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Disciplining Your Children

Lisa Barry: Before you became a mother do you remember how you envisioned motherhood? I do. I pictured myself parenting a three-year-old girl who had curly, tangle-free hair. I expected she would be obedient and recite lots of Bible verses.

Well, though there are moments like that in real life, there are some trying times as well. And how do we as parents prepare ourselves for the less-than-perfect conduct of our children? Today on Gateway To Joy Elisabeth Elliot welcomes back her daughter Valerie Shepard with an important discussion on discipline. Here's Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says, "and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, glad today to have as my guest again my daughter Valerie Shepard. You hear me say day after day, "You are loved with an everlasting love." We're talking about love's demands.

We are loved by a God who is in no way wishy-washy, a God whose love is strong enough to allow us to suffer, a God whose love is poles apart from anything that the world understands. When they think of love according to Hollywood, it's romance, it's feelings, it's feeling good about oneself. It's a totally self-centered thing. But this time we're talking about divine love, aren't we?

Valerie Shepard: May I read from 1 Corinthians 13? The famous love chapter. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." I know many times I've stopped myself in the middle of a lecture to my children, because I can hear myself being a noisy gong because I have no love in the way I'm saying it.

"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but have not love, I am nothing." I know I have just longed to be completely loving with my children and completely wise in dealing with them, because I'm not patient when they have done something against the rules. Love is patient and love is kind, and I've not been kind.

"It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude, or it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs." God wants us to be continually persevering in learning what His love is like towards us. As we raise up our children, if we are trying to walk in the Spirit and not after the flesh, we'll see more and more how persevering His love is with us, because we see our own sins and our weaknesses and how kind and forgiving and merciful He's been.

Then we see how He wants to pour that kind of love through us to our children, because the more children I've had, the more sinfulness I've seen. Growing up in a home as an only child, I feel like I hardly ever had to deal with other people's sins. I wasn't even aware of other people's sins, growing up. I know how my children are very much aware of everyone's sins around them. Not necessarily their own, but their brothers' and sisters' sins.

I have a favorite prayer from the Southwell Litany that says this: "Save us and help us, we humbly beseech Thee, O Lord, from moral weakness of spirit." We were just talking about how love demands that we be strong in saying no to our children when we want to give in to what they want. So we're praying that we would not be morally weak. "And from timidity, from hesitation, from fear of men and dread of responsibility. Strengthen us with courage to speak the truth in love and self-control, and alike from the weakness of hasty violence and weakness of moral cowardice, save us and help us, we humbly beseech Thee, O Lord."

I have seen myself so many times fail towards my children because I was morally weak. My resolution that I'd had in the morning hours of devotions petered out when I had to face saying no to a child that I knew would be indignant. I still have that struggle. I want mothers to know, that there is no way that they should put me up on a pedestal or think of me as the perfect mother of a perfect family, because I could give a punishment to one of my children but I'm afraid of the indignancy that would come from his mouth when he heard what I was actually going to do. It's from moral weakness of spirit. It's from timidity.

I know God wants me to be courageous and strong, strong in Him and full of His love and His gentle self-control. Many times I've raced with a child to the bathroom, which is where we do the disciplining, just furious with what they had just done. By the time I've gotten to the bathroom, I'm realizing of course that I have the wrong spirit. This hasty violence that is wrong and not of the Lord.

Elisabeth Elliot: Could I stop you right there for a second, Val, and ask if it might not be a good idea for some of these parents who write me letters and say, "I don't know what to do, because I can't control my anger when my child disobeys," you just said that you take the child to the bathroom. So, just that little interval between the offense and the rising of your anger and then getting to the bathroom is at least a sort of a cushion there where you're not going to beat them unmercifully or use hasty violence against them. My heart breaks to think of how awful it is when parents really do abuse their children. But that would be one suggestion. Do you want to talk about that a little?

Valerie Shepard: Yes. To take them away from the scene, especially when there are other children around or other adults around, it helps them to be taken to a spot where they know discipline will happen. It helps the mother or the father to get a few seconds to think what it is that needs to be done here, rather than "this child has got to be whipped and beaten." We don't want to whip and beat our children. Spankings are self-controlled tools for the discipline of the Lord, and they are not done with hasty and angry violence.

