Motherhood is hard. From morning sickness to teenage meltdowns, the challenges are endless. The world offers mothers criticism and guilt, but rarely praise and encouragement. Social media is filled with fake glimpses of people’s lives, shielding us from their reality, but giving us a false picture to aspire to.

Some mums seem to have it all together and if only we follow their suggestions we too can have children who fall in line. Really? I’m not buying that. Children are unique and so are their parents and therefore each family will need to go to their creator, our Lord Jesus Christ, and ask him for parenting advice. The Bible is full of parenting advice but it’s also full of grace.

If we are to use the Bible as our number one parenting handbook, then we need to submerge every rule in grace. We need to allow the living waters of God’s love to become the conduit of those guidelines, as they soak into the hearts of our children.

Yes, we need rules, but rules without grace will only harden the hearts of our children and give them a false picture of the God of all grace.

God forgives us and shows us endless mercy, he also disciplines us out of love, but thankfully not for every misdemeanour, and so that’s our parenting model.

I recently learnt that the ‘discipline for every misdemeanour’ school of parenting was still alive and thriving in parts of the Christian world. I naively was shocked by this because this is definitely not my style of parenting.

So the question is, how to discipline a child without harsh punishment? And how does discipline work in the Goldby house? Our approach is that we explain something is wrong and that there are consequences (often extra household jobs) for wrong behaviour, we model what is right and explain what the behaviour we expect is. It might involve removing a child from the situation and then setting them up for success by changing the ongoing scenario. For example if the children are arguing over toys I would explain that it’s wrong to argue, I would encourage sharing, but if that fails then we change the activity. I would probably set them an age appropriate household job to change the mood. I also use this as a time to share the gospel story about giving extra to the one who asks.

I know that Christ has shown me so much grace, whenever I’ve taken a wrong turn, he has lovingly guided me back to the narrow path and this is how I choose to parent. I guess the phrase might be parenting by grace, not legalism. I fear that the harsh disciplinarian style of parenting teaches children to be outwardly well behaved, but doesn’t transform their hearts, only grace can do that.

The gospel is all about grace and so that is at the centre of everything I want to communicate to our children.

I’m writing this as a way of thinking through these concepts, as I never feel truly confident that I’ve figured parenting out. I know I’m a soft touch, as I really struggle with confrontation, but I do expect obedience and mostly we get it, even if we get grumbles first! We don’t get obedience through harsh parenting, but through trying to set a good example, reminding them of our expectations and reminding them that there are consequences if they step over the line, like removal of phones for the teens or no screen time for the littles, or straight to bed if necessary. We focus on the big issues and let go of some of the petty squabbles.

I also think that bad behaviour has causes other than just sin. Often children are more badly behaved when they are tired, hungry or bored and so, where possible, I will try and make sure these needs are met and thus avert many issues that would otherwise occur.

I haven’t mentioned Phil much in this and I think fathers have an essential role to play in discipling (yes discipling, not just disciplining) their children. The route word of discipline is disciple and so that would be our goal, to have children who want to follow our example, as we try to lead them on the narrow path, pointing them to Christ. Of course we do have boundaries and Phil is better than me at maintaining them, I’m grateful everyday to be a team in this parenting challenge.

For us, our main goals would be that our children love God, love one another and are servant hearted, so everything we do would be to encourage those things.

How about you, what are your childhood experiences of discipline or your parenting discipline choices? Maybe you don’t agree with our way, that’s ok, we’re all different. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Blessings to you all.

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