I’m becoming a gentler mom.
I was spanked as a kid. I grew up in an authoritarian home.
I feared everything.
When I became a parent, I surely went overboard with strictness, trying to counter the Disneyland father visitation syndrome with my preschool daughter.
I briefly attended a church that lived by the principles in the Pearl child-training book. That was disastrous.
When my eldest child just turned fourteen, I realized I was losing her. Despite everything. Too little relationship, too late. Too much coercion into compliance and obedience when she was younger was leaving her confused and broken when she was gaining independence and making bigger decisions.
Children who are coerced into obedience develop a victim mentality.
Coerced kids often become rebellious teens. I’ve seen it with some of our aquaintance’s families.
I’m raising servant leaders and I won’t succeed with opposition-based leadership methods. I was losing the battle.
I need to become a gentler mom.
I witnessed power struggles between my husband and daughter. I see power struggles between my four kids. I power-struggle with my kids occasionally.
Are discipline and obedience the same thing?
Many Christian and secular parenting articles and books and leaders would say yes.
“Obedience is doing what you’re told, no matter what’s right. Morality is doing what’s right, no matter what you’re told.” L.R.Knost
Obedience is all about gaining control.
Discipline is all about cultivating a relationship.
Discipline and Disciple are from the Latin discipulus, meaning “student.”
As a homeschool mom, I certainly don’t expect my children to know everything. That’s the whole point of homeschooling them. Why do I expect their behavior to be perfect? Why do I expect them to know how to act in social situations, or to have self-control when they’re tired or hungry?
These are issues that even many adults can’t handle, much less children.
I must end my own selfishness and unrealistic expectations to disciple them, guide them, lead them.
I know many parents who are exhausted from the power struggles of getting their kids to clean up their stuff. They threaten, shame, punish, yell, spank, and follow through with the threats by getting rid of the stuff, as if that’s the culprit.
I’m not perfect. I used to be like that, but I’m changing as I realize these methods don’t work.
And the greatest manipulations of all?
Using the Bible as a weapon.
Forcing kids to clean the plate.
Making decisions for them that they can and should make themselves.
What lesson do we teach our kids?
Timeout sends the message that our love is conditional since isolation breeds fear and dissension.
Throwing the Bible around as a lesson to kids doesn’t make them understand or want to know Jesus. They learn to see Him as an extension of abusive authority.
Food issues become about control instead of loving hospitality and fellowship.
Kids who never make their own decisions grow up into adults who don’t know how to make wise decisions. They fall into addiction or promiscuity. They become victims.
Really, as parents, we need to separate our emotions and our past issues from our parenting.
I fear all these parents who don’t respect their children as people and command and demand and have little relationship with their kids. All in the name of Jesus.
And they wonder why they lose them to the world.
We parent from fear.
Fear that we’ll be like our parents or the kids will make the same mistakes we did, fear that our kids will harm themselves or others, fear that we’ll look bad.
It’s time to trust in God to put down fear and to parent from the heart.
That may make us unpopular. We may look bad on the outside. We’ll learn who our real friends are. And we’ll gain our children in the process.
What can we do?
Pray. Jesus is the gentlest parent.
Apologize. Tell children we haven’t loved well and we’re going to do better.
Deal with our past. Know our triggers and problems. Forgive ourselves. Relinquish control.
Parent with respect. Realize that children are thinking people who can make decisions for themselves, with our guidance instead of coercion and control.
What does this look like in our home?
We threw out all the printables. Kids can learn on their own. It’s amazing to stand back and watch them explore their interests. I’m a guide, helping them in their research and finding materials for them. See how we learn.
It’s our goal to be debt-free. We constantly minimize to maintain our goals. It’s important to encourage our kids to see value in experiences instead of stuff. We don’t like clutter in our lives or hearts. See our frugal journey.
Obedience is not wisdom. We focus on discipling and it’s a constant process, reevaluating and learning ourselves. We focus on relationships, self-control, and kindness.
I have to plan and be proactive for our family to stay healthy and happy. We don’t punish or reward or praise. Behavior issues are not to be punished, but are cries for connection. My favorite parenting book list.
Tiffiney @ WelcomeHomeMinistry.com says
Hi Jennifer, Happy Monday! I’m new to your blog. I came over from the Life of Faith link up. Your title caught my attention and I knew your post was the one for me to read. Your words really resonate with me. I was a Pearl disciple and I wondered why some of my adult kids didn’t grow up and follow Jesus. (I’m a mom of 6 with 4 adults – I home school the youngest 2.) I always wondered what I was doing “wrong” and I had a lot of guilt. Anyway, not that I’ve figured everything out, but I like what you’ve shared here. However, it feels like an unfinished post. I was looking for some solutions or recommendations on what you’ve done discipline wise, etc…some examples of what we should do in all areas. Maybe this is the first part of a series??? I’m interested in hearing more from you on this. :-) It’s so nice getting to know you. I hope to visit sometime soon. (Let me know when you post on this again. :-)
I updated the post with some practical tips.
Excellent Jennifer. I will post on our moms group. I’ve had the same questions: did I not discipline enough? (too late now!) And that is why, ABC… But this encouraged me. Kids need our respect. And our humility. And no we can’t control anyone but ourselves and that even takes dependence on the Spirit. So, be encouraged in your parenting today, and blessings on your ministry.
Karen Del Tatto says
Jennifer, I never really thought about the difference between obedience and discipling, but as I read your words, I realized, wow, this is so true!!
I am a grandmother. My children, who I homeschooled, are grown and married now. My son had severe ADHD and really no amount of control or threats would change his ways. It was until I read Ted Tripps book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” that I was truly able to disciple my son and shepherd his heart.
