A few weeks ago, I had a situation with one of my children. Upon the child’s arrival from school, the child’s grandmother suggested a haircut from the neighborhood stylist, which the child refused to do. My wife was home but very sick at the time, so she had no energy to get up and address the disrespect; it was actually disappointing that the child showed no concern for the sick mother. I resolved to deal with the disobedience when I got home, but when I arrived, the child was already asleep, so I couldn’t deal with the situation.
I got my own version a few hours later though, when the child woke me up at 1AM because the child awoke and couldn’t go back to sleep. The scandalous shouting match that followed did not wake up anyone, thank goodness, but I certainly gave this child a piece of my mind for the events of that day.
As Christian parents, we set the example for our children in godliness, respect, integrity, perseverance, and excellence, and we set the boundaries and rules for them so they, in turn, grow up to become disciplined, independent Christian adults. However, it’s inevitable that every parent will experience a situation where their child disrespects their authority and pushes their buttons just right. So what is the Christian parent to do?
Disrespect is ultimately disobedience, which necessitates discipline. It’s important for parents to present a united front, especially if their natural discipline styles are different. Otherwise, the children will run to the more forgiving parent, while the other parent comes across as an angry monster.
My wife and I are united in three things when it comes to dealing with our children’s attitudes towards respect and obedience.
1. Instruct with the heart and deal with the heart. Every disciplining situation is a chance for a parent to speak his heart to his child. As you address your child, remember this is a learning opportunity for your child. Proverbs 15:5 says, “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.” This is even more important to remember if you feel your child is willfully disregarding your advice or discipline.
No parent intentionally gives his children bad advice, and, on occasion, a child’s disobedience may not be because he intends to disobey but because the boundaries weren’t set or instructions weren’t clear. End of effort, it must be clear the child knew what he did was wrong.
2. Provide discipline that speaks to the child. There are consequences to negative behavior, not just so the child will learn not to do it again, but so they’ll understand how the world works. A home in which there is no justice is raising a child with blurred moral boundaries.
When it comes to discipline, I believe in the concept of “hit them where it hurts.” (This doesn’t necessarily mean the rod, although I have, on occasion, spanked my children when they were younger, and applying Tip No.3 afterward.) If you balk at spanking, you can still provide discipline in other ways. For us, we know our children hold something of value, and we apply discipline by addressing what they hold valuable. For example, my son is a techie, so discipline for him involves grounding from video games; my daughter loves her Shopkins, so discipline for her may involve the temporary withholding of Shopkins benefits.
I do want to also say, though, that it is not enough to (temporarily) remove the object of value; we need to fill the void that it creates. It is important to provide an alternative activity or item that will give the child time to reflect on what they did. For my son, I’ll ask him to clean the room (with me, because I enjoy that); for my daughter, I’ll have her read a few chapters from a book, which we will discuss afterward.
3. Restore. After every disciplining effort, it is essential for the parent to make time to sit down with the child and process the disciplining effort. Make a deliberate effort to speak to the child in their love language, and reassure him that there is forgiveness and grace for him. The child needs to know that you will continue to love him despite what he did, and you always will.
What about you? What are some things you do when you deal with your disrespectful child?
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