Thursday, April 11, 2013


From Beth:
You may have read last week's post sharing some practical strategies to train your child in healthy and godly ways of thinking and behavior. This post is a follow up to that one, with more ideas to try with your children. For when we parent in grace, we realize there is no place for punishment, but endless opportunity for discipline and training, and the sowing of many seeds awaits us in our day-to-day relationship with our child!

~ Here is a little disclaimer before I go forward: Susan and I are hesitant sometimes to share practical parenting advice. There are a few reasons for this. One is that there are so many wonderful ministries doing and excellent job already. Another is that we want to be very careful not to dishonor our children in any way when sharing the things we have struggled with that involve our kids--we desire to protect their privacy . And we in no way want to imply that there is one way to parent, or that we or anyone for that matter have the answers you need. Certainly we have received wisdom and we love to share it; we ourselves have learned a ton about parenting simply by copying others! But we always want to point you to the One who is the best Counselor and Helper, the One who Loves like no other and is the Light in my Darkness --and yours, and theirs, and everyone's.

But the main reason we may hesitate to share practical parenting advice is we are so convinced that all the best parenting in the world can not heal your child, nor can it give you what you most need in order to love them well. It is a very short step from being an avid student of parenting to actually placing my trust in my own parenting, in essence, trusting in myself. Good parenting is helpful and will make a signifiant difference in your family life and even in the life of your child, but it is only a container for the healing work of the Holy Spirit, not the healing itself. We never want to place our hope in our parenting, even though both of us thought at the beginning of our adoption journeys that if we read the right books, went to the right conferences, and put into practice all of that wonderful wisdom, that all of this would produce the godly children we were pouring our lives into raising.  It is clear to us that our hope is in Christ alone for salvation, healing, joy, purpose, connection, identity, inspiration, unity and wholeness.

So, back to the topic at hand! As we said last time, we don't want to stop at simply telling our children what not to do; we are looking for ways to equip them--to parent them forward into their identity in Christ. A very effective strategy Stephen and I have found to do this is to take the time to have some sort of follow up, or an affirming resolution to whatever the issue was that required discipline. 

Ask Questions
The use of questions is a great help in encouraging your child to enter into a true discussion with you. Remember, relationship is the heart of GRACE, so everything we do to nurture relationship and connection with our child, especially in the context of discipline, will bear eternal fruit. Some well thought out questions will guide your child to discover some realities for themselves. I don't know if you have the same problem that I do, but it is so easy for me to go into "lecture mode" when I want to correct my child. And what makes it worse is that our teens often felt that the stringing of two or three words together in a row constituted a lecture! So, asking questions is helpful in eliciting your child's involvement in the training process. And it has the added benefit of helping them learn to be a thinker.

Ask, What Went Wrong?
It has been fascinating for Stephen and me to see how often our children did not actually know why they were "in trouble," as they would put it. I remember one fairly typical scenario when our son had a spelling test. We had been working with him on getting his homework done with some degree of
excellence. His only goal in doing school work was to finish it as fast as possible. And I mean only--the idea that he would actually learn something or try to have correct answers was so not in his mindset! So, we had asked him if he had any homework or quizzes and he confidently said that he had nothing. You probably know where this is going, right? Later that week a failed spelling test comes home and so of course, we speak with him about it. As a natural consequence, he was not able to go out to play that afternoon so that he could learn to spell the words he had not studied earlier in the week. But when we had our follow up later that night and asked him, "Do you know why you weren't able to go out to play today?" his response was, "Because I got a bad grade on my spelling test." 
It was so good that we asked him, because in no way did we want to communicate that a bad grade would bring the "punishment" (which is how it felt to him) of not playing outside. If he had told the truth and studied, and then done poorly, we would not have responded that way at all. We were then able to go over what happened so that he could understand the real issue, and begin to help him make adjustments to his approach to homework. 
Over time, and with this child this did take some years for him to learn not to let the goal of finishing fast be his only objective, we are empowering our child to take responsibility for his/her actions and to learn new ways to do things. Asking the question helps define the problem, training your child not to see himself as a victim of circumstance (or of his mean parents!), nor to blame others in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility. 

Ask, Why Was That A Problem?
This provides an opportunity to talk with your child about the character and values your family honors. It helps get past the behavior as the main issue, so that you can access the heart attitude. When your child won't share her dolls, helping her imagine how that feels for her friend will open her heart past her primary drive to protect her belongings. Asking questions like, "how do you think Jenny felt when you wouldn't let her play with your dolls too?" or "remember when your brother didn't let you build with his legos yesterday? What did that feel like?" will begin to expand your child's ability to understand values like honor, kindness, generosity, hospitality, etc. 

This is an ideal to time train your child in forgiveness-- both the asking for and the giving of. It was helpful for us to teach our children to say, "I am sorry I _________. Will you please forgive me?" and "Yes, I forgive you." This took some time (we often had to do "re-dos" and give them the time they needed to be able to say these things with authenticity), but it helped by pass the angry/hurt and never effective, "I'm soooooorrrrrryyyyyy!"

I would also add here that it is a powerful thing to model this for your child. Don't miss an opportunity to ask your child for forgiveness when you've yelled at them, or ignored them, or any of the things we all do on occasion. Asking for and receiving their forgiveness empowers them to do the same, and will strengthen your relationship like nothing else. 

Speak Identity Into Your Child
Before you end your follow up time, allow the Holy Spirit to give you something positive to say about your child, especially looking forward into their future. Parenting in Grace is always forward looking and filled with hope. So no matter how bad things are at the moment, even if your child has opposed you every step of the way and resisted your efforts to train, you will find the Lord always has something good to say about him/her. Always. One of our children was terribly clever at getting things his way (notice the use of the word terribly!) so it was easy for me to say something like, "You are going to be such a wonderful employee when you are older. You are so good at solving problems and getting things done. Your boss is going to love you!" Or maybe you can say, "What a tender heart you have. You really do feel it when something is not right, don't you? I can tell you will be such a wonderful husband/wife one day. The best!"

So, how about you? Would you leave a comment here and share some things that are working in your home? I know God is at work in our families and He has shared some strategies with you that we all would love to hear! 


  1. I strongly recommend the Five Love Languages for Children and Loving Our Kids on Purpose. Both those books drastically changed our parenting! And like you said asking questions is soo important! Too many times we assume what went wrong or that our kids understand, and when we ask we realize how wrong we were! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Esther thanks so much for these recommendations. Stephen and I LOVE Danny Silk's book. It really helped us with some issues with our teens. I've read excepts of the Love Languages one, but not the whole thing. I'll have to check it out! Blessings on you and your family!