For some reason, I don’t remember the specifics about the first time I disciplined my firstborn. I only remember hating it.
I’m sure I’m not the only parent who felt that way. Disciplining a child – giving them a stern lecture, taking away their favorite toy, or putting them in timeout, all while they cry – is never fun.
It is, though, bound up in love. As parents we discipline our children because we want a peaceful home, yes, but also because we want them to learn to obey higher authority, and ultimately to obey God (Hebrews 12:5-9).
To fail to discipline is to fail to love. A child without discipline is a child possibly on the path to failure, to lifelong rebellion.
I have found that my disciplining is far more effective if I include three words: I love you. Such as: “I love you, and I cannot allow you to act that way.” Sometimes I say it before I discipline my children, sometimes at the very end.
Here, then, are three reasons it’s a good idea to toss in an “I love you” when disciplining your children:
1. It models the love of God, who disciplines His children. Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Most of the negative events in our lives are the result of simply living in a sinful world. But other times, God is disciplining us because of our own disobedience. Why does He do that? Because He loves us too much to let us live in sin, because He is molding us and shaping us to yield the “fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).
2. It benefits the child. I’ve always wondered what goes through the mind of a child when they’re being disciplined. Seriously, why is it so hard to sit in a chair for two minutes? Why do they rebel and resist the timeout to the point that it gets stretched to three minutes, and then four? Perhaps God gives us those moments so we can get a glimpse of how He views us: He loves us despite our actions. When a child is crying, maybe doubting a parent’s love, it is good for him or her to be reminded: “I love you.”
3. It benefits the parents. During those stressful moments as a parent – when your oldest daughter gets in trouble at school the same day your toddler flushes underwear down the toilet and your other child throws pie all over the wall – it benefits you to include an “I love you” in every form of discipline. Love, after all, should be the basis of every form of discipline, and not frustration or stress or anger. Saying “I love you” at the beginning just may put you in the right frame of mind to discipline – and get your day back on track. Then you can clean up that pie. And get the plunger.
Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public).
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When discipline is administered consistently out of anger, it produces in the child a deep insecurity and a hatred toward God. Such was the case in my Christian home. It took many years of “reparenting” by godly mentors to develop a trust and genuine love for God.