We had been married six years before having our first child. We didn’t really talk about “when” we would have children before we married, we both just knew we wanted four children. In fact, that’s when I knew my boyfriend at the time was my future husband – well, that and other important factors, of course! Not many young men would say want four children, so I knew he was a keeper!
During the nine months of waiting until our bundle of joy’s arrival, I often heard advice from family and friends. My favorite bit of advice that I believe is still wonderful advice was this: “Discipline early.”
When babies are born and come into the world so pure and innocent, parents don’t really think about discipline. There are important things to think about, such as nursery decor, baby beds, changing tables, diapers, and names. It’s a time of excitement, apprehension, and bewilderment for soon-to-be parents, but after the baby arrives, in most cases, all attention is given to amazement and awe and we watch the little one learn and grow.
Life goes by quickly, and parents don’t think of discipline. How could this precious little one ever do anything that would require disciple? Even if they keep us up at night, it’s quickly forgotten with smiles, coos, and slobbery kisses.
And then reality hits. That precious little bundle of joy figures out he/she can get what they want by using their God-given voice!
I’ll never forget when our firstborn decided to use her voice to show displeasure at nine months old. We were driving to my parents’ house, about 30 minutes away. She wasn’t happy that she was in her car seat. She didn’t even seem to be impressed that I was actually riding in the back seat next to her. In fact, she was MAD! It startled us, really. How in the world could such a sweet, beautiful, little girl all of a sudden get so upset about being in her safe, comfy car seat? Didn’t she realize that we were doing the right thing by having her all strapped in and secure? Apparently not!
So it came to me: “Discipline early.” “Oh”, I thought. “This is when it begins. THIS is early. THIS needs discipline!” So I disciplined her. I gently thumped her sweet little chubby leg. AND SHE BAWLED…..and BAWLED….and BAWLED! You would have thought I did the most cruel thing to that child by thumping her with the least thumping pressure imaginable!
We got out of the car and went inside to my parents house. Our daughter was still crying, but my sister and brother-in-law were visiting for the weekend. While we were trying to explain why our daughter was crying, my sister began to cry! She felt so sorry for her sweet niece and couldn’t imagine that she could have possibly needed that thump! (No worries….about six years later she figured that all out on her own when my nephew was born!)
Throughout the Bible, we see scripture about discipline. That it should be used in our lives today is noticeably evident.
Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. -Deuteronomy 8:5
My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. -Proverbs 3:11-12
He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who ignores reproof goes astray. -Proverbs 10:17
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. -Proverbs 12:1
Our Heavenly Father disciplines those who are His children, and likewise, we must discipline our children. From the very beginning in the Garden, discipline has always been done out of love. Discipline today should always be done out of love, as well.
Sometimes it is hard to discipline. Discipline causes the routine of life to be changed in some way, and because of that, it may make parents less willing to follow through with the punishment. Parents must be willing to follow through and allow routines to change, at times. God gave us a job to do and sometimes it’s tough!
Contrary to how it may feel to the parent or child, discipline shows children that parents love them. Why? Because when parents set boundaries for their children, they are protecting them. Boundaries, even if occasionally pushed against, make children feel secure. Rules show children their parents care about them, how they behave, and what they are doing. Protection and care translates into love to a child….maybe not always at that time, but later it will.
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You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? -Hebrews 12:4-7
Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. -Proverbs 29:17
My husband is the director of Tipton Children’s Home. When children come to the Home, they haven’t had proper discipline (many have had improper discipline), they haven’t had boundaries. They didn’t have early discipline. They haven’t felt safe and secure. Often they haven’t felt truly loved, either. And although it is sometimes hard for them to adjust to the new rules, boundaries, and guidelines when they come to the children’s home, most of them quickly feel loved, secure, and safe. Those feelings are of utmost importance to a child. All children deserve to feel those basic needs that may seem simple to many of us.
As we’ve been on this road of parenting for 22 years now, we’ve had the opportunity to “discipline early” to three more children. Their personalities were all different, but with each and every one of them, that first moment was around that same time – about the 9-10 month stage. Of course, with other children it might be earlier or later. The month doesn’t matter. What matters is that parents recognize early the first sign of a child expressing themselves in a manner that won’t be as “cute” months down the road.
Don’t be afraid to discipline those you love and who are in your care. God will bless you for it.
by Lori Waugh
Lori Waugh is a stay-at-home wife and mother from Tipton, Oklahoma. She is has been married to Joe for 28 years and they have four children. The Waugh’s worship with the Tipton Church of Christ, where Joe serves as a deacon. Lori enjoys teaching ladies’ Bible class, speaking at ladies’ days and retreats, and organizing ladies’ events and volunteering her time for Quartz Mountain Christian Camp (QMCC) the week her husband and son serve as directors and the annual fall ladies’ retreat. Lori writes a devotional/family blog (Shine Like Stars:www.weewaughs.blogspot.com), a recipe blog (Life’s a Bowl of Cherries: www.3cherrycokes.blogspot.com)