There are untold numbers of books on the subject of discipline and no end to the variety of opinions. As for me, in theory, I am completely against spanking of any kind (even hitting on the hand, which I have done a few times) and all for raising kids with grace. This does not mean that I am permissive, but it basically follows the thought that I am under the new covenant in Christ’s blood (not under law) where God lavishes His grace on me in love. So, in turn I love those around me and treat them – including my children – with the grace that overflows from God.
Therefore, in theory, I respectfully offer reasonable choices to my kids that are appropriate to their level (as God does to me) and when they make a poor decision or blatantly disobey one of the house rules (to come in another post), I allow the natural consequences (when safe, even if upsetting) or logical consequences (appropriate to the problem) to teach the lesson (just as God does for me).
At times, I will have to discipline, in love, for my children’s best – even though it may be inconvenient or difficult or painful for me. I cannot see how spanking would be for my children’s best, as it wouldn’t teach them what is right only punish them for what was wrong. With grace as the foundation, Christ already died for my sins and theirs, so punishment is not needed – He took it all on the cross.
Training in righteousness, ie. helping my children learn to choose what is right in all situations at all times, whether that be sharing toys with others or speaking with respect or not having fits of rage when things don’t go as they hoped, also teaching what behaviors are socially acceptable, like wearing shirt and shoes in the store or having good manners, or protecting their safety are the goals in discipling my children. Along those lines, the Bible is useful for training in righteousness and teaching and correcting, so memorizing verses with signs and songs or just on their own is probably my first priority.
Also, being proactive is essential with grace. I can’t just wait until things get out of hand, I have to anticipate what might happen and try to keep the environment safe and secure for my kids. I need to think about what I say and when there is a problem on the horizon, I need to stop and immediately address it before the problem happens. This doesn’t mean that I don’t allow my children to solve their own problems, but that I am paying attention and when they are headed for something beyond their abilities, I help just enough. I really believe that it is important for kids to learn from the experiences, just like we adults do, so that sometimes means getting disappointed or failing. What I’m talking about would be times when discipline might be necessary and gently stepping in to help prevent that.
Here’s an example of Active or Proactive Parenting: Eila is taking cushions off so she can jump on the couch (which is a common and acceptable practice in our house), but Josiah is eating and starts getting down with his food. So, I quickly stop him and tell him that he can eat at the table or he can jump on the couch. He puts his food down and scurries away to safely jump on the couch. Discipline (being taken off the couch) was averted because he wasn’t jumping on the couch with food.
I could go on and on, obviously as this post is already far too long! Basically, I really like the grace-based approach to discipline. If you’d like to read more, here are some good resources that I’ve found:
Arm of Love family fellowship has a lot of great articles and has been really helpful for me.
I loved the book Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel and Clay Clarkson’s book Heartfelt Discipline is next on my list to read.
Gentle Christian Mothers
I’ll try to follow up with more practical info, but the whole theory of grace-based parenting is that we, as parents, are living each moment in the grace of God and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, so He will give us the wisdom and know-how as we seek Him for it!