1. Remember Your Aim
What are we trying to do in disciplining children? We are not just trying to avoid all annoyances. There’s an aim here and it’s a glorious one—namely that our children would glorify God by becoming like his son. What we’re after is for them to become Christ-like. Colossians says, “Him we proclaim, warning and instructing everyone with all wisdom that we might present everyone mature in Christ.” So that’s where we’re trying to go. It’s not just to keep them off of the sofa or something like that.
What we’re after is for them to become Christ-like.
2. Keep Correction God-Centered
A second essential is to keep correction God-centered. We want to elevate God’s standards for how we should behave. We want to lean into God’s enablement, we need God-enabled grace and energy to do this and it’s all for his glory in the end. So it comes from him, it’s through him, and it's to him. So keep it God-centered. I think it’s good and wise to tell children, “I think the way you’re behaving displeases God.” And the flip side, “I think God is really happy with the way you shared your toy with your brother.”
3. Emphasize Character Qualities
Third, it’s essential to be emphasizing character qualities as we go along. We’re after Christ-like character qualities. “Thank you for sharing your toy,” “When you listen to me the way you’re doing, Johnny, that's attentiveness. There’s nobody more attentive to people than Jesus and you’re being like Jesus when you’re attentive.” Emphasize Jesus’s character qualities.
4. Speak the Truth
Another essential thing is to speak the truth. Say what you mean, parents, and mean what you say. If you say, “Don’t jump on the bed,” then that’s what you should mean. There should be no jumping on the bed and so you need to follow through. As Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes, let your no be no.” If you say no you should follow through on that no.
Let us be careful about singling out the strong-willed child as though his will is more corrupt than ours.
You might feel overwhelmed by the amount of parenting advice that exists. Take a breath. Break the goal down into small steps, and take one step at a time.
When you don't know what to say (or you're tired of repeating yourself), remember that this is normal, but God is exceptional.