Character and Discipline Matter

I’ve been sharing what I’ve been learning from Renee Swope in her latest book,  A Confident Mom, Simple Ways to Give Your Child What They Need Most. Today, I want to talk about some other needs that our kids have. The first, is that character matters. Character is defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual, and is built over time through our experiences and the choices we make moving through those experiences. Our choices will either add to or detract from our character. 

Now, as a parent, I believe that we play a crucial role in the building of our child’s character.

Renee Swope would agree. She says,

“We are all building something. Brick by brick, through the choices we make, we construct lives that reflect what we value. The decisions we make and the things we celebrate tell our children what matters most to us. You see, we are not only building our lives; we are also laying a foundation for our children to build on as well.”

What values are you communicating to your children through the choices you make? How do your choices speak to your character? What foundation are you laying for your children?

In addition to laying a foundation for the development of our child’s character, it’s also important that we take time to intentionally focus on and nurture their character. Renee says,

“Character development . . . doesn’t require a high IQ, academic giftedness, or athletic ability. Every child has a chance to succeed and make a difference. When we make character the focus of our parenting, our children’s potential is unlimited.”

I love that. Every single child has the potential to develop good character. But, how do we do this? How do we develop character within our kids? 

First, it’s important that we identify those traits that are valuable to us and model them within our own lives. We look to Jesus as our example and model for our children what these character traits look like when they are lived out. Ephesians tells us,

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”

Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)

Secondly, we develop character within our children by teaching them about the traits we value and providing opportunities for them to put those traits into practice. To do this, choose a character trait on which you want to focus. Begin by defining it for your children, and share what the Scriptures say about the character trait. Look for examples within the Bible of how Jesus modeled the character trait, and talk about how you as a family can model it in your own lives. Then, as a family, practice putting the character trait into action. Take note of when someone in your family displays the character trait and offer praise. But, also take note of when someone in your family misses an opportunity to display the character trait and use it as a teachable moment. In her book, Renee offers the following example:

Be PATIENT

Wait without complaining

“Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

  • Ask for something and then wait without asking again
  • Be patient with yourself when you don’t know how to do something
  • Don’t interrupt – Wait your turn to talk
  • Have each family member wait to buy something they really want 

Our kids need to understand that character matters, and it is an indicator of how we treat others. Renee says,

“If our kids know that honesty, perseverance, acceptance, generosity, compassion, patience, loyalty, and kindness are core values, we’ll teach them to live a life of love by being kind to their friends, family, and even strangers.”

Another need our kids have that I believe ties into the development of their character is the need to be disciplined and loved. When you hear the word discipline, what thoughts or images come to mind? For many of us, the word discipline brings negative thoughts, and we often equivalent discipline with punishment. There is a difference between discipline and punishment, however. Where punishment focuses on making a child suffer for breaking the rules, discipline focuses on teaching and instructing a child on how to make a better choice next time. That will be our focus for today. I want to share God’s perspective of discipline and how crucial it is when it comes to loving our kids well.

The word discipline comes from the Hebrew word “musar” which means to instruct, to correct, chastise, or rebuke. To discipline our children is to provide them with the necessary instruction and training they need to live the lives for which God specifically created them. This is really important for several reasons. 

First, discipling our kids is something God has instructed us to do. When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He told the people to teach their children all He had done for them and to instruct them in the laws He had given them. These laws served as a guide for how they were to be living their lives. 

“Make the things I’m commanding you today part of who you are. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re sitting together in your home and when you’re walking together down the road. Make them the last thing you talk about before you go to bed and the first thing you talk about the next morning.”

 Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (VOICE)

An article from GotQuestions.org said,

“When one generation fails to instill God’s laws in the next, a society quickly declines. Parents have not only a responsibility to their children, but an assignment from God to impart His values and truth into their lives.”

As a mom, God has instructed you to teach your children the values and truth we find in His Word. When we discipline our kids, this is what we are doing. We are imparting His values and truth into their lives.

Secondly, making the choice to discipline our kids is making the choice to love them. If you grew up in a home where discipline was equivalent to punishment, this concept of discipline being a form of love may sound very foreign. But, God’s Word tells us that disciplining our kids is showing love. In the book of Proverbs, we find these words:

My son, do not ignore the Eternal’s instruction or lose heart when He steps in to correct you; Because the Eternal proves His love by caring enough to discipline you, just as a father does his child, his pride and joy.”

Proverbs 3:11-12 (VOICE) 

“He who withholds the rod [of discipline] hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines and trains him diligently and appropriately [with wisdom and love].”

Proverbs 13:24 (AMP) 

Making the choice to discipline our kids isn’t mean. It’s loving them enough to do what is best for them.

Lastly, discipline protects our children from a destructive life. Kids are not naturally inclined to be obedient and to always do the right thing. I’m sure each of you know a child that is proof of this! But, the truth is, doing the right thing doesn’t come naturally to any of us. All of us were born into this world as sinners and needed someone to teach us right from wrong. Chip Ingram says, 

“The Bible’s perspective on discipline is affirmed by what many psychologists and sociologists are now learning about child development: Children left to themselves will do what all people left to themselves in a fallen world will do. They’ll make bad decisions that produce pain and turmoil in their lives.” 

Our kids need disciplined. They need someone to love them enough to step in and teach them the difference between right and wrong. Proverbs tells us,

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline [correction administered with godly wisdom and lovingkindness] will remove it far from him.”