I have seen the extreme hurt and devastation that results from overly legalistic parenting and ended up taking that child into our home as a safe haven when he could not live with his family anymore. They have since reconciled, but the lasting damage still shows itself well into adulthood…
Thanks for sharing your insights here. They are full of wisdom.
Jennifer Lambert says
I don’t recommend Ted Tripp or Dobson since they condone child abuse in their books and other platforms.
Great words of wisdom here. I think focusing on the relationship rather than the rules makes a big difference and I love your point about being realistic in what standards we expect of children.
You bring up some good points…how do we discipline our children in a way that teaches them?
They should want to “be good” and “do good” on their own…but how do we instill that desire in them?
I think a gentle approach does make more sense than forcing obedience.
I believe children naturally are good and desire to do the right thing. We as parents should allow them that freedom and guide them when they don’t know what’s appropriate.
As a full-time working mom, it seemed all I ever did was discipline my kids while I was home. Thankfully, God covered me with such grace. I’ve raised two into adulthood, both serving the Lord, and I have two teens (one pre-adult) who both love Jesus. However, we do have power struggles from time to time. It’s hard to keep the lines of communication open, as my kids are all inward processors. Thank you for sharing this post at #glimpses this week.
Donna Reidland says
We definitely need to parent with love and humility, don’t we! Elyse Fitzpatrick has a good book on parenting called, “Give Them Grace.” Blessings!
Julia Dale says
Excellent post!!!! I will be saving, sharing and rereading.
Karen Woodall says
I don’t think there’s any ‘one size fits all’ approach to parenting a child. To imply that ‘this always works’ puts fear and guilt on parents too. You know, God treats us as individuals and works with each of us based on our unique make up. why should we believe any differently. I think this is just one more reason we have to throw ourselves into relationship with Jesus. He knows our kids best and if we seek Him, then He’ll be the one leading and guiding through us. thanks!
Respect always works.
Anita Ojeda says
You have some great ideas here, Jennifer. I think time-outs can be effective–but only if they’re done with a purpose and an explanation. “Please sit on your chair and think about how you could do _____ differently next time.” Some times I give myself time outs to ponder and think!
Time-outs are never effective for changing behavior or showing love. They just teach kids conditional love by being sent away to be alone with their emotions. I never isolate. We call them “time-ins” and we discuss together what we can do or say differently.
Mary Hill says
Such a powerful post filled with real insights on parenting. I am parenting a teen and I have probably made every mistake you list here. I am encouraged that I can start anew and try other ways to reach her with positive love and true discipline.
Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love) says
This is such a thought-provoking post. I often struggle with how best to raise my children and that focus on obedience isn’t always helpful. There are certainly times that I realise I’m asking things of my children that I can’t even do myself (particularly when it comes to emotional responses to things!) and you’ve given me some food for thought with how I can be a gentler parent to my children. #twinklytuesday
Lisa (mummascribbles) says
Great post. It can take all my might to parent gently and quite often I fail. I think as long as we are mindful and doing our best then that’s a great starting place! 5 year olds are tough!!! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday
What good advice. Excellent article. God is the best parent! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!
I appreciate the distinction you make between obedience and discipline. It makes all the difference in becoming a gentler mom and in creating the right kind of legacy for our children.
Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook says
I just saw this, following the link from your book review linked to Booknificent Thursday…
I was raised with mostly-gentle discipline and a lot of reasoning and explanation, in the Bible Belt where most of my peers were whipped with belts every time they stepped out of line and most of their parents believed that explaining WHY we have a rule would undermine their authority. From an early age, I noticed that some of those kids tended to follow the rules only until the moment they thought they wouldn’t get caught–they were motivated by fear of discipline, not by their own conscience, and in fact hadn’t been taught that they could trust their conscience but had been told they had a “sinful nature,” so no wonder they couldn’t resist being “bad”….
I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to base my parenting mostly on how my parents raised me, because they did so many things right! Here are some of my thoughts on discipline.
But I do use time-out. I’m not thrilled with it, but sometimes it really does the trick of getting the kid to “reset” while giving me a chance to take a firmer grip on my temper. Of course I’ve heard of the time-in idea you mentioned in a comment, but I feel that is not something I can do when (a) my child is too worked-up to have a coherent conversation, (b) I’m getting so angry that I need a moment with nobody yelling before I’ll be able to talk it through, and/or (c) I’m in the middle of doing something that can’t be set aside and requires significant attention, like frying food or talking to the plumber. What do you do when you or your child need time apart for the conflict to settle, but your child will not accept that need?
Jennifer Lambert says
Wow, thanks for writing. This is great! Such good questions about practical matters.
I wish I could have been better with my girls, but with my son, I was proactive and told him what to expect – phone call, repairman, frying, exterminator, sale, etc. I told him what might happen and how I had to act and how I wanted him to act.
I almost never banish my kids but want them to witness and experience daily life. Of course, there have been times it didn’t work out.
I try time-in whenever possible. I sit with my son until he is in a space he can talk and listen. We don’t do punishment so it’s a matter of realizing that something wasn’t right or it was too much or he was tired or hungry or overwhelmed.
Children aren’t really capable of much separation. They crave attachment and I realize that triggers me when I want to cool down. Until they learn more executive function ability, I just have to take deep breaths and allow the proximity. I have to tell myself that I am the adult modeling the appropriate behavior.
If I blow it, I apologize. My kids are learning how to people.
I love your article and yes, we have to often explain other people’s actions to our kids. It’s so, so hard!