Stern tone of voice or soft-spoken words? Harsh criticism or gentle encouragement to do better? Physical correction or open arms in invitation for a hug and willingness to forgive a fault?
When I look at how God uses discipline and gives people instruction, it’s clear that it is not with a negative approach. Rather, I see gentleness, patience, grace, mercy and love in the ways God uses to steer us in the right direction.
Since children are a gift from God; a reward from him (Psalm 127:3), we, as parents, are expected to treat them well. In Ephesians 6:4, parents are told to “not provoke [their] children to anger by the way [they] treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
This is a huge responsibility placed on us parents. A legitimate question to ask then, is how do we do that?
Of course there are many ways to approach discipline. One side I want to highlight here is how thoughts define actions, and actions define character. By actions, I mean all the little things we do daily. Like sitting on the same chair around the table or turning off the lights before going to bed. At first, we had to think about those actions before performing them. However, through repetition, they became subconscious, thus forming habits.
Children have so many habits to learn. And there are good and bad ones. This is why the Bible reminds us parents, that we have to take the training of our children’s brain seriously otherwise we risk ruining their lives (Proverbs 19:18).
At our house, to teach our kids good thinking habits, we prompt them with two simple questions when having a conversation with them: why and how. We do not tolerate I don’t know as a valid answer. If they tried something and it went wrong, they must try to explain why it failed. If it’s something good, they have to tell us how they came up with that idea. These simple questions about their life experiences are gently forcing them to expand their thought process.
Another way we are using to form good habits is the practical guide called Laying Down the Rails, by Sonya Shafer. It is a compilation of over fifty habits presented by Charlotte Mason in her six volumes on education. They are arranged in five main categories and are presented with concrete examples on how to implement them.
To give you an idea, here are the categories with some related habits.
- Decency and Propriety Habits: Cleanliness; Courtesy; Kindness; Order; Regularity
- Mental Habits: Attention; Memorizing; Perfect Execution, Remembering
- Moral Habits: Obedience; Personal Initiative; Self-Control; Truthfulness
- Physical Habits: Health; Outdoor Life; Self-Control in Emergencies; Self-Discipline in Habits
- Religious Habits: Thanksgiving; Reverent Attitude; Sunday-Keeping
Before I let you go, here’s a quote to ponder on:
“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend” (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1. p. 118).