Saturday, September 4, 2010

Godly discipline means helping our kids to examine their hearts and see their sin.

Since reading this book, I've changed the way I discipline my kids.  It's taking a LOT longer, so it's hard when you multiply it by 5, but I trust that this is going to be a change for the better.  Let me explain.

Normally, when two of my kids have a problem with one another, I step in (if I have to) and solve the problem as expediently as possible.  I think this is one part laziness and one part belief that they need to learn to get along with one another without a referee. 

The problem is I've been operating on the surface and not getting to the heart of the matter. 

Recently, I was reading the story of the rich young man who went to Jesus and asked Him what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus told him that he needed to keep the commandments.  Well, the young man replied that he had done that, what else did he need to do?  Jesus could have said, "No you haven't kept the commandments!" and argued with the  young man, but instead He helped the young man to examine his own heart and see his sin problem.  Jesus told him to go and sell everything he had and give it to the poor and then to leave everything behind and follow Him.  This made the young man sad, because he was very wealthy and obviously didn't see the kingdom of God as the treasure it is.  Jesus was effectually showing the young man his own idolatry- that he worshiped his money and posessions to a greater extent than he worshiped the Lord.

Ginger Plowman is not the first to write a book on training children's hearts- she draws heavily from Ted Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart and several other books.  What Ginger adds is a multitude of real-life examples along with heart-probing questions and Scripture references to accompany each discipline situation.

For example, let's say two kids are fighting over a toy.  Normally, I would go over to the kids and try to figure out who snatched it from whom and give it back to the child who had it first.  The problem with this is it's merely behavior modification and in a few minutes or a few days the situation will repeat itself with a different toy.  Instead, Plowman suggests asking heart-probing questions such as, "Do you think it would make your brother happy or sad if you took that toy away?"  "Would you delight in making your brother sad?"  Then you can gently remind your child that we are not to rejoice in iniquity or that we are supposed to rejoice when others rejoice and mourn when they mourn.  Or you could ask them, "Do you think it would be kind or rude for you to try to take away something he is enjoying?"  If they agree it would be rude then you can add, "That's right and love is not rude.  When your brother is done playing with that toy and puts it down, then you may ask for it."  Notice how she attempts to link the heart attitude back to God's Word each time.  Ultimately then rather than settling a minor dispute over a toy, she has helped her child see his selfish and rude heart and that God desires us to be compassionate and for us to love one another with a self-less love.

Prince "helping" his little sister out of the box.

Like I said, this takes MUCH more work on the front end, but hopefully the payoff will be that our children will begin to examine their own hearts and realize their need for a Savior.  Only God can regenerate our children's hearts.  As Christian parents, we must both show our kids their need for regeneration and give them the gospel.  It seems like these days with so much emphasis on boosting our children's self-esteem, that fewer and fewer children are growing up with an understanding of their own sin nature.  And without a deep and profound recognition of their own sin, we cannot expect our children to appreciate the gospel. 

Linking discipline back to God's Word each and every time also helps prevent me from disciplining my children for convenience sake or for my own preference.  It keeps me honest and I need that. 


  1. I've just found your blog and like it. I have read this books and yeah we have been disciplining that way for a few years now and there is no better way. have you read Shepherding a Child's Heart? Another great read along these lines.

  2. Hey! We made it alllllll the way to Phoenix! Got here late, but at least we won't have to drive tomorrow :)
    just thought I would drop in to your blog and was super happy I did....I loved this book!!!! one of the few non-fiction I have read and loved. It changed my parenting. However I think I need to re-read it to get back on top of things. I have been letting this area slip lately and I know we need to get back to TRUE parenting such as described in the book.
    Thanks for the hospitality.....AGAIN!! :)

  3. So cute little kids. I really love kids. Especially when they are raised well. Sigh.

  4. I have this book, but I admit that I haven't read it yet. I will put it on my ever growing list!
    Give us an update on how it's working in a month or so.

  5. Thanks for sharing - this sounds great. I've seen the book around, haven't read it myself, but sounds like it could be very useful!

    I too fall into the "No, don't hit your sister." and that's about it camp VERY often!



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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.