A Child’s Behavior
While children go through different phases of growth and development; such as babies going through a crying phase before realizing that they can sleep in a crib without being rocked to sleep, or children going through a phase of insecurity in making the transition to school, or children in elementary school going through a spilling drinks phase as some experience rapid growth of their arms and end up knocking over drinks more often than mom and dad wish to mop the floor, our children’s defiant behavior shouldn’t be blamed on a phase.
We usually encounter hardships in life when we get off the path God desires for us because God treats us as His children.
There are times parents tend to blame their child’s defiant behavior on their child “going through a phase,” as opposed to addressing a behavioral issue that should not be ignored. Overlooking your child’s disruptive behavior does not benefit your child and does not benefit your child’s view of your role in their life. Proverbs 13:24 reminds parents that those who love their children will be careful to discipline the child. The first part of that verse is most convicting regarding neglect in disciplining your child. The verse uses the word “hate” to indicate that parents who do not correct their children hate their children.
Consider the shepherd’s rod in Psalm 23. David mentions, “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” A shepherd would use the rod as a tool to rescue wayward sheep. A rod was used to discipline or to provide a gentle tug back to the right path. Proverbs 3:12 is a reminder that the Lord “disciplines those He loves, just like a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.” Compared to the love of a father who takes the time to discipline a wayward child, a parent who seems to ignore discipline issues behaves as if they don’t care about the child and their spiritual development.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but discipline produces fruit in the long run.
Your child’s disobedience or defiance is linked to a struggle with sin. Read Hebrews 12:4-11. Think about the way God has dealt with your “phases.” We usually encounter hardships in life when we get off the path God desires for us because God treats us as His children. Scripture tells us that God disciplines those He loves because He desires for us to continue to look more and more like Jesus. As parents, we need to be confident enough to love our children well by not ignoring their disobedience and calling it a phase. Your child’s tears will not last for long, but their defiance and disobedience could lead to a lifetime of destructive behaviors.
To help with disciplining and discipleling your child, here are 5 things to remember about addressing your child’s behavior.
Check Your Attitude
Instead of quickly moving toward your child, take a step back. Especially if you are dealing with anger issues in your child, do a self-check first. Are you looking in a mirror? Has your child learned to be aggressive because you have been in your child’s face with aggression and anger? God disciplines out of love, and you should discipline your child out of love, too. Never deal with your child when you are angry. Put yourself in timeout and come up with a plan before dealing with your child in anger.
If you keep changing the expectations you have for your child, or if you keep changing what you throw down as the ultimatum, your child will learn that you might give a harsh consequence, but if they just wait it out, you will relent. Find an appropriate consequence and stick with it.
Know Short-Term Pain Will Result in Long-Term Payoff
Nobody likes an inconvenience. Still, sometimes you will have to change your plans to show your child that their behavior resulted in disappointment for all of you (but make sure they feel disappointed as much as you do). Is someone upset at Walmart? Walmart will still be there tomorrow. Turn that cart around and leave the store. You can go home, take away electronics, and eat the leftovers. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but discipline produces fruit in the long run.
Connect Discipline to Scripture
Connect the parent’s responsibility to what God has entrusted you to do as the parent. If your child is old enough, find his offense in Scripture and read about it together (lying, disrespect, anger). After the child has calmed down, both of you should pray out loud – the child confessing his sin and you praying that God continues to mold the child to look more like Jesus.
Ask for Help
You are not parenting alone when you are part of a church family. Be honest with your Bible study groups to share where you are struggling. Other parents can offer help. Ask a pastor or counselor at your church to help you address your next steps if you feel like nothing is working. The worst thing that could happen is for you to get worn down by your child to the point that you give up. Don’t give up. Love your child well by asking for help to lead your child to sanctification – the process of looking more like Jesus with each passing day.