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How to Discipline in Love

GUEST AUTHOR: JEN WILKIN

How do you discipline in love?
Even when your child makes you really, really mad.

Parenting small children can feel like Groundhog Day: correcting the same behaviors over and over again, often with no discernible improvement. When children disobey a clear expectation, parental anger can surge as a response. What should we do with that anger? Is it sinful? Or is there such a thing as righteous anger over the disobedience of a child? And most importantly, how can we keep anger from corrupting an act of discipline (training and correction) into one of retribution (getting even or vengeance)?

Many parents have a disconnect when thinking about anger and discipline: We suspect that disobedience should never touch our emotions—that good parents are able to correct their kids in an almost robotic, non-emotional way. It’s important to acknowledge that we will get angry when our kids disobey, and that our anger is not sinful by definition. It turns sinful when we welcome it and use it to justify an unmeasured response. I do think it is extremely rare that we feel righteous anger of any kind, much less in moments of child disobedience. My anger in those moments was almost always related to the feeling that their disobedience was a personal offense against me or evidence that I was a failure at raising obedient children. That’s a dumb kind of anger. And it’s a dangerous kind, because it turns discipline into retribution lightning-fast.

Power Brokers and Peacekeepers

I believe the answer is not to be a robot, but rather to take time to calm down and gain control before administering discipline of any kind. We are allowed to get angry, but we are not allowed to sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26). We are even allowed to express our anger on our faces or in our tone. However, because children are not as good at filtering those expressions as adults, I believe it’s the better part of wisdom to control our outward reactions. Most children tend toward one of two categories: power broker or peacekeeper. The power broker recognizes emotional displays on our part as a sign that they are gaining leverage. If we show our anger over a disobedient act, we can actually reinforce the behavior. The peacekeeper, on the other hand, sees a display of anger as rejection. Seeing our anger may cause the peacekeeper to cease disobeying, but it may also breed fear and secrecy.

But if we completely hide our anger from our kids in those moments (particularly older kids), we can miss another training opportunity as important as the correction at hand: modeling how to handle anger well. We can do so by taking time to calm down before disciplining, and by assuring our children (verbally and physically) that our love for them is untouched by their disobedience. We can also model repentance when our anger expresses itself rashly. We can confess it to our children and ask forgiveness, demonstrating to both the power broker and the peacekeeper the power and peacefulness of humility.

Slow It Down

Proverbs 14:29 warns, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (ESV). If ever we need to exercise great understanding, it’s in moments of disciplining our kids. By thinking through what triggers our anger, we can begin to repent of its sinful aspects, working to slow it down to a safer speed. Once the moment of conflict has passed, we can do a personal debrief, asking ourselves what was really at the root of our anger. Did we have a wrong expectation? Did we allow an age-appropriate lack of self-control to get underneath our skin? Is anger our go-to response in general when things don’t go as we had planned? How could things go better the next time?

Consider also how our own childhood influences our discipline patterns. For the parent who grew up in an angry home, the combination of disciplining and anger will feel either so normal that we forget to question it, or so inseparable that we avoid disciplining altogether. Neither of these is healthy. Sometimes agreeing to “divide and conquer” with our spouse can help. If your spouse has better control than you do, consider deferring to them as the primary disciplinarian until you can trust your own responses better. Know your triggers. If neglected chores drive you crazy, hand off discipline to your spouse. If back-talk sets off your spouse, maybe you are the better parent to discipline for that.

In every discipline moment, keep in view that our children are our neighbors, to be loved as we love ourselves. By remembering that they are people, we are more likely to correct rather than avenge. If anger arises, we will temper it with compassion and forgiveness, expressing it appropriately and disciplining out of love.

Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom to four great kids, and an advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of his Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches women the Bible. She lives in Flower Mound, Texas, and her family calls The Village Church home. You can find her at JenWilkin.blogspot.com

Following Our Crucified King

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]During our year-long exploration of the Gospel of Matthew, I have often thought of a memorable dialogue in C.S. Lewis’ classic literary work, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the imaginative land of Narnia, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver prepare Susan for the upcoming meeting with Aslan, the Christ figure. Lewis writes,

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” … “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “…Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

These words, written by C.S. Lewis in the 20th century, describing Jesus, could have also been penned by the Gospel writer Matthew in the first century.

