This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I have my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen, here. We are doing a long-awaited show for all of you today. We are going to be talking about discipline. We get a question about this once a week, it feels like. You guys—understandably so—have so many questions about discipline. But the problem is, we have the same questions and so we have avoided doing this show because we feel like we’re still figuring this out, and we don’t have the answers, and that we’re asking the same questions that you are. Emily’s oldest is four and a half, and mine is four next month. We just feel like we’re not super deep down this road. There's no proof in the pudding that we can say, “Hey, we did this and look how wonderful our children are.” That’s what's been the hang up or the slow down, but we’re excited to tackle it from the gospel, the high level side of things. So it’ll be less on the practical, but just general truths about discipline that you can apply right now, and hopefully, encourages your heart, and encourages the way that you discipline, even if that’s a little bit different from the way we do it, or any other mom.
Emily: We’re right there with you. Probably one of the reasons a lot of you guys want to know like, “How do I discipline my toddler?” Or, “How do I get started on discipline?” Or “What resources do I look to?” is because there are so many varying opinions and strategies out there, even among people that are very respected and very strong in their biblical knowledge and very gospel-centered. [laughs] Even among that small niche of people, you'll see a variety of different opinions. I also think it’s one of the hardest things. When you get to discipline when they're one and a half, or two, it just feels like you are on shaky, earth-quaking ground, and you have no idea what you're doing [laughs].
Laura: You feel it with the newborn for sure. But then you start realizing like, “This stuff, like legit matters.” Like, “What would I give my kid to eat?” Like, “They're going to survive if it’s the wrong thing probably”. But these deep heart issues, you start seeing their sin really in your face. And so you're feeling really uncertain, and a lot of fear I think, and very, very, very insufficient. It’s a moment that every parent comes to where they're on their knees.
Emily: [laughs] We are there with you, we are in the constant trenches every day with pre-school and toddler-age children. It is constant, we know. Today, we are going to start by really quickly defining what discipline is, just so we’re all talking about the same thing]. We are going to go through this; it’s going to be a little bit different than the way we’ve structured other shows. We’re just going to go through the gospel; the four parts that we talk about on most shows. We aren’t always really explicit about it, but we’re going to try to be really clear, and talk about how those parts of the gospel apply towards discipline. Then we’re going to try to give you four strategies that maybe you could apply, or just examples. To start, we wanted to make sure again, we’re all talking about the same thing when we’re saying the word “discipline”. One of the places in scripture that, at least for me, clearly helps define that, is Hebrews 12:3–11. We’re not going to read all of that for you, we’ll provide that verse link in the Show Notes. But mainly at the end of that passage, it talks about how God reserves discipline for his sons, for his children. And that, “He disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness”. And it talks about how for the moment, “All discipline seems painful, rather than pleasant. But the fruit of it is righteousness for those who’ve been trained by it”. That is what we are talking about today, that kind of discipline.
Laura: My parents made me memorize that, actually almost exactly what Emily was talking about there, the second half of the passage. They made me memorize that when I was in a particularly rebellious teen years, and I remember I just hated it.
Emily: “‘This for my good’, I know." So those are the things we wanted you to pull out really quickly, is that, biblical discipline is proof that you are a child and not an outsider. It’s going to be painful for the moment, but it’s ultimately for the child’s good. The point of it is to train children in holiness and to point them to the gospel, which is what we are chatting about today. Laura, should we fly over this gospel stuff?
Laura: We’ll start with creation, and basically as we all know, God is the Creator of all things, he has authority over all, we give him all power and he deserves all of our worship because of what he did. He gets to decide right, and he gets to decide wrong, and he also gets to decide how we operate within those boundaries. He created us for and to have relationship with him, and that’s huge. He always desires relationship with us, and our purpose is to give him glory in everything. Application with this Emily, we set standards as parents based off of God’s command. We also have things that are for safety of our children, for them to function—socially and culturally—and then we also set standards based off of God’s commands and is principles.
