that consequence every single time that they do it. You can’t hit-and-miss. You can’t sometimes enforce it and sometimes not, sometimes you do what’s right and sometimes you don’t, sometimes you’re too tired to enforce it and sometimes you’re not.

If you want children to obey you, you have to have clear rules, you have to have clear consequences and you have to have consistent execution of those consequences every single time.

I also think that you should get a Children’s Bible and start reading it to them even at 2 years old, 3 years old, or 4 years old. And you should read that to them because their comprehension is more than what you think it is.

Parenting - Limits and Boundaries

Regarding discipline – when would it be over the line?

Discipline is over the line when it’s done out of anger, when a parent is angry in executing discipline to his children, or when it is potentially dangerous, when it’s abusive, when it’s harmful, when it’s something that would leave a scar on your child. That’s crossing the line.

God gave children buttocks to absorb the sting of a rod, the sting of a wooden spoon, or whatever you use that you can control. I don’t believe that people should use belts or anything like that because you can’t really control those as well. It has to be something that is controllable and your emotions need to be controlled, the child’s body is controlled and the execution of the spanking is done with control and that it releases and produces an attitude of change, of humility and of repentance.

So, if you’re angry, do not discipline your children in anger. The Bible says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, do not bring them to anger.” Well, what is the thing that causes children to learn to be angry? It’s through their parents being angry themselves. So we have to make sure that we discipline our children without anger. We make clear rules that have clear consequences in advance so that you’re always abiding by exact rules that you’ve set up before the offense is committed.

For example, we have a chart that if our child does this, if our child does that, here’s the exact consequence for this action; action “A” equals consequence “A,” action “B” equals consequence “B”. And you have all that in advance so that when a child stumbles or commits one of those actions, then you already know what the consequence is and you’re doing it with their full knowledge of the consequence that is to be expected. That’s what keeps you from going over the line.

The Bible says that the rod of correction drives out foolishness from a child, not punishing them by embarrassing them and shaming them and things like that. That’s unacceptable. I would never endorse that. I don’t find that in the Bible. You should never do something that would belittle your child or make your son or daughter feel inferior or feel belittled or feel abused or feel exposed in some way.

But it should all be done lovingly, and it should be done orderly, decently, something that you would not be ashamed of letting all the world see. I would not be ashamed of letting the world see me spank my children because there would be no abuse in it, there would be no anger in it and the world would see that this is a good model of how to discipline a child. And so if you would be embarrassed for somebody to see what you’re doing or see what you’re saying to your children, then you know you’re crossing the line. And that’s embarrassing and belittling to a child.

Parenting - Limits and Boundaries

In disciplining your children, I’ve heard you say that you need to have them bend over your leg as an act of submission. But, it can take like an hour to two hours to get them to bend, so I was hoping for some tips on that.

Really, I think the spirit that we need to address is that it is an act of submission. It is a surrendering of the will of the child that you’re after. So, if they can surrender their will without bending over, that’s fine. But usually, children are willing to withstand a spanking; they just don’t want to surrender their will. And that’s the goal. The goal is for them to surrender their will.

So, perhaps one thing you could try is to have your child practice. I know this sounds silly, but in times when they’re not being disciplined, in times when things are happy and cheerful and everything’s okay, have them practice, have them rehearse bending over. I used to do that with my kids just playfully. “Okay, let’s pretend I was giving you the rod. Now, bend over. Let’s pretend I was spanking you, now, bend over.” And it’s in a light-hearted way; it’s not a militaristic atmosphere or anything like that. But just in a playful way to show them, to tell them, “Look, this is what I want you to do. This is what I expect you to do when you do need to be spanked.”

That’s one suggestion. But the goal and the key to it all is a surrendered will. And yes, that may take time. But it takes time to potty-train your children. Who potty-trains their children the first time around? It doesn’t happen the first time around.

It takes more patience but it’s more loving because it prevents you from disciplining your child out of rage or anger or frustration because you’re lovingly, patiently getting her to bend over. And I know this sounds almost silly to people that don’t have any children or don’t think that it’s important.

And yet, when they’re fifteen, you’ll thank God forever that they surrendered their will when they were five, that they surrendered their will when they were four. Because when they’re fifteen and they want to go out and date and they’re not ready emotionally and they want to go out and do this and do that and they want to do all these things and they want to open their heart to boys and they want to open their heart up to girls and they want to do all these things and they’re not ready to do that and it’s not proper for them to do that, you want to be able to say something to your child and they’ll surrender their will to your will.

And if they don’t learn that when they’re 2, 3, 4 years old by getting spanked and bending over or surrendering their will then, it’s certainly going to be harder when they’re 13 and 14 and 15 and 16 years old. I hope that helps.

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