Photo by Keren Fedida on Unsplash
Photo by Keren Fedida on Unsplash

Balancing Discipline


      This past year has brought massive disruptions in our lives.  With both of us working full-time jobs it’s limited our time with our kids.  When we do have time with them we’ve realized that we can easily default to correcting and disciplining them and not as much time encouraging and  building into them.  Any suggestions for helping us find some balance?


      Whenever I speak at family conferences the majority of parent’s questions often relate to correction and discipline.  When we have limited family time the real or perceived “problems” can easily become a focal point of our interactions with our kids.

      From a Biblical perspective discipline is important.  Proverbs 19:18 tells us to discipline our children, “for in that there is hope . . .”  Hebrews 12 tells us that God’s discipline is a sign of his love and that it is done for our good “that we may share in his holiness.” (12:10)  In fact, “it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (v. 13)

      At the same time Proverbs 22:6 instructs us to “Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  So there obviously has to be a balance.

      The fact that you are asking this question says that you care about your kids.  So how do you measure success?  Is your goal merely well-behaved and manageable kids, kids who don’t embarrass you, or kids who are “becoming conformed to the image of His Son”?  I already know your answer.

      Okay, here’s a simple start.  For the next two weeks keep track of how much time you spend with each one of your kids.  Don’t let the results discourage you.  Notice how much of the time is spent just listening to them, encouraging, cherishing, and nourishing them . . . and how much time is spent keeping them in line.  Are you spending as much time “planting good seed” as you are “pulling the weeds?”

      Next, make sure you “schedule” some quality time with them individually and as a family.  Right now it may not be as much as you’d like.  Just do the best you can.

      Make sure that a lot of that time is spent asking them about them and then just listening.  Don’t react to what they say.  Simply show a genuine interest in them . . . seeing through their eyes and hearing with their ears.  And then pray with them and for them.  This can be much more powerful than you might think.

      Many parents have discovered that as they’ve become more proactive in carving out some quality time with their kids, even if it’s limited, there seems to have been a decrease in the need for correction and discipline. 

      Our children need more than guidelines, guardrails, and warning signs.  They need shepherds who understand their minds and hearts and the challenging times in which we live.  That’s the parenting model given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.   

      The heart of Christian parenting is shepherding the hearts of our children in ways that help them know that they are “precious in His sight,” at least in part, because they are precious in our sight.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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