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Discipline Balanced With Love: How to Break Your Child’s Will But Not Their Spirit

How to Break Your Child’s Will but Not Their Spirit

Discipline balanced with love is the key to parenting. From the time they were just a baby, one of our four children had a will that was noticeably stronger than the others. I can remember the days of them growing up and getting in trouble time and time again because of their stubbornness and unwillingness to conform.

There’s one situation in particular that I remember quite well. Our child was about six years old at the time, and there was an instance of outright defiance and blatant rebellion. The options were laid out clearly, and either they would conform, or be disciplined until they conformed.

So the process began, and after many go-rounds, I was worn out. Neither my discipline nor their stubborn will had budged, and there was no way that I was going to lose this battle with my six-year-old.

So I took a break, went to the kitchen, and said these words to my wife, “How in the world do I break their will without breaking their spirit?” I was concerned that continued discipline could be unwise, but raising the white flag of surrender wasn’t an option either.

Have you ever been there as a parent?

  • You want so badly for this to be a “growth moment” for both you and your child, but they will have none of it.
  • You’re frustrated almost to the point of anger and you don’t seem to have any answers.
  • You’re adamant about breaking their will but equally concerned about crushing their spirit.

It was a few weeks later in talking to an elderly friend that I asked him that same question – “How do I break their will without breaking their spirit?” And to my pleasure, I was given an answer that has had an ongoing impact on my parenting. The advice I was given was this – “Discipline balanced with love always equals respect, but discipline without love always equals rebellion.”

And all of a sudden it finally clicked with me – As long as I’m disciplining out of love, their will eventually will be broken, but their spirit will stay intact.

Ephesians 6:4  Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

If we discipline correctly, our kids may not always obey us, but they will always know they are loved by us.

If we discipline balanced with love, they may not always agree with us, but they will still maintain respect for us.

If we discipline balanced with love, our motives will be pure, and never have to be brought into question.

Here are three super simple ways that we have practiced disciplining out of love:

1. Talk with them

No child should ever be drug by the ears to the bedroom or smacked upside the head and told to change. Discipline in the home should happen with the same love and tenderness our Heavenly Father uses when he disciplines us as his children. He is patient and kind, yet he doesn’t budge an inch.

When our children have done wrong and are in need of discipline, our first step is to talk to them and make sure they understand why they are in trouble and what the discipline they are getting is for.

2. Pray with them

Once the discipline has been administered, prayer is essential. Not only does it communicate your love, but it also communicates the love and forgiveness of God towards them.

Prayer also helps them understand that their offense is not just against a person, but is ultimately against God Himself.

3. Love on them

After talking with them and praying with them following discipline, it’s time to love them as they’ve never been loved before.

Squeezing your child tight for an extended period of time communicates something that words can never express – unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

I’ve seen parents over the years who send their kids to their room without doing any of the above. I’ve also seen parents who after disciplining their children, storm out of the room angry with words like, “You just sit here and think about what you’ve done before you come back out.”

Do that enough times and you’ve got yourself a surefire way to break your child’s spirit. But love them, on the other hand, unconditionally, and you have just hit parenting gold.

Your kids will naturally respect you if your love is never brought into question. When they understand what they have done, who they have truly done it against, and that your love for them hasn’t changed, you have just succeeded at turning a negative into a positive – Score!

“Discipline balanced with love always equals respect, but discipline without love always equals rebellion.”

So, the last time you had to discipline your kids, did they “feel the love”?

This article originally appeared here.

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Andrew is a husband, the father of four awesome kids, and a children's pastor at a thriving church. He is passionate about intentional parenting and helping other parents and leaders effectively reach the next generation. He blogs about kids and family at AndrewScottLinder.com, and provides proven resources for VBS and children's ministry at KidzBlast.com.