Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
Divide and conquer is not only the modus operandiof warfare, but it is also the strategy of kids who know that if they can play parents against each other, or pit weariness against the single parent, they have won the battle. Our English word disciplinecomes from a Latin word, discere,which means to know, or, in the broader sense, to discern.
Yet the fact remains, providing discipline for children is one of the most distasteful things in the whole spectrum of parenting. Regardless of how tired or stressed out a parent may be, enforcing the teaching-learning process is one of the most important contributions a parent makes to the future of his children.
When a child’s behavior deteriorates to the place where a corrective course is necessary, you as parents need to ask some important questions.
Question #1: Ask, "Why has discipline become an issue?" Kids have an amazing radar system. When you are under stress, automatically kids pick up on that fact, but they don't understand the pressure you are under. They just sense that Mom or Dad is really edgy, and quite often their behavior is an attempt to get your attention. A child who has been deprived of his sleep is going to be fussy--that's not an issue which requires discipline. But an eight-year-old who tells his mother to shut up because he's talking on the telephone, is a boy headed for real trouble as a teen.
Almost always, improper behavior is a red flag that says, "You need to spend more time with me!" Or, "I want your attention, and I want it so badly that I am willing to risk getting into trouble to get it."
Question #2: Ask, "Have I made it clear that certain behaviors are unacceptable in our family, and there are consequences to choosing those behaviors?
A parent who takes out his anger on his child treats the child unfairly, but the parent who teaches his child that some things aren't going to be allowed, does his child a great favor; he or she is equipping the child for life, which is a far sterner taskmaster than the parent who, out of his love for his child, insists that the child learn to do right.
When behavior becomes a problem, you need to go one step further by asking--
Question #3: "Am I consistent in what I expect?" Let's say bedtime is 9:00 o'clock. But you aren't consistent. And then when you are tired and stressed you yell at your kids because it is after ten and they still aren't in bed. You are sending conflicting messages which create insecurity. Being consistent is tough, but it's important.
One little guy knew that his dad meant what he said and said what he meant. After the little boy went to bed, he called out, "Daddy, can I have a drink of water?" "No, son, go to sleep." Five minutes later another plea, "Please, daddy, can I have a drink of water." "No, son, and if you ask one more time, I'm coming in there." For five minutes there was absolute silence, and then a resigned little voice says, "Daddy, when you come in here, can I have a glass of water?"
Finally, there is one more question.
Question #4: Ask, "What is the best way to deal with this situation?" How you do it has so much to do with its effectiveness. Anger creates anger, but correction administered with love produces well-adjusted children who know the differences between right and wrong and chose to do right.
Well does the book of Hebrews say, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).
Resource reading: Ephesians 6:1-11