By Shari McMinn
In my previous blog, I wrote about building character in your children. There are many reasons to raise our future adult children to be men and women of godly character. One reason is so that we will choose them for the inner circle of our own life, because we actually enjoy being with them!
When raising our unique children, some days are hard for us to like them. It can be tough to be with them the whole day and night because of their negative behaviors and attitudes. So, the more important concern is, do you love your children? Then out of love for them and the Lord, part of discipling them in their homeschool education includes disciplining them. If we don’t have the desire and a strategy for disciplining them, they will not be trained to God’s high standards.
For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives….
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 12:6, 11 ESV)
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of “discipline” includes the following descriptions1:
- orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior;
- training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character;
- a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity;
Have you ever noticed that the words disciple, discipleship, and discipline all have the same root word? If we are to disciple our children, then we need to discipline them as well.
I realize that children are not livestock and that parents are not animal trainers, but there are a few similarities that I witnessed first-hand for many years on our remote family farm. Baby animals need nurturing from birth by their mamas. The livestock owner or manager, whose job is animal husbandry, has to work with the young stock starting at birth to train them, so they can be easily handled as they mature, especially young bulls! They need daily training to come when called, fed regularly, and groomed daily to get used to care by the “husband.” The outcome will be healthy stock that will immediately come when called. They will be “gentled” best by kindness and “whispering.” If young cattle, goats, horses, piglets, poultry, and sheep are not handled daily by the husband in this manner, they will become too independent to manage when older, thus doing whatever they want, whenever they want. The same could be said for children who are not attentively and lovingly trained by their parents, both mama and her husband.
Hence, we must nurture and care for our children, helping them every day to give and receive loving affection, learn to obey our call, and follow our guidance for their own well-being. This can be very challenging for parents of children who have special needs or labels such as “highly-gifted,” “attention deficit disorder,” or “autism spectrum.” As with all children, we need to clearly and consistently communicate boundaries, holding firm to encourage good behavior at a young age, and not excuse their bad behavior (sin) due to disabilities, inabilities, or delayed development.
Here are some basic strategies for helping our uniquely made children learn self-governance, personal restraint, manage stress, and exhibit appropriate behavior regardless of location or who they are with:
- Actions have consequences; for negative actions, set reasonable and immediate consequences.
- Base consequences on a child’s temperament: introverts are not punished by being alone.
- Children should be expected to do what is asked of them gladly, immediately, without debate.
- Do not tolerate bad behavior regardless of your child’s talents, temperament, or tendencies.
- Establish your house rules for love, respect, and safety on God’s Word found in the Bible.
- Expect respect for yourself and others in the way you act, behave, dress, and speak.
- Family members can express their feelings, frustrations, and needs with self-control, without lashing out or whining.
- House rules follow wherever your family goes: church, friends’ homes, public events, and stores.
- No matter how challenging, use a kind and gentle voice as you instruct and correct your child.
- Over and over again, remain calm as you handle situations, letting steam off later when alone.
- Persevere in the training of your children no matter how many times you have to correct them.
- Provide calming activities and boundaries: art, books, music, play, pets, soft toys, safe spaces.
- Safe, appropriate physical touch combined with firm boundaries creates felt-safety and trust.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say; speak to the level your child understands.
- Study as a family God’s Word regarding love, sin, and wisdom (Proverbs is a great place to begin).
- Teach kids to ask permission before touching or taking something that doesn’ belong to them.
- Try to always correct with firm, consistent, loving-kindness.
- When misbehavior (sin) happens, name it, mete out the consequences, regain calm, share Christ.
This may seem like a daunting list, but it will be well worth implementing. Try practicing one item a week, then add another strategy to the mix. Start with the one most needed. Explain to your family what it is, what it means, why it should be followed, and tie-in a verse from the Bible to support it. Then work on implementing it every day. Feature it as a “Lesson of the Week” for everyone in the family to work on, including Dad and Mom! Remember my statement from last month’s blog, “More is caught than taught.”
Parents, the days will be long, but the years fly by. It is very difficult at times to stay on top of misbehavior, impose discipline, and levy consequences, but consistently follow-through. Your frustrating toddler may become a troubled teen, but with consistent, effective, and loving parenting — and prayer without ceasing — he or she can become a loving, productive, respectful, responsible adult, Lord willing.
Lest you think my children are perfect or did not have significant struggles in their growing up, we did have to call the police a few times and social services were contacted more than once! A couple of my adult children are still working through their “issues,” but they know right from wrong and are beginning to possess self-governance and personal responsibility. Praise the Lord! (And I still pray without ceasing.)
My friend and colleague, Brenda, shared this, which I thought was an important and wise conclusion. “In our home, the disobedience was explained, the discipline (whatever it was) was meted out, then there was a coming back together. To reconcile, to talk about how we can’t be good in and of ourselves — that we need God, to pray, and to ask God’s forgiveness. And then we expected the child to express sorrow and ask for forgiveness from whomever he or she wronged or disobeyed. Obviously, all of this takes time, but in my opinion it is more important than doing math.”
Finally, I hope you take a bit more time to check out these links:
- Find lots of helpful resources at our CHEC.org webpage for Unique Learners.
- Read this article on the need for discipline, Children With Autism Deserve Rules and Discipline.
- Listen to this SPED Homeschool podcast on How to Calm Kids and Overcome Tantrums for Good.
My next blog, “Destressing Your Homeschool,” will post March 22, 2023 (the 4th Wednesday).
PS: If you have a topic you want me to cover, please email me with your suggestion(s).
Shari McMinn, your trusted homeschooling friend
1 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline. Accessed 2.2.2023