One thing that does not come very easy for me is exercise. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it once I start, but it’s just hard for me to make it a habit. But the truth of the matter is this: if I don’t do anything about it, I cannot expect to have the results I desire. That’s the bottom line. If I want results, I must put forth effort.
A successful mom needs to exercise self-discipline in her own life if she is going to effectively teach her children to be self-disciplined, and so before discussing discipline in the lives of our children, I’d like to address several areas in which we, as moms, need to exercise self-discipline.
TIME – Proverbs 31:15 tells us that the worthy woman rose in a timely manner to lay out plans for her day. Then in 31:27 we further learn that she was not idle. A woman who squanders her time is not building her home, but is foolishly tearing it down. On the other hand, we need to avoid packing too many activities into the day. There is an endless list of activities that are available for our children: baseball, basketball, soccer, music lessons, band, etc. If we are not careful, we can be so over-scheduled that our whole family stays frazzled, feeling rushed to go here and there most of the time. Bottom line: many families, including homeschooling families, are overextended with so many pursuits that we end up giving God our little scraps of left-over time and energy. Additionally, it is possible that we as parents set our children up to have behavioral issues, because of the hectic schedules we allow.
HOUSEHOLD – Proverbs 31:21 indicates that the virtuous woman planned ahead for the needs of her family, and her preparation gave her confidence about the future. Mothers need to create an organized environment in the home. I realize that there is a wide range of flexibility in this area, but a house habitually looks like it’s been turned upside down and inside out makes it difficult for both parents and children to function well. Children need to be trained how to take care of their own belongings. They are much more capable than are often given credit. We need to tell them, show them, do it with them, watch them, and when they can do a sufficient job on their own, hold them accountable.
FINANCES – Proverbs 31:11,12 reveals that the worthy woman had the trust of her husband; she did not act in such a way that caused him to suffer financially. Financial difficulties are one of the top causes for marital disagreements. There is an epidemic in America of people spending more than they’ve got. Dave Ramsey is getting rich because so many people have gotten themselves in a financial bind and don’t know how to get out. Women have great influence on the financial stability of their family; how we handle money will have great influence on how our children will learn to handle their own money.
Discipline, according to my computer dictionary is “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” It is impossible to give the concept of discipline the attention it truly deserves in a blog post; however, here are a few points to consider:
Parents Must Present a United Front. Dad and Mom must be a team, working together with the same goals, with a united front presented to the children. This is very difficult to do when each parent has a different view on parenting, i.e. what degree of strictness is proper, appropriate responses for various misdeeds. This becomes even more difficult when one parent seems unnecessarily harsh, and the other parent, who disagrees, feels they must protect the child. Whatever the case, parents need to deal with that in private and come to some sort of agreement. I realize this is much easier to say than to actually do, but very necessary. Children will definitely pick up on the differing expectations of parents; they will quickly be able to discern which parent will be the most willing to give them their way. Have you ever known a child to play this game? “Mom, if Dad says it’s okay, can I go to the mall?” Mom says “Sure, I guess so, if it’s okay with your Dad.” Then the child goes to Dad and says “Mom said it’s okay with her if I go to the mall, so is that okay?” Do you see a problem here? Kids are notorious for working their parents to get their desired outcome. It’s important for parents to not allow children to manipulate, or play the parent, in order to get their way.
Clear Boundaries. To be fair to our children, they need to have a clear understanding of what is acceptable and what is not. For example, what’s going to happen if you tell them not to jump on the couch one day, and then the next day they are allowed to jump on the couch? There has been a mixed message sent to them and a pattern of disobedience has been set into motion. They have no reason to believe that you mean what you say.
Structure. Children, as well as adults, function better when there is some structure to each day. Bedtime is a particularly important part of the day in which a routine helps children settle down for a peaceful night. If you establish a pattern they come to expect – bathing, brushing, Bible time, and bed time, it will help them learn to wind down and it will turn the evening into a peaceful, enjoyable time for the family.
Manners. We all know children who are… well… difficult to be around. Sadly, what used to be common courtesy is not so common anymore. Even “back in the day” when I was in grammar school, I remember addressing a teacher by saying “Ma’am” and she asked me not to do that! Whether other children do it or not, we must insist that our children show proper respect for us, their parents, as well as other people in authority. Some dads and moms would rather be buddies with their children, rather than be seen as an authoritarian, but that’s not what our children need. That doesn’t mean that we ought not be friendly, but we are not peers, on equal terms with our children. Even if no one else in your social circle is doing it, train your children to use terms such as “Yes Ma’am,” “No Ma’am,” “Please,” “Excuse me,” “Thank you,” etc. Teach your boys to stand when they meet an older person, and help your children become comfortable carrying on polite conversation with people of various ages.
Consistent Correction. Here is where much or your success or failure lies. Once you’ve made your expectations clear, you must follow up consistently. They will test you on this – count on it. Children seem to know when it’s a perfect opportunity to test you, whether it be when you are shopping or when you are trying to nurse the baby, anytime you’re busy and it would seem so much easier to just let it slide this once. However, when children purposefully defy your authority, they must be corrected, whether or not it is a convenient time.
Deut. 8:5: “And thou shalt consider in they heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so Jehovah thy God chasteneth thee.”
Proverbs 13:24: He that spareth his rod hateth his son; But he that loveth him chasteneth him betines.”
Hebbrews 12:6,7: “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. It is for chastening that ye endure; God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not?”
If a parent promises punishment for misbehavior and then doesn’t follow through, the child is essentially being trained not to trust what his parents tell him. In other words, this translates into lying to the child. This can reap tragic consequences down the road, because later, when a child learns that God has commanded us to do or not do certain things, the mindset has been established that if they ignore admonition, nothing happens anyway.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.” There is debate as to whether or not this statement is meant to be an absolute, or a general principle. In either case, we must recognize that this is the expected norm. Even if there are exceptions now and then, it seems we are much too ready to focus on the exceptions, rather than on the general truth stated. Rather than expecting and excusing the exception, we need to have confidence in this verse – if spiritual things are #1 in our own lives, and subsequently in our homes, we will be able to raise our children to be faithful servants of God.
We, as parents, play a great role in charting the eternal destiny of our children (Prov. 23:13,14). How we choose to parent will also have bearing on our own spiritual outcome. God pronounced judgment on Eli because he failed to train his sons properly (1 Sam. 3:12-14). Let’s be diligent to exercise discipline – both in our own lives, and in the lives of our children.
Joy and her husband George live and serve as missionaries in Iringa, Tanzania, East Africa. They have four children, and a much-loved son-in-law. You can follow her adventures (and find many wonderful posts) at her blog.
Other posts in this series: