And finally, part two of things I learned, or more accurately—am learning—from my Virginia roadtrip. If you missed it, here is part one.
One of the things that came to mind while away was the connection between loving our children and disciplining our children. E. and I talked a great deal about discipline, as we’re both entering and in that beautiful but daunting age of toddlerhood. Sure, there may be some boundaries set or some form of discipline before your child turns one, but it looks very different, I think. During those first 12 months, your primary goal is to form a bond with your baby, making him feel secure and loved, while taking care of his most basic needs. It’s really the time of setting a strong foundation so that your child is well-equipped to handle his new toddler abilities, be separate at times from his mother, and learn obedience. But the fact is that sometime around when your child turns one, he will start the process of learning to be an individual and can take a more active roll in experiencing the world around him. This is such a beautiful, exciting and precious time, but can be hard on mothers as they see their babies growing up, not wanting to cuddle all the time, losing interest in breastfeeding, or being defiant in public places. Oh the days when your baby just wanted to sleep snuggled in your sling at the grocery, instead of reaching around, unbeknownst to you, and dumping all the eggs into your cart (true story)!
Essentially, there is this gradual transition that your child makes as he learns about the world and begins to grow into the adult he will one day be, but how do we navigate it? How do we look into that sweet little chubby face crowned with soft ringlets and say no? Will your child grow to despise you, feel distant from you, or worse, will a little part of him feel abandoned, creating a hole that will haunt him throughout his life? Okay that sounds dramatic, but I think it’s what we fear sometimes because the life of a child is so delicate. Their little souls and hearts and minds are soaking up every little detail, experiencing the simplest things for the first time, and all the while, only understanding a tiny portion of how the world fits together. It’s easy to feel, when your child needs discipline, like your squashing his little heart and his little dreams before they’ve even had a chance to take root.
As a mother or a father, this transition may come fairly easy to you, or it may be excruciating.
One thing is certain, though, we aren’t left without instructions. Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe his reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”
I love that it says, “...a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” Disciplining our children is far from a declaration that we don’t care for them, that our hearts are hardened towards them or that we wish them harm or hurt. It is an expression of our love.
And this is the point I want to get at: loving and disciplining our children are inseparable, and one without the other will cause great harm to their little souls.
Ephesians 6:4 is a warning not to be too harsh towards or ungracious with our children. I love The Message version of this verse, which says, “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” Our children need discipline, but they need grace, too. They need someone to take their hands and lead them, just as our Heavenly Father graciously leads us, and shepherds us, even though we have gone astray. A parent choosing to guide, direct and steer a child towards righteousness, even when that means reprimands and punishments, is an amazing expression of love.
Proverbs 29:15 speaks to those who would rather neglect discipline for fear of it harming their children or creating separation. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” Even if it seems selfish to you to be concerned with your child shaming you, one can’t deny the desire for our children to have wisdom, and if only for that reason, we shouldn’t neglect discipline under the guise of love.
We have such a vast and weighty duty, a high calling, to teach, guide and admonish our children. Proverbs 1:8 says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” I don’t pretend to know what discipline should look like all the time, and fail daily, but I do know that it should be there and will make and mold Sebastian into a godly man. Every family has to decide, day by day, what discipline will look like. I pray that we will all have the courage to love and instruct our children, clinging to the promise that if we are faithful, they will grow into lovers of our God (Proverbs 22:6). May our children be wise enough to accept instruction and grow still wiser (Proverbs 9:9) and when it comes time for them to teach, may it be “a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death (Proverbs 13:14).”
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. I know it’s controversial and weighty, and not everyone will agree with what I’ve said, but I hope it will get the wheels turning in your head about love and discipline. This post is not a sermon, just thoughts. And it’s something I’m still thinking about and will continue to think about, praying that the model of discipline our family follows will honor God. I've been reading The Discipline Book by Dr. Sears and it has been insightful and wonderful. I highly recommend it. There is even a chapter on birth to one year, so if you have a teeny weeny little one, you should still read it!
P.S. In case you're wondering, making our child wear his daddy's shoes around the house is not a form of discipline. No folks, he does it of his own free will, and it's probably the cutest thing ever. Also, Sebastian can say shoes now, but it sounds something like "sssshuuszzssshhzsszzze." You could knock me over with a feather he's so cute.