I think that spankings do have to be hard enough to hurt, so that the child knows the consequence of what he did was wrong. But not only is it good for you to have the few seconds for them to go to the bathroom--or even, I've sent my child to the bathroom while I wait a minute before I go in there--but it is also good for the fact that you want to teach them that their disobedience needs to be dealt with before their parent. Their mother or father, and before God.

It can't be dealt with very easily in front of other people. Because the main problem there, is that they're worried about what people are thinking when they're looking at them. And, of course, the embarrassment and all that, is there with people around. And also, if you're trying to discipline in front of other people, you're more aware of what they're thinking. The parent is more aware of what everybody else is thinking than what God would want you to be thinking about. So it helps to have a separate room to take them to.

I also (when I tell my child that he needs to be spanked for what he did) it has helped me more and more in the past few years to have them hold out their hand. And I spank them one or two times, hard on the hand with a stick. That way they see the spanking in front of them. I used to always spank on the back of the legs. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but it just seems to me that it has helped for the child to have to put out his hand to receive the punishment.

Then I always say, "Do you know why Mama spanked you?" If they don't know, I explain it. Then I hug them, and I pray with them, and I tell them how much I want them to learn to love to do good and to love pleasing the Lord. But again, love demands that we be careful with our children in what we say to them, and that we be gentle and yet firm in our authority.

It took me quite a few years to fall back on the truth, or to rest on the truth, that because I'm the mother they will toe the line. They will follow what I must say to them. For so long, it just was always this feeling like "I've got to make them happy. I've got to please them in some way." I finally realized that I could say, "You have to obey because I'm your mother and God has given me the position of authority over you."

Elisabeth Elliot: Have you seen that poster of the hen with the little chickens? All it says at the bottom is "Because I'm the Mama, that's why." Do your children ever ask, "Well, why do I have to do this?"

Valerie Shepard: Yes. And I say, "Because your mother told you you must and the Bible says you must honor your parents."

Another prayer from the Southwell Litany is to ask the Lord to "keep us from the indecision that can make no choice." Again, I've found myself indecisive in the midst of trying to please two different parties, two opposing parties, and I'm thinking, "What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to make this one happy and am I supposed to correct this one, punish this one and not this one?" Often I've felt that God was saying I must punish both of them, because they were both wrong in getting into the conflict that they got. But my own indecisiveness and my own forgetfulness, has made me despair many times because I haven't been able to make quick, firm, wise decisions. Again, it's because I wasn't denying myself, that desire to indulge my children.

"From the irresolution that carries no choice into act." You might have found yourself making a resolve or a resolution in your heart at devotion time and then later on in the day the resolve is gone because of whatever. Because of your own selfishness, because of the child's selfishness, you're wanting to give in to the child. God wants us to be resolute in His principles and be confident that what we're teaching our children, is what He wants us to teach them.

Here's another prayer from Amy Carmichael about love, God's love. It's called "The Golden Censer."

"Eternal Love, we have no good to bring Thee, no single good of all our hands have wrought, no worthy music have we found to sing Thee, no jeweled word, no quick upsoaring thought. And yet we come, and when our faith would falter, show us, O Love, the quiet place of prayer, the golden censer and the golden altar and the great angel waiting for us there." I love that.

Elisabeth Elliot: It's beautiful. I love that one, too. Well, Val, I think our time is up for today. We've been talking about love's demands.

Lisa Barry: In the short time that remains, I want to quickly tell you about a great book on raising children. It's called Hints on Child Training, written by Elisabeth's great-grandfather Henry Clay Trumbull. This book is full of practical guidance that isn't muddled down with the latest passing psychology fads. It's common sense--that works--find out why it's one of our favorites by getting a copy for yourself. For information on how to do that, you can give us a call at 1-800-759-4JOY. Or, write to:

Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, NE 68501. That address again is Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, NE 68501. And remember to visit our homepage on the Internet at gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a listener-supported production of Back to the Bible.

Tomorrow, Elisabeth and Val talk about quiet time and why it's important. That's next time on Gateway To Joy.

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