God has given each parent the task of loving their children by instructing, training and disciplining them - but all of us feel clueless about this task from time to time. Here are seven principles to keep in mind when you don't know how to handle a discipline issue:
1. Act. Learn. Adapt. Most of the time, you just need to try the things you already know and see how they work. If it's going terribly, learn from it and try something new. Your first parenting strategy isn't your last parenting strategy.
2. Ask Someone: Sit down with a godly and experienced mom and ask her for a "Training and "Correction 101."
3. Pray: When you don't know how to handle it practically, pray over your child, that God would calm their heart, give them a desire to submit to authority and give you wisdom in the situation.
4. Read scripture and do what it says: There are lots of arrows in the Bible to point us in parenting. Sometimes, we don't like those arrows because they require us to sacrifice what we want to do, and take hard work and planning. Sometimes, when we're not sure how to discipline our child it's not because we literally don't know what's right, it's because we don't want to obey scripture.
5. Pay attention to your husband's leading: Oftentimes, your husband will see things that you don't and can see things more objectively. As hard as it is, listen to him when it comes to behavior issues and consider adopting his approaches.
6. Remove distractions: Sometimes confusion about discipline stems from letting other priorities cloud our calling. We haven't been consistent, or we've been overcommitted, or just lazy. Here, it's not that you need better parenting strategies, but need to repent to God and your children - making discipline a priority again.
7. Remember the goal and keep going: Being a faithful and godly parent is something that reaps rewards. We aren't promised that our children will become Christians, but there is treasure stored up in heaven for parents who faithfully raise their children in the way of the Lord. It isn't a perfect input = output relationship, But the bible shows that good fruit can result from raising our children well.
* A version of this post first appeared on Emily Jensen Writes Blog January 2015 // For more on gospel-centered discipline, listen to Episode 57 | How Discipline Helps Us Communicate the Gospel.