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Throwing Out the Rule Book

In my house we are trying very hard to eliminate the word “punishment” from our vocabulary. There is discipline, not punishment. The Lord disciplines his children. And we discipline ours. I once heard a podcast and the speaker said “If your children don’t learn to be obedient to you, how will they be obedient to God?”

People don’t like the word “obedience.” After all, as Americans we are so focused on freedoms that we dislike the idea of being obedient. But obedience is required. We follow laws. Why? Because there are consequences.

And in life there are consequences for our actions. They can be positive or negative. But there are consequences. 

Recently, I broke another “rule” of parenting.

I am not supposed to let my child know that the words she used hurt me. In the course of her receiving discipline for something she did wrong, she said some not so nice words to her mommy.

I could have let this go. I could have brushed it off. But I decided otherwise.

It wasn’t a rash decision or an immediate reaction out of hurt. I decided this was a teachable moment to prepare her for the real world. I spend a lot of time around teenagers who were not taught there are consequences for their actions and it breaks my heart to see them fall on their faces. Sometimes with lasting consequences. Ones that impact their future.

As parents, it is our job to do the best we can to prepare them for the future. What we can teach them now in the safe, loving environment will help them later.

So, I broke the parenting rule.

I waited until she was calm. She was helping me with some extra chores around the house. As we folded towels and loaded the dishwasher, we discussed the entire incident from beginning to end.

She explained what she thought was unfair and why. We processed it.

And then I broke the rule- I told her that what she said hurt my feelings.

This was not to make her feel guilty. But, I think that it is important that she learn that words have meaning. Words can hurt. Words can get you into trouble. Words have consequences.

She needs to learn at a young age that her words can have a positive or negative effect. Her words can help her to gain friends and influence people, or lose friends and tear others down.

Too often we are not taught the true power of our words until it is too late. This is a lesson we have to learn the hard way. I don’t want her to learn the hard way. I want her to learn in a place that is safe, loving and forgiving.

In this instance I was able to teach her about the impact of her words.

She was able to ask for forgiveness. I was also able to demonstrate forgiveness.

I know at times I have chosen the wrong words, okay a lot of times. But I am hoping that this day, this interaction, will have taught her many lessons. I hope that she will build upon those as she grows up.

My goal was that she learned:

  • There are consequences for my actions.
  • My words hold meaning.
  • I can ask for forgiveness.
  • I can forgive others when they hurt me.
  • I can approach someone honestly when I am hurt.

I know that she is only five years old, so these lessons might not all be cemented for her. But hopefully, the foundation is set. I hope conversations like these strengthen our relationship.

Many days I get it wrong. But on this day, I think I got it right. And sometimes I think that the “Parenting Rule Book” needs to be thrown out and you go with your gut. And by gut, I mean the leading of the Holy Spirit because, let’s be honest, none of these good ideas are really mine. They are the loving guidance of our Lord. He is the perfect parent.

Today I read a quote “We are not raising perfect children, but raising children to point to a Perfect God.” I wish I could remember who said it or even where I read it. But I loved it. My kids are not perfect. I am not a perfect child of my Heavenly Father. But I try to keep my eyes on Him. I am trying to learn from His word. I am listening for His voice. And I am trying to point my children in the same direction.

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