For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. — Hebrews 12:11
Every time God disciplines one of his children, he has a clear goal in mind. He wants us to bear fruit—to become more and more like our holy God so that we exhibit the characteristics that he so perfectly embodies.
As Christian parents, we seek the same goal. Although we are broken, imperfect people, we seek to see God’s fruitfulness take root in our children’s lives.
But how do we get there? How do we pursue fruitfulness, especially as we discipline our kids?
As the mom of a little boy entering the “terrible twos,” I ask myself that question a lot. Discipline is messy. It’s not tidy or clear-cut. Instead, we live much of our parenting lives in the gray, wondering how to discipline in a way that reaches our child’s heart and eventually influences their thoughts and behaviors.
Several times here lately, I’ve found myself in a standoff with my son. I’ll go through our discipline routine only to redo it again and again over the course of a morning. Eventually, I start asking myself, is what I’m doing really bearing fruit?
Certainly, there is something to be said for consistency, especially in the toddler years. Fruit takes time to grow. I can’t expect my two-year-old to remember the first time I tell him something and never have a repeat-offense.
But at some point I have to ask some questions. Here’s a list I’m learning to work through:
- Is what I’m doing working? If after repeated attempts, my discipline is not producing awareness or change, then it’s time to try another method. Just as God uses a variety of circumstances to train us, so we should seek to leverage as many healthy teaching patterns as possible with our kids.
- Does my child need something? Kids act out when they cannot express their feelings. Sometimes my child just needs my attention. Sometimes he’s hungry or doesn’t feel good. Sometimes he bored and needs a change of scenery. When I sense there’s something more than bad behavior going on, it’s time to stop and focus on how I can meet his needs.
- Is my child being receptive? We don’t just abandon discipline when our child doesn’t like our correction or isn’t receptive to it. But sometimes, after repeated attempts, some separation is helpful. Times of reflection can help soften our hearts.
- Do I need to patiently endure? When discipline seems to fail, our patience wears thin. It’s easy to get short and snippy. But here, the picture of God as Father is most real for us as parents. We need the same gentle endurance with our children that he exhibits to us. With his help, we can stay firm but pepper it with lots of love and grace.
- Am I pointing my child back to the gospel? It’s easy to focus on behavior. It takes work to constantly point our kids back to the cross. At the end of the day, discipline is so important because it points our children, and us, back to our need for a Savior.
Ultimately, I’m realizing that as I discipline my son, God is disciplining me. He’s working out my impatience. He’s tempering my anger. He reminds me daily of his grace.
As I seek to point my bright-eyed boy with endless energy back to Jesus, I’m reminded of just how much I need him too. God wants me to be teachable in this season. He wants me to be trained in righteousness. So the admonition of Hebrews 12 is ultimately for me.
Don’t grow tired and hard-hearted, Momma. Don’t resist God’s deep work in you. Find the strength to stay the course, knowing that hard paths ultimately bring healing.
May we, as moms, stay the course with our children and with our God, knowing that he is ultimately bearing fruit in them and in us. Will you join me?