Someone asked me about discipline as relates to teenagers. Well, I’m not sure how qualified I am to answer this question since I’ve not had a teenager a whole year yet :)…. but I can share my thoughts and would love to have my friends chime in who have had teens longer than I have!
I’d encourage you to read an earlier post on discipline called, “The General Plan”... This post describes my general philosophy on discipline. This really pertains to discipline during the earlier years…. pre-teen really… but it will give you an overall idea of my approach.
When children are young the faith of the child is really the faith of the parents. They are at the mercy of the teachings of the parents and the church the family chooses if that applies. Generally speaking, I don’t think my young children behave in a certain way because of the conviction of the Spirit… but more because they have learned to abide by a behavioral approach:
You do good… you’re rewarded BUT if you do bad… you experience consequence
This is a very effective tool for young children. I have tried to point out along the way aspects of our faith I want the kids to remember…. “Mom loves you, Girl 2, but you can NOT hit Girl 3. Jesus wants you to be kind. Because you have not been kind, you must have a consequence”… then give an age appropriate consequence.
At some point, this same approach doesn’t work for an older child. After a child has received Christ as their Savior, the faith of the parent will only suffice for so long. The faith of the child has to be the driving force behind his or her decisions to do right and not do wrong. I believe that is a key, essential even, part of their maturity… their physical maturity, their emotional maturity, psychological maturity and most importantly their spiritual maturity. During this maturing process we want to move from that “good=reward & bad=punishment” approach to:
You do good because you love the Lord and want to please Him
Notice I did not say, you do good IN ORDER TO receive salvation but BECAUSE OF your salvation. There is a huge difference.
That’s fine and good… but how does that work? I’ll spell out an example of an exchange my son and I might have:
Me: Did you push your brother?
Son: Yes… BUT it was because he (blah, blah, blah)… and he gets on my nerves and and and
Me: Son, is that the way the Lord would have you behave?
Son: Well, no but….. (blah blah blah)
Me: Ok, Son… If you feel good before the Lord with that decision, that’s fine with me.
I might also direct him with a statement like: “You are the Lord’s boy… you answer to Him ultimately… as do I.”
I seek to instill kindness, generosity, thinking of others before yourself and the like… but know that everything in our world fights against us. It’s hard work. It’s never ending… but it’s never too late. The Lord is in the redeeming business. He can fix anything broken, He can solve any mystery and soften any heart. It would be easier to instill these qualities earlier on but they can be instilled with the Lord’s guidance. Will it be harder later on? Probably but it’s worth the hard work. Be encouraged!
There are moments that we all get pushed to the brink… both you and your teen. Sometimes there needs to be a consequence. The consequences must age with your child. Time outs, spankings and such have to turn into something that the child will really see as a consequence. We usually take away outside time (which is a real consequence here on the NOBTS campus where the kids have near free reign of playgrounds and open fields) or take away media time. We have done the good ‘ole fashioned consequences and adding house cleaning time to their day.One of my personal favorite is push-ups. I might start with 50 and if he bites back I may make it 75.
Our son has responded well to the above. While we have our days, he’s really an easy kid and I’m blessed.
If your child is not a believer you have a different perspective to shoot from. She/He doesn’t feel the need to be a “great kid” because he/she loves the Lord and feels accountable to Him.
I would suggest the following in regards to discipline delimas and your teen or pre-teen:
1- Pray for your child’s salvation. Pray for wisdom and seek wise counsel. It would be so easy to lose your child’s heart and ostracize him/her. Watch for physical and facial cues to see where your child is emotionally. I have no problem laying it all on the line… but if you push your child to the point of complete and total frustration you could be in a dangerous position.
2- Use questions to spur conversation and to keep talk moving during difficult situations…. “Talk to mom, tell me what is going on with you…. how are you feeling… help me understand why you behaved this way… I love you, I want to hear your thoughts, but I need you to speak in a respectful tone” then LISTEN. I want my kids to have the freedom to disagree with Greg and me. I will insist they do so in a respectful manner.
3- If you must follow through with a consequence don’t go overboard. So often parents will make ridiculous threats they can’t or won’t follow through with…. “You are grounded from the phone for 9 months.” Really? That will be more of a punishment for you than the child, haha! Don’t go overboard but be firm! If you say it, stick to it come what may.
4- Pray. Pray. Pray. The Lord is a gracious God. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts so much higher than our thoughts. He alone can convict and convince even the most teenish of teenagers (or pre-teen). :)…. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding… in ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5)
Press on Parents… Keep the Faith!