Monday, January 26, 2009

Don’t Make Me Count To Three – Ch. 2

Welcome to the second week of our book study through Ginger Plowman’s Don’t Make Me Count To Three!  I hope everyone had the opportunity to get the book and read through Chapter 2.  If you didn’t, no worries!  Just join along with us anytime.  It’s a quick read and easy to get caught up.

This week we started off with an explanation of the difference between the world’s view of discipline and a biblical view of discipline.  Many people view discipline as a punitive, angry act that punishes a child for poor behavior.  Many people think of harshness, yelling, and angry spanking.  Sometimes, the worldly view of discipline is simply behavior modification…..a set of rules and consequences.  One popular system of discipline that comes to mind is “1-2-3 Magic.”  I actually had a counseling professor once tell me that “training a child is like training a dog.”  In the pop psychology world, parents are encouraged to give good consequences for good behavior and remove privileges or give natural consequences for bad behavior.  Another popular strategy is to focus on the good behavior and ignore the bad behavior.

While many of the above strategies may prove useful, ONLY using those strategies misses the “heart” of the issue that is such an important component of biblical discipline.  Ginger sums this idea up perfectly in my favorite line from this chapter on p. 26:

“…we do not need the latest fad methods.  We need God’s methods.”

Another great line is also on p. 26:

After all, if you can reach the heart, the behavior will take care of itself.”

When I was a teacher, I had to be gone several days during the year for trainings and music conferences.  On these days, a substitute teacher would assume control of my classes.  There were lots of teachers on campus that had excellent control of their classrooms…kids were always behaving, their rooms were neat and organized.  However, when those teachers were gone and substitutes came in, the class went wild.  In my opinion, they were governing their class legalistically and focusing on the outward behavior instead of trying to reach the hearts of their students and make them WANT to be good.  It was always my goal as a teacher to tug at the kid’s heartstrings and make them WANT to learn, be kind, and be respectful of others.  I wanted my classroom to be a haven, a safe place in the school where we were always kind and respectful to each other, EVEN IF I WASN’T THERE.  I’m certainly not saying my students were always perfect, but I continually got notes from substitute teachers saying they were amazed at how well my students behaved.  Many subs asked if I would specifically request them to come back the next time I was absent! 

This same concept of reaching the hearts of our children is what Ginger is saying should be the focus of biblical discipline.  It truly is a big job and takes a lot of effort when we think through and instruct our children in God’s Word.  I am constantly tempted to rush through discipline without using it as an opportunity for Biblical teaching.  Life is crazy, and sometimes we just don’t want to stop and deal with things.  But what I have found is that, over time, problem behaviors diminish when I am consistent to TEACH and not just REACT.

One of the most popular world views today is that people are basically good.  Children are innocent.  We need to look for the good within people, draw it out, let it shine.  Here’s the truth:  WE ARE UGLY.  Our heart is ugly.  We are all sinners.  Children do not escape this truth.  We need to expect our children to sin and not be surprised when they disobey.  After all, parents know that we don’t have to teach our kids to lie, steal, scream, fuss, hit, or disobey.  They come by it naturally, thanks to the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden when sin entered God’s perfect world. 

The biggest responsibility we have as parents is to teach our children how God would have us act and treat each other.  Teach and model God’s forgiveness.  Show them their need for a Savior and how redemption is found in Jesus’s sacrifice.  I don’t know about you, but that responsibility is overwhelming when I ponder it!  Our most important mission field is our own children!

I hope that many of you will join in and comment on what particularly struck you in this week’s reading.  Even if you didn’t read, feel free to comment below on the topics raised.  Perhaps consider one or more of the following questions:

How is a biblical view of discipline/instruction different from the world’s view?  How can focusing only on outward behavior be harmful to a child?  Why is it important to recognize the heart as sinful?

I look forward to reading your comments!  Next Monday stay tuned for a post on Chapter 3!


Mrs. Sprinkles said...

I (finally!) got my book. I can't thank you enough for recommending this. I was completely ignoring the heart aspect and quickly leading the kids down a legalistic road.

I really appreciate the focus she has on siblings--the practical examples are exactly what I'm dealing with now.

Sarah said...

I must begin by saying I am so guilty of doing just as she said in this chapter. When my children disobey, I tell them that was wrong, don't do it again, spanking. Then I pat myself on the back for not letting them get away with disobeying me. I know better than that, but as a parent I have to train MYSELF first of all to remember that discipline isn't just about outward behavior but about training my children's hearts.
I believe that you can change a child's outward behavior by punishment. There are television shows which show children who have had no discipline that are quickly brought into outward conformity to rules. But punishment alone will not change the heart, except quite possibly for the worse instead of the better.
This chapter reminded me of the illustration of the little girl whose mother told her to sit down and she refused. Finally after the mother made her sit the little girl said, " I may be sitting down, but inside I am still standing up." If in disciplining my children I don't deal with their hearts, their sin before God, and need of Christ as Savior, then I am only raising children who obey me for fear of consequences, but inside they are still "standing up."

Joanna J. said...

Mrs. Sprinkles,

I'm glad you are excited about this book. I, too, appreciate the practical examples!

Joanna J. said...


What a great illustration you gave about the heart of children. I've also been very guilty of rushing through discipline without sharing biblical instruction. Discipline takes time and effort, and I am always praying that I will be consistent AND heart-oriented.

Christa said...

Getting to the heart of the matter is the hardest part for me. It is too easy to focus on behavior change. I am constantly asking God to give me insight into my child's heart and for the Holy Spirit to prompt me to not overlook the heart during discipline. There are times when I will be disciplining and I am literally praying for the words to say in that moment. I have a tendency to go into too much detail, so I am praying for short simple sentences to get to the heart of the issue to my 4 year old.

Deanna said...

Sorry, still haven't gotten my book, but since I have an opinion on everything:) I can add a few words. It is so true that we need to expect our children to act according to their natures - sinful. This doesn't mean expecting the worst out of them, but it does mean not being surprised when they are disobedient. This way, we can respond calmly and from the perspective of a fellow sinful creature. Some days it helps to admit that we as parent also act according to our natures! I pray often that the Lord will protect my children from my sins.

It is also a good thing to distinguish between the outward actions and the heart of the matter. Otherwise we are raising little pharisees. I see this ever so clearly in my teenagers' friends. They know exactly how they are supposed to act in front of me, the adult, but are lacking in character when no one is around but their peers. For some reason this is a very prevalent problem among home schoolers (of which I am one). I think we are so worried about how our children will look compared to non home schoolers, that we lose sight of the heart. This is a huge error.

Joanna J. said...

I love that you brought up the need to choose our words carefully and simply. Kids will tune out if we go on and on and on.... I agree that our words should be easy to understand and meaningful.

Joanna J. said...

Thanks for chiming in! I love that you can add some perspective on parenting older kids and teenagers. I think you are right...many kids have gotten very adept at acting one way around their parents and a different way around their peers. I am praying that God will open Grace's heart to receive biblical instruction and apply it to ALL areas of her life as she grows up.