Proverbs 22:15 (AMP)

“Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones; a spanking won’t kill them. A good spanking, in fact, might save them from something worse than death.

Proverbs 23:13-14 (MSG)

Discipline isn’t simply passing out punishment when our kids do something wrong. It is intentionally training our children to lead lives that will honor God and also honor others.  Renee Swope says,

“At the heart of discipleship and discipline, we teach our kids how to take responsibility for their choices, treat others with respect, and seek restoration in relationships when their choices have caused damage. An important part of disciplining our children is teaching them how to make good choices now that will help them make wise decisions later, choices that honor God (and) other people.”

So, how do we do this?

This actually leads into another need our children have: the need for clear boundaries, choices, consequences and consistency. Boundaries are the limits we set in place that keep our children safe, teach them what is acceptable behavior and that help them learn self-control. There are a couple of things that are important when it comes to setting boundaries. 

First, it is important that you and your spouse/partner discuss ahead of time what boundaries you will set for your family. For example, talk about what boundaries need to be in place before your infant starts crawling, your preschooler begins going to other houses for play dates, your school-age child gets a cell phone, or your teen starts dating.

Secondly, define the boundaries you’ve set firmly and clearly. There should be no doubt as to what behavior is deemed acceptable and what is not.  Be extremely clear. 

Once boundaries are set, our kids then need the opportunity to make a choice of whether they will stay within those boundaries or go their own way. Making good choices is a skill that kids need to practice, and just as God gives us the choice to obey or disobey Him, we need to give our children the same. Renee Swope says,

“By giving children a choice, we empower them to take responsibility for their decisions. If children are taught how to take responsibility for their choices they will grow up knowing their actions make a difference, good or bad.”

Galatians tells us, 

“But each one must carefully scrutinize his own work [examining his actions, attitudes, and behavior], and then he can have the personal satisfaction and inner joy of doing something commendable without comparing himself to another.” 

Galatians 6:4 (AMP)

Our kids need to practice how to make good choices, and the best place to do that is under our care. But, it is also important that they learn that when bad choices are made, there are consequences.

When our children make the choice to stray outside of the boundaries we have set for them, we need to allow them to experience the consequences of their choice. Consequences, just like boundaries, need to be clearly communicated ahead of time. They also need to be able to be implemented with immediate effect. Delayed consequences are not effective especially with young children. Consequences also should be ones that, as the parent, you can realistically and consistently follow through with. Clearly communicate with your child the consequence they will face if they choose to disobey and step outside of the boundaries your family has in place. For example: If you take your child to the beach, it is completely appropriate to set a boundary that your child may not go into the water without an adult. When you communicate this boundary, communicate the consequence he will face if he disobeys and goes in the water alone. Say, “You may play in the sand, but you may not go into the water without Mommy. If you choose to go into the water without Mommy, we will pack up and go home.”

As stated before consistency is key when it comes to disciplining our children. When we are consistent with our discipline, our kids learn to respect our decisions and our word. Consistency also builds trust and security within our homes.  Inconsistency, on the other hand, creates confusion, can encourage disobedience, and can create a power struggle between parent and child. Being consistent in your discipline will take effort, time, and a great deal of patience. But, the reward will be worth it. 

Here are some other things Renee Swope encourages us to do as we discipline our kids:

  • Discipline your child in private, away from anyone else involved. 
  • Wait until your emotions and your child’s emotions are calm before you discuss the situation or discipline your child. 
  • Ask what happened and address the choices your child made. Also ask him what he could have done differently that would have lead to a better result. 
  • Talk about consequences, communicate unconditional love.
  • Remind your child that God calls you as his parent to discipline him in love and to teach him to make choices that honor other people, himself, and God. 
  • After giving your child his consequences, hug him and express your love for him again.
  • Always tell your child that you believe in him and that his behavior is not who he is but something he chose to do. 
  • If someone else was involved in the situation, ask your child  to apologize and ask forgiveness from the person they hurt.

Discipline is an opportunity to love our kids exactly as God has called us to. It is an opportunity, as Renee Swope says, “to shape their hearts, not just their habits.” And that’s what we’re after, isn’t it? It’s shaping the hearts of our children and encouraging them to be the people that God created them to be. 

Works Cited:

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 3 May. 2022. 

Blueletter Bible. https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=discipline&t=NLT#s=s_lexiconc. Accessed 28 Apr. 2022.

Ingram, Chip. “What Does the Bible Say About Discipline?” Focus on the Family. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/what-does-the-bible-say-about-discipline/. Accessed 1 May. 2022. 

Merriam Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/character. Accessed 28 Apr. 2022.

Merriam Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline. Accessed 28 Apr. 2022. 

Mertz, Jon. “What Builds Character?” Thin Difference. https://www.thindifference.com/2016/01/what-builds-character/. Accessed 28 Apr. 2022.

Morin, Amy. “The Difference Between Punishment and Discipline.” Very Well Family. https://www.verywellfamily.com/the-difference-between-punishment-and-discipline-1095044. Accessed 1 May. 2022. 

Swope, Renee. A Confident Mom: Simple Ways to Give Your Child What They Need Most. Revell, 2022. 

“What Does the Bible Say About Raising Children?” https://www.gotquestions.org/raising-children.html. Accessed 1 May. 2022.

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