Emily: The main idea is in discipline, like Laura said, there isn’t this relative, “Hey, however you feel it’s okay to treat people.” Like, “Whatever you feel morality is, or the good thing is, is okay for you”. We say “No, God has given clear boundaries and standards and we’re going to—as parents, in whatever the circumstance looks like—hold you to that”. We’ll get into a little bit more on how that can mimic God’s law. That’s part of telling our children and setting that standard because as we talk further, we’ll see that kids are not going to be able to do it. That becomes a really good gospel pointer. For creation, showing our children how to image him. One super practical take-away is to start when kids are very, very young, even as young as two-years-old, or younger. Giving really simple commands like, “Come. You need to come to mommy”, and expecting them to do it right away. Or telling them, “Stop”; we like to use the word “freeze” because “stop” seems to be something they're deaf to [laughter]. Just little, simple commands like that can be a really easy early way to establish it.
Laura: And moving into the fall; this is a huge one because every day we see the fall in our homes, in ourselves, in our kids. We all know that you cannot uphold God's commands; it is impossible to do it. We are born sinners, even from infancy. Even that tiny little newborn that is sleeping beside you in the sleeper, they're born sinners. We sin in ways when we know the good that we should have done, but we didn’t do it. And we also sin sometimes when we take an action; whether or not we knew it was against God’s law, it can still be sin against God or against others. We can’t be good on our own, that is what that means. The law shows us our need for a savior, it shows us our deep sin and how we need someone to come and redeem us. So, tons of application in all sections.
Emily: One thing I always remember here is that, I want all my kids to experience the feeling of the fall in their sin, and that feeling of, “Wow, I really can’t do this. I cannot obey mommy and daddy every time they ask”, which is a biblical standard for children. We’ve all been children at one time, but that is a huge bar to try to measure up to. Like, “Every time mommy and daddy tell me something, I have to do it right then, and anything less than ‘with a joyful heart’, is sin.” All of these things, like sin or sin in their heart, make it so they're not able to share; they’re not able to love or express love for God. You see the selfishness in their hearts, and we point out that to them. In the past I viewed this as, “This is the really rotten part of discipline”. No, this is the part where we’re different from the world, and we get to show our kids, “You are desperate for a savior”. So don’t overlook this part, moms [laughs].
Laura: It’s important. These are parts where we can say to them, “You aren’t able to share with Johnny on your own, but with Christ, if you trust in Christ,” and we’ll get to that. But to recognize that, “Yes, it's hard for me to hold my temper and it’s hard for you to hold your temper. We’re both fallen in this because we’re human”. And so to be able to unite and agree in that area of the fall and to both feel sadness over that, while understanding this sadness and that the relationship’s severed between your child and God as you speak with them. This is an area where, if children truly see they can uphold the law and understand that, deep within themselves, eventually that’s what's going to create a child that loves God out of an overflow of what he did for him, rather than just some moralistic Pharisee or robot. That is a lynch pin and it makes us different from other people because this is the area that we really need to show them to grieve over and to understand that their own willpower isn’t going to get them through it.
Emily: A super practical take-away, as we’re trying to take that a little bit from the theory for you guys, this is the kind of aspect of discipline where there are consequences for sin. Those in a child’s life can play out; things like going to timeout, or there might be some natural consequences of like, “You spilt that,” or, “You broke that. Now we're going to sit and clean it up.” Or you’re going to have to…
Laura: Which takes five times as long [laughter]. When you make your kid clean up their own spilt milk, it’s a consequence for mom too [laughs]. But it’s good but I am always like, “Urrgh, it’s going to take forevs”.
Emily: Something like a spanking or losing a privilege, or sometimes in a non-shameful way, a verbal rebuke or a very firm, “No, you may not do that,” or whatever the wording is. There is a variety of strategies here. This is what we‘re not going to get into; this is where the water goes so deep we can’t even begin to talk about it. Whatever it looks like, going back to that Hebrews verse, it’s going to cause the child some pain in some way. That is okay because that’s what’s going to point them to the next part which is redemption.
