Discipline is a Dirty Word

“What happens when we disobey Mama and Papa?”

“We break God’s heart.”

“Ok. What else?”

“We have con-se-kens-es.”



“God knew that Mama and Papa would be the best parents for you, so when you disobey us, you disobey God first since he chose us for you.  There are always consequences to our actions, and you get a consequence to remind you how important it is to obey.”


This scenario plays out in our house several times. A day.  Sometimes I count silently in my head before repeating it again to avoid blowing up.  Sometimes, we make her count with us, because we’re all angry at each other.  After the decided upon consequence of time out, taking away a treat or a special toy or television show, we always make sure to reinforce how much we love El, how proud we are of her when she shows us that she wants to be obedient, even though sometimes, it’s the hardest thing to do.

Discipline is one of those things that’s rather touchy for parents.  Everyone is quick to the draw, armed with their own beliefs of how this word should play itself out in their homes. In some circles, it’s almost a dirty word. That part, I understand.  In order to discipline properly, you got to get a little dirty.  Out of all the words rolling around in parenting circles right now, discipline is my favorite by far.  But perhaps, not why you’d think.

When I think of disciplining my child, the first word image I get is, “disciple”.  I think of how Jesus actively loved his wayward, sometimes devoted followers.  I think often of how he must have needed to stop and count himself before explaining something for the 47th time. I want so very much to have the same heart for El that Jesus has for us. When I think of disciplining my child, the first thing I think of is how connected it is to the heart of Christ. The act of discipline is to show love.  If I love my daughter, I will disciple her.  Of course. 

When El is disobedient, I always look inward.  Were my intentions clear?  Did I use language she understood? Did she grasp the guidelines? (Obedience for us, means listening the first time without argument or complaint.) Did I make sure she was aware of why it is important to obey, i.e., the consequences? (Do not cross the street, as there are cars driving by who will not see you and you could get very hurt). Did I react to her behavior or choose to instruct her heart? Was I consistent in this matter all day? All week? ( Meaning, after the 14th time out for not putting her blocks away, did I just give up and let her have her way, which make it even more difficult for me later when she disobeys again? Jesus always repeated himself to make sure he was clear, I want to do the same.  It’s so hard to remember that your little one doesn’t have your same frame of reference. 

I want to disciple my beautiful child.  Shape her into the woman I know God created her to be.  I don’t want to modify her behavior, I want to teach her how deeply God loves her, and how much her Father and I do as well and allow that foundation to change her heart, which, perfectly enough, will ultimately change her behavior.  But damn if that isn’t a long way to go and, well, dirty. 

Parenting is only for the weary- the ones who know they cannot do it on their own.  It is an enormous undertaking if you let the fullness of the responsibility sink down in.  It is more than a full time job.  Discipline takes years.  And sometimes, I am inconsistent.  Sometimes, I just want a moments peace to stop and think and drink a cup of coffee without a little blonde head bobbing over the pages of my book.  And then I have to start all over.  But I know it will be worth it.   I will risk my little two year old’s anger and frustration now in hope that our instruction in obedience will shape her young heart to grow into a loving, gracious, strong and courageous woman.  Oh, I hope.  For now, here I go again.

“What happens when you disobey Mama and Papa……….”



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