For twenty-eight chapters, a central thread of Jesus’ kingship has been woven tightly into the fabric of Matthew’s inspired eyewitness account of Jesus’ 30-year sojourn on a sin-ravaged earth. From the opening chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, we have seen how Jesus of Nazareth is the incarnational fulfilment of the Messianic Davidic King foretold in the Old Testament. He is Immanuel, God with us, who has come to rescue us from sin and death. Jesus is not safe, but He is good, for He brings to us forgiveness of sin and a new creation life: a radically changed life and a reordering of our heart loves, lived out in faithful vocational stewardship in the context of a radically new community called the local church.

The Gospel writer Matthew presents a compelling case for Jesus as King, both in His sinless humanity, as well as His Trinitarian deity. Jesus’ kingship was manifested through His supernatural power, healing of the sick, calming of the storm, and the ultimate miracle of His bodily resurrection from the dead. More than any other Gospel writer, Matthew displays Jesus’ kingship through the brilliance of His teaching on the truly good life and how it is experienced in His easy yoke of apprenticeship. Here we encountered the paradoxical topography of the kingdom Jesus is ushering into our lives and our world. When we take up our cross and follow Jesus, we lose our life, but in losing our life, we find it. When we put on Jesus’ yoke, we find true freedom not slavery.

Matthew points us to Jesus’ transforming path of discipleship in the Great Invitation. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30) Jesus’ yoke fits us. In Jesus’ yoke, we learn to live our lives like Jesus would if He were us. In Jesus’ yoke, we embrace both His precepts and practices as we experience transformation and the life we truly long to live. Matthew also reminds us that it is Jesus’ yoke of apprenticeship that makes it possible for us to live into the Great Commandment, to love God rightly, and to love our neighbor rightly. It is in Jesus’ yoke that we, His church, can fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations.

Throughout our journey in the Gospel of Matthew, we have seen Jesus heading step by step to the cross in faithful obedience to His Heavenly Father. On His way to the cross, where He became an atoning sacrifice for us, King Jesus revealed that His plan for redeeming a lost world centers around His church. In Matthew’s Gospel, we are reminded that the local church as God designed it is the hope of the world. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18)

Matthew builds to a grand crescendo with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In each successive movement toward the cross of Calvary, he reminds us that Jesus’ impending death is not a tragic accident, but a triumphant plan orchestrated by a sovereign Trinitarian God. Carrying our sin on His shoulders, Jesus, the sin-bearing Son of God, was cursed and abandoned by God the Father so that we would never have to be cursed or abandoned by God. The Apostle Paul writes, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV) Jesus’ bodily resurrection is vindication of what was accomplished at the cross: the forgiveness of our sin and our reconciliation with God.

The resurrection of Jesus affirms the goodness of the everyday material world we live in and work in. The resurrected body of Jesus that cooked breakfast and ate with His disciples demonstrates that there is significant continuity between the present world and the new creation world to come. The empty tomb declares all of life matters; the school work we do, the customers we serve, the companies we run, the things we fix – they all matter. The resurrection is the hope that our deep longings for significance will be fully satisfied. It fulfills our longing for a love that never fails, a life that never ends, and work that truly matters.

Matthew ends his Gospel account of King Jesus similarly to how he began his writing. The risen Jesus is Immanuel, the God who is with us and will never leave us. Because of who King Jesus is and what He has done, there is nothing more important than following Him wholeheartedly in all of life. Jesus is not safe, but He is the King. He is worthy of our greatest thought, our most wholehearted devotion, our best sacrifice.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” heading=”HEAR MORE” image=”7388″]You can listen to any of our sermons on the Gospel of Matthew by visiting our SERMONS resources. Look for Sermons beginning December 2015 – A King for ALL People in the SERIES ARCHIVES.[/vcex_feature_box][vcex_button url=”/sermons” style=”outline” align=”right” font_family=”Merriweather Sans”]SERMONS[/vcex_button][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]