I don’t want to go down the road of what type of disciple you should do for your kids because every kid is different and every family is different. What I would like to talk about is the principles that every family no matter how old your kids are should practice. In my short 36 years on earth working with parents and then making similar mistakes with my own kids, one of the most common and most frequent mistakes parents make is asking “What did my kid do rather than Why did my kid do that.”
In every discipline situation we are forced to ask both of these questions. The question that is easier to ask is “What happened?” Asking what happened is appropriate but to really deal with the problem we have to ask “Why.” The classic story everyone has heard their pastor use as a sermon illustration (I’m not even sure it really happened) about the boy who was standing up on his chair in church. The father goes up to the boy and tells him to sit down the boy refuses the father says sit now or you will get a spanking, the boy relents glaring at his father the whole time. The boy sits down the father thanks him the boy responds by saying “I may be sitting on the outside, but I’m standing on the inside.” That is a classic example of “what” not “why.”
For all of us teaching our kids how to act is much easier than teaching them how to live. One of the things I am committed to as a pastor and a father is to teach my kids and the kids in our church how the power of the gospel changes us from the inside out. The gospel is about life transformation not behavior modification. As a parent having your kids do what you say is only the first step to leading them down a path to live the gospel. Whatever your rules are in your home it doesn’t matter, whatever your method of correction for wrong behavior it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you and your spouse commit to raising your kids asking Why did you break that lamp, why did you lie to me, rather than what did you just do.
When we correct our kids solely on what they have done we often send a message that what you did embarrassed me or made me angry. When you correct kids based on their attitude you give them tools to live a life focused not on acting or being a perfect person but you teach them that without God’s help we are hopeless, helpless and miserable. An example of this would be you call your son over he refuses to come you go to him grab his arm to talk to him he pulls away and knocks over your favorite lamp. You get angry discipline your son for knocking over the lamp. In doing that you send two signals. 1. Things matter more than he does 2. You want him to act a certain way. The result is not a repaired relationship of your son to you or your son to his Heavenly Father and most of all you rob your son of experience the grace of repentance and forgiveness. In exchange you teach him how to wear a mask and act like the very people who knew the law but could not recognize the Savior.
When you train kids to change their attitude with God’s help their behavior will change as a result of the consistent work of the grace of God in their life.
5 comments On Parenting Advice: Why not What.
This is very good! Love it! Thank you for sharing. Can't wait for more
Thanks Leisa. I hope you find the others helpful as well.
Great post! I am a fan of this whole concept…so many parents never ask "why". thanks for the reminder to dive in a little deeper w/ mykiddos when it comes to discipline.
Very powerful post! Would you mind if I used this on my parenting blog? (I would link them to yours as well…)
Jill, thanks. Feel free to use it for your parenting blog.