Parenting: Discipline

Good morning, my name is Phil Human and I’m the pastor here of Journey Church.  This morning we are in our second week of a short three-week series about Parenting.  If you are a parent, or are thinking about being a parent someday or are a veteran parent – we hope you find some things here useful and helpful.

I appreciated the feedback that I received from last week’s parenting pep talk here – and what I heard most was- that – especially in the sense of cell phone and screen time – it’s just so hard for parents to know how to help their kids navigate the waters of social media and smart phones.

We talked last week that it is the goal of a parent to provide biblical standards and a secure environment.  It used to be that when I first started talking to parents – many years ago – the hardest thing for parents was the biblical standard part.  But now – based on the feedback I received last week – the hardest job of a parent might be providing a secure environment from a world that does not respect or honor adolescence.

Our youth pastor Kyle Short sent me some graphs I want to show you – that I hadn’t seen –  Three graphs – different studies – all showing the same thing…

1.  Graph 1.  On the left – teen suicide rates.  On the right – tracking major depression in 12-17 year olds.  According to the CDC

2.  What Happened right here?  What happened in 2010?  Smart phones.  Facebook.  Instagram,  Twitter.  Snapchat.  Tik Tok.

3.  Graph 2.  Here’s another study of the same things – Suicide, depression, self harm specifically amongst girls.

4.  Again – when did the sharp rise occur?   2011.  Smart phones are making their way into culture…

5.  This is a graph correlating the amount of screen time with the depressive symptoms in girls.

Now – to be fair – the article that I found these graphs from summarized the article by saying clearly there is something bad happening to adolescents – but the science isn’t settled on the role that social media and smartphones are playing.

I read a book one time by an author David Elkind who wrote a book called All grown up and no place to grow.   In the book he describes the fact that media and merchandisers used to follow an unwritten code where they wouldn’t target teens and tweens.  They don’t follow that unwritten code any longer.  In fact tweens are targeted – why?  Tween spend 44 billion dollars a year.

If you want to sell a particular kind of clothing – you pay someone who calls themselves a social influencer and who has a few million followers to wear it.

Why is this so dangerous?  Because – one of the results of adolescence is a change in thinking.  The biggest change in your child undergoing adolescence is NOT a change in their bodies – it’s in the way they think.

One of the ways that teens change is they become ideal.  Whereas once they would get into fights about – My mom is better than your mom!  Now they can picture the ideal mom and guess what – you aren’t it.  And now they have dozens of apps telling them the same thing.

Worse – teens become in touch with the ideal 13 year old girl – and guess what – they aren’t the ideal kid either.  And they have hundreds of streams telling them they aren’t measuring up.

I spoke with a counselor friend who told me that the first thing she tells anyone who is dealing with depression is – get off of all social media.  It’s killing you.  And it’s playing a role in killing our kids – unfortunately, quite literally.

So parents – who is going to fight for your kids?  The social media platforms are all fighting for them – they need you to fight for them.  So – keep battling.  Keep doing what you can.

And let me encourage you – it doesn’t matter how many people call themselves Social influencers – the reality is that hands down – far and away – YOU are the greatest influence in your kids lives.  Yes you are.  Far more than their friends.  Far more than their phones.  SO long as you don’t relegate your influence to them – you are the biggest influence in their lives.

I did an informal survey a number of years ago – I surveyed about 150 7th and 8th graders.  I asked them to fill out a survey – It simply said – “I wish my parents would…”

And I will give you the top three answers.

1.  Spend more time with me.  That was the number 1 answer.

Number 2 -leave me alone.  Let me do more stuff on my own.

Now what do we learn form these things?  They want freedom and they want a solid relationship and they want to learn how to grow up.

Number 3 – I’m stressed out.  This survey was done before the Iphone.  And even then they were stressed out.

So let me pray for our students – who are the most stressed out students in history.

Parenting is hard.  We all make mistakes along the way.  There is no such thing as perfect parenting.  But there is such thing as intentional parenting.  Good parenting is a skill to learn.

This morning we are going to talk about a topic that is absolutely essential for good biblical parenting.  And that is the topic of discipline.

The Bible has much to say about the topic of discipline.  Let’s take a look…

And we will start with the most famous verse – Proverbs 13:24  Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

Tell us how you really feel, Bible?  Don’t hold back!  Okay, so a pretty strong verse to start – to discipline our children is to love our children.

I remember reading an article from a mom one time and the title was, “Why I don’t discipline my kids” – and part of the article said – if my child slaps another child in the face, it’s like he or she tripped.  Why would I discipline them for tripping?  Now I know that this mom here genuinely loves her son.  But I think that we can be misguided, right?

There is in our culture a theory that our children are basically good – and that given the right environment – they will naturally learn to do the right things all on their own.  No intervention is needed because children are born good and will grow up to be good and pure if we just leave them alone.

But the Bible teaches the opposite.  That children are born not good, but selfish. And that they are born naturally self-centered.    And if left untouched they will grow up to be selfish.

