What Heart Messages does Your Child Hear when You Discipline them?

As a Christian I am called to reflect Christ in all my comings and goings; in all my relationships, in all my choices, in all my activities.  My actions need to reflect what he has done in my own life, and as a person who is growing more and more like him – my actions also need to reflect the values and character of my Lord.  As a parent therefore, every action I undertake also needs to reflect Christ.

There is a saying that we may be the only Bible someone reads.  This means that we may be the only representation of God, of His son Jesus, and of the power of the Holy Spirit that someone may be exposed to.  They may never pick up a written Bible, but they get the opportunity to see God’s love, mercy, grace, truth in action as they watch my life.

This is a scary thought.  And when we take it into our life as a parent – overwhelming and convicting.

 

Discipline that Connects with your Child’s Heart {book review}

Recently I read a pre-published edition of Discipline that Connects with your Child’s Heart* and I was left feeling that this book really touches on the heart of what it is to discipline as a Christian who wants to represent God’s truth and grace to their children.  This book has clarified some thoughts for me and has challenged me as I enter into parenting younger children again (part time foster).

This book outlines a discipline process that reflects how God deals with us (his children) and a way that is consistent with my desire to show my children what unconditional love truly is.   I am sure that I will read this book again – to really renew my parenting mind-set, to clean up paradigms and to find parenting practices that are consistent with my desire to represent God’s love as I love my children.

There are four main heart messages that we need to give to our children as we guide them to maturity.  Jim and Lynne Jackson list them as:

  1. You are safe with me
  2. You are loved no matter what
  3. You are called and capable
  4. You are responsible

 

Not only are these basic truths that our children need to hear from us, they are presented as the structure of any corrective discipline that we need to undertake.  But the chapters that most significantly impacted me where the chapters on “You are loved no matter what”.

Oh my heart cried that my children, and the little ones I have in my care now, know this.  I want them to know that they are loved no matter what – that they are loved by me, that they are loved by Peter and that they are loved by God – no matter what.

The adaptation of Romans 8:38-39 truly struck a chord with me. And I quote:

“Romans 8:38-39:  I am convinced the neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, no any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Imagine if a child could experience it this way:

I am convinced that neither failure nor lying, neither tantrums nor defiance, neither whining nor complaining, nor any disrespect, neither forgetfulness nor messes, nor any other misbehaviour, will ever change my parents’ love and God’s infinite love through Christ Jesus my Lord. ” (Discipline that Connects with your Child’s Heart, p108-109)

It really is a love through Christ’s love to me that I can offer this to my children.  How I want my children to be convinced of this one thing – I love them no matter what.

Every time our children do something wrong, we have an opportunity to reflect God’s unconditional love to them – and our own.  How can we really expect our kids to see God’s unconditional love if the relationship that is most tangible to them is expressing disapproval, anger, or grief.  These emotions can be manipulative – and come from a false understanding of our role as a parent.  We are not here to fix our children – only an encounter with Jesus, only a relationship with Him will change the sin in their life.  Our role is to love them, believe in them, coach them, and help them grow.

As a Christian community we are very aware of the cultural image of God being a god who is thundering judgement and anger at wrong doing.  If we are reflecting God to our children – what image are we giving them?  Is it really any different than this culturally understood image?  This makes me really stop and think – this is not the image I want to give my children.  Not because it isn’t a very persuasive image but because it isn’t a true image.  The God I know is one who is consistent with truth, and yet is consistent with love, offers mercy and promises (and delivers) grace.

As Discipline that Connects With your Child’s Heart challenged me to show this unconditional love in all my dealings.  It listed 5 ways that I could show this kind of love.

 

5 ways we can communicate our unconditional love

These 5 ways are listed (p 107) – though I’ve summarised the how to in my own words:

1–Verbalise it: tell our kids that we love them – tell them (in a sincere voice) even in the midst of disappointment and frustration.  In order to be sincere you may have to walk away and get your heart right first – ask God to give you a love for your child, a love that reflect his love for this child.

2–Physical contact: A hug, a hand on their shoulder, holding their hands – when we touch in a loving way it does something to our heart as much as it does to our kids!

3–Show Empathy: (I must admit empathy is one of the things I struggle with and yet this book gave me some good insights) Empathy is putting yourself in their shoes – asking yourself what they are feeling, and why they feel this way. When we start to understand their world, and all they have to deal with, we will approach any corrective measures differently – with love!

4–Listen: this requires us not to jump on our kids misdemeanours, it means we have to pause in our reactions and listen to them. This can often feel like we are giving them a way of making excuses for themselves – but it can equally be a way of showing love, by respecting their need to be understood.  It may not change anything, but it certainly leads toward empathy, which leads towards showing love!

5–Give welcoming expressions and gestures – our body language, our facial expressions, our tone in our voice all communicate as much, if not more, than any words we say. Be committed to not only guarding, but changing our body language, making sure that we communicate our love even in the middle of a tough conversation.

 

Discipline that Connects with your Child’s Heart has lots to offer as we think through how you deliver heart messages to your kids.  But it was this one, that made me think the most: How do I show my love to my children and how do I reflect God’s unconditional love to them?

 

*I have not been paid for this review, neither did I pay for the pre-published edition of this book but I agreed to read it and write a review because I felt that in looking at Jim and Lynne Jackson’s material on their website, that their heart for being a Christian parent was very close to my heart for parents. And I am so glad that I did.  I am marking this book as one of the significant books I have read for Christian parenting.  I can happily recommend that you read it.  I know I’ll be reading it again to get the truths presented here deep into my heart.

Australians can buy this book from Amazon – including a Kindle version

Others can check out Connected Families

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