As we began to implement the clear limits (obedience, honesty, respect), the Lord give us a number of other insights.
First, unconditional love. We parents make lots of mistakes, but if our children know we love them unconditionally, the children readily forgive us. To love unconditionally means that your love is not tied to the actions of your children. I told my boys that whether they did bad things or good things, I would love them just the same, I would accept them and help them just as much. This is a reflection of God’s agape love which is dependent only on the character of God, not on the response of any human. And it did not lead to more disobedience but to less, for the boys knew they were loved and didn’t need to act out to get our attention.
Second, consistent affirmation. It’s really easy to consistently point out where children fail and constantly correct them. “Well that was ok, but you forgot to put this in there. When are you ever going to learn!” It’s much better to catch them doing things right and encourage them, compliment them, congratulate them on these. Then only point out lacks when it is necessary and helpful, using a coaching style (Well done. Now, let’s see how we can go to the next step.) rather than a judging style (Not again! How many times do I have to tell you how to do it!).
Third, keep in mind the difference between “punishment” and “discipline.” Our goal as parents is not to take out our anger on our children, but to train them to live wisely. The word “discipline” communicates that–we are helping them learn that disobedience has consequences (and the more they learn that at home, the less they have to learn it in more severe situations. Like out on the streets). Like a good coach, we put them through discipline to train them. Kids certainly sense the difference between discipline and punishment.
Fourth, discipline for surrender. Many times when parents try to correct a child, the child will cry loudly, complain and resist. Then, even though discipline has been administered, the child has won. In contrast I told my boys that I would spank them until they cried quietly. When they were older, I told them I would make them stand with their noses on the door jamb until they surrendered—and it was clear to them and to me when they surrendered. The most important single thing we can teach our children is to accept a healthy, “No!” If they don’t learn it from us, they won’t learn to tell themselves “no” when they should and will have learn it the hard way on the streets of life.