The Bible asserts that a good parent learns how to discipline their children.  To steer them in the right direction.   Teach them what or right and wrong and that there are consequences for actions.

And the most important word that comes into this conversation about discipline is the word LOVE.   Discipline is always motivated by love.  Not anger.  Not frustration.  Not dominance.  Love.

Discipline is correction motivated by love.

It is not the powerful parent asserting dominance over a child.  That would be unloving.  It is not strength versus weakness.  It is not might makes right.  Those are unloving motivators for discipline.  The bible instead insists that discipline be done out of love for your child and in a loving way.

And you know why you discipline?  Because you know better than your child.

The Bible proposes the idea that you, mom and dad, actually know more than your child.  You are wiser and more intelligent and that you understand right and wrong.  The Bible makes the case that you know more than you child.

You know the importance of sleep and that is why you require it.  You know the importance of eating healthy and that is why you make them eat vegetables.

The Bible makes the case that you, mom and dad, understand that the word NO is an important word, and as acceptable to hear as Yes.  And that you are willing to teach NO to your kids because you love them.

We never say no.  Really?  I don’t say no, I just guide him to a different activity.  Then my guess is you never answer questions.  Hey mom, can I set my bed on fire with this lighter? You gonna answer that question?  It’s a legit question that deserves an answer.  I have a different idea, how about we eat ice cream?  What are you talking about ma, it ain’t breakfast?  Come on, ma!

The Bible teaches that there is a chain of command in your home.  And God’s at the top, and parents obey God.  Then children obey parents.  Eph 6:1  Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.

There is a battle going on for control of your house, and parents, we need to win the battle decisively.  So we are called to discipline our kids – because it is the loving thing to do…  Which is why, by the way, our heavenly father disciplines us at times too.

Deuteronomy 8:5 Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

Hebrews 12:
For the Lord disciplines those he loves…

So discipline is not something that we do TO our kids.  It is something we do FOR our kids.  I like this quote I read by author Zig Ziglar, “, “A child who has not been disciplined with love by his little world will be disciplined without love by the great big world.”

It’s biblical to discipline our kids.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, right?  Especially when your kids are young, right?  How many parents here have kids five and younger?  Ever feel like all you are doing all day long is disciplining your kids?  I understand the hope behind these blogs that we can live a life free of having to discipline – especially five and under.

I heard an interesting breakdown of ages this week from Andy Stanley, who is an author and pastor – and he and his wife said there are basically four stages of Parenting.

Ages 1-5 are the discipline years.  This is right/wrong.  Wise/unwise  Fair/foul in our home.  These are the guardrails we run on in our family. 

6-12 are the training years – this is how you do things.

13-18 are the coaching years – You can do it!  Cheering them on to take responsibility.  More freedom – with accountability.

19 and up are the friendship years.

I include these because I want to encourage the younger parents that it’s a season of discipline.  And your kids will learn from you and grow in wisdom and then you will have to discipline less often and as they grow older the discipline looks a little different too.

One of the most important things here though is not to get them mixed up.  Discipline, train, coach and friendship.   

If you refuse to discipline your kids in ages 1-5 – you have no hope in disciplining them at 14.  And when our kids are 10, they don’t need us to be their friends.  Right?

How many have seen the detrimental affects of parents abdicating their role in hopes of being their kids buddy?  Anyone ever see it work?

It’s important that we make decisions now that are going to be in the long term benefit of our kids later.  That’s why we do the hard work of disciplining the now.  We must make decisions today that our kids will be thankful for in twenty years, not twenty minutes.  And this means that there are going to be a few occasions when our kids are not going to be happy with us.  It’s worth it.

Now, let’s talk about some specifics of discipline. When do we discipline a child?  Our kids should know when to expect discipline?  It’s not always easy to know – was this just an accident?  We don’t want to discipline a child for making errors.  Those are teaching opportunities.

For Jody and I we had three “Dis”es of discipline that we picked up from our friends Ian and Joanna Vickers.  We disciplined our kids when they were dishonesty, disrespectful and disobedience.

We value honesty in our home.  If our kids cannot be honest where will they go in life, other than Washington DC?  Tell the truth no matter how painful.  If our kids lied to us, they were disciplined.  Absolutely.

If our kids were disrespectful to us, they are disciplined.  No one may speak disrespectfully to my wife.  We thought it was very important for our kids to learn how to plead their case without being disrespectful. Without treating us or one another contemptuously.

So we gave them chances to appeal decisions.  They were allowed to ask why.  We tried our best to explain why.  We tried very hard not to just knee-jerk react with a “no”.  We tried to say yes as often as we felt we could.  But there were times when we said no and they vehemently disagreed.  And they are allowed to disagree – just do it respectfully.

Students – it’s a classic mistake to demand that your parents treat you like a grown up – but then when you don’t get your way you storm off to your bedroom and slam the door.  (I talked to a mom this week who said that her daughter did that and that she took the door off the hinges – no door for you – you’ll get it back next week.)

And I’ll be honest – if we made a decision and our kids wanted to appeal it – we loved it.  To see them appeal our decisions respectfully.   And we try to let them win appeals.  And sometimes we change our minds and sometimes we didn’t.  But at the very least we get to discuss the topic without it devolving into a shouting match…

Lastly, we disciplined our kids if they were blatantly disobedient.  We expected from our children first time obedience.  If we asked them to stop doing something, and we were sure they understood us -we expected them to stop.

There was none of this – Johnny I told you to stop!  Stop it and I mean it!  Johnny I’m going to count to three!  One, Two, Two and a half!  I mean it Johnny!  And what we felt, was that was teaching our kids that we didn’t mean what we said until we got to that decibel.

We are training our kids, right?  We are training them to learn when we really mean what we said.  And so for us, we meant it the first time.  It took some discipline for our kids to learn, but they did.

Now, one thing that we try to never discipline our kids about is when they make a mistake.  It’s not a sin to make a mistake.  It’s not a sin to forget to do something they said they would do.   It’s not a discipline issue if someone spills milk by accident.  Or if they forget to do something and we feel it’s a genuine mistake.  Sometimes it’s difficult to discern, but generally we try our best to stick with the three “Dis”s.  Disrespect, dishonesty and disobedience.

Be clear.  That’s the first rule of discipline.  Second – be consistent.

Be consistent.  Don’t change the lines.  I got disciplined for this this time, but not now.  Son gets disciplined for attitude, but daughter gets off the hook.  That’s a no-no, right?

And it’s important that if you are married that you maintain a consistent, unified front.  So if you are married, you aren’t allowed to have two different standards – you can’t have mom’s line and Dad’s line.  Which means it takes a lot of communication between mom and dad.  Because You don’t want the kids to feel like, okay, I can get away with treating mom like garbage, but dad is a different story.  No way, man!

One of the greatest compliments we ever received was from our daughter who told us recently that the most frustrating thing for them as kids was that they knew they could never crack us.  That it wouldn’t do good to try to play one against the other.  That was a very kind compliment.

But what she didn’t know was the hours of behind the scenes tension as Jody and I tried to get on the same page about  what we would allow and what we wouldn’t.  Sometimes Jody and I were on different pages.

I didn’t always agree with Jody’s decisions. Nor she mine.  And so there were lot of times when I’d say to Jody – hey babe – come back here to the bedroom for a minute?  I need your help for a minute. And we’d close the door and huddle up.  I honestly don’t know why you feel that way.  Why are you letting them do this?  Why aren’t you saying yes?    

I’ll be honest that the older the kids get -the harder it gets for us.  They are teenagers, right?  And so some of our longest conversations about our kids have come when they are teenagers.  And we need to debrief together.

Be unified and try to be consistent – Don’t show weakness or they will take you out!

Now if you are a single parent, or divorced?  Very hard on kids because they have two sets of rules to follow, right?

And in divorced homes were there is tension between parents – sometimes the temptation is to rush the friendship side of things.  Right?  And then you have one parent who wants to be buddies and the other parent is the bad guy or gal, right?  Because your rules are more strict.  It’s super tough and sometimes you just need to be okay with telling the kids – these are the rules here.

The bottom line though, is that when it comes to discipline – be clear – be consistent and lastly, be calm. 

No freaking out allowed.  Don’t punish when you are in freak out mode.  Don’t ever discipline in anger.  In your anger, do not sin.  Fathers don’t exasperate your children.

This is especially true if you are parents who will use any kind of spanking or a swat on the behind as a tool of discipline.  And that’s your call – some do some don’t.  And every child is different when is comes to receiving discipline.  But you have to try something to train your child up.  But whatever tool of discipline you choose to use, we don’t employ it in anger.

Easier said than done, for sure.

We live in Chestnut ridge – just across the street from us is a park.  Great park.  I was sitting on my porch one when I saw a small child running up the street, about 50 yards in front of his mother.  She was yelling – Johnny, wait Johnny, stop Johnny.  Wait for me Johnny.  Johnny had only one thing on his mind – the playground.

Did Johnny hear his mother – most certainly.  Did Johnny listen to his mother?  Most certainly not.  She never got angry – she just continued to call out for him to stop and not cross the street.  Johnny stopped for about a half second before running into the street – just in front of a car that was coming around the bend.

Thankfully, the car stopped in time – the driver was careful knowing he was approaching a playground – thankfully.  But little johnny almost got plowed by a car.

I watched to see what mom would do to little johnny – how would she respond to his disobedience?  And there was nothing.  And little johnny was none the wiser.  Not one minutiae wiser, about the importance of listening to mom.  About safely crossing the street.

Never discipline your kids out of anger.  Be calm.

After we disciplined our kids – we never brought it back up again.  Because we discipline in love – and love keeps no record of wrongs.

Wait to discipline when cooler heads are prevailing.  Be calm. Be consistent, be clear.  And above all be loving.

Don’t grow weary mom and Dad.  Payday is coming.  The friendship years are coming.  The day will come when your kids will thank you for your diligent love you show them today.