Laura: Redemption, our favorite part. Well, restoration too. I feel like they’re both obviously wonderful! This is where as we all know, Christ came and he paved a way for us to be reconciled to himself, because we can’t do it on our own. We failed, and cannot keep the law, but Jesus kept everything perfectly, therefore his sacrifice on the cross was absolutely perfect. The only way that we can get to God and to have relationship and commune with him is through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. This is a free gift and so no one can boast in it, no one can say that they did something to receive it, because this is a free gift that Christ gives out of his love and grace for us. This is obviously where the gospel’s is so beautiful, and it just comes in. At times, I will be talking to my child and my voice can even change. If I am talking about sin and the fall and then we bring in Christ’s love and his mercy and what Jesus has done for us, I feel like if I am really believing in that, and jiving with it—which doesn’t happen very often, I’ll be honest—but I can feel it in my soul, like the warmth that comes. That’s where we teach them about the consequences and their natural sin, and the barrier that it places between us. So you can do this in conversation with your kids, of talking through, “Hey, here is the hard truth, like we were saying earlier about the Fall and how you cannot do this on your own. But if you trust in Christ, then you have access to these things. Your debt has been paid for at the cross and you are forgiven. You are able to be reconciled to not only God, but to your friend, or to mommy, or to whoever it was that you sinned against.” This is the part where I, as a parent, really see the gospel played out. Not only for my child—I want to show him and point them to Jesus, but also for my own life.
Emily: In terms of practical take-aways, this is exactly what Laura was saying; when inappropriate, and it’s not going to be every single time they sin. If you are desiring to do this and you are in tune with the Holy Spirit, he will lead you in moments where you will see your child feel really broken over their sin. Not just like, “I want to go back to playing now,” and that may not be the appropriate time to talk about it. When they're really broken and you get to come in and share the good news of the gospel with them, and pray with them, and hug them, make sure every time after discipline happens, you are reconciling with them. That shows that, “I am going to forgive you because Jesus forgave mommy,” and “We don’t keep accounts here because God does not keep accounts with those whom he has forgiven in Christ.” Those are great ways we can display God’s grace. Then there is the restoration part which we’ve gotten into a little bit; the truth being that now, once we place our hope and our faith in Christ, we are living for something bigger than ourselves. I know sometimes people will talk about talking to kids in terms of the negative, of what you don’t want to do. We do that sometimes, but also teaching them that they are a part of this bigger story, that their lives are meant for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify God, and to lay down everything and follow Jesus with bravery and courage and all of those exciting things. Also, to help children catch a vision for that is the point.
Laura: This is the ongoing work of discipline that both Emily and I’s children who can’t talk, they all profess faith. Its super exciting to feel like, “Ooh, they can talk about this stuff”. We also want to continue to not assume that they're saved. We still talk to each other like, “Hey, trust in Christ. Help my unbelief Lord,” and still talking to our children about what the gospel has done for them. We also need to remind them that they need him constantly, and remembering that just because you're saved—maybe you have an older child who you feel very confident that they are saved—but just because your child is saved doesn’t make you necessarily less sinful. It just means that you're forgiven. We’re constantly a work in progress, so talking with our kids, and having those conversations about, “Hey, this is who you are in Christ,” or, “This is who God wants you to be if you trust in Christ—to be kind, patient, gentle and loving - all of those types of things." We’ve had shows about this before, but just like teeing them up about, “This is the behavior that we strive to have as image-bearers of God”. It’s not always the “nos”, like Emily said, like, “Don’t do this, don’t do that”. But it’s about what he has called us to be, and who we are in him, and how the Holy Spirit really empowers us to live out a life that follows Christ.
Emily: What that can look like practically—this is a little bit something you want to do first on the front end, but is cyclical—is to be teaching your children, training them in those practical skills. You can think of it as training in righteousness or in low stakes environments like, how do they share? How do they say “please” and “thank you?” How do they show mommy and daddy respect? How do they follow the household rules, whatever those look like? It’s giving children intentional training because that is what God does for us in his word, that’s what God does for us in our lives, and we want to pass on that same courtesy to our children to image the gospel. The main thing today is we want you to know this really matters. Laura and I just really want the take-away to be like, "This is so important to communicate in the gospel.”
Laura: Even though it is stinking hard [laughter]. We are with you on flubbing it up, messing it up, knowing we didn’t do it right, feeling like sometimes we take action, that, maybe we take too much action, sometimes we don’t take enough action. We don’t weave the gospel into every conversation, and we’re definitely not those perfect people who are able to see every sin and then zap them with the gospel. We don’t think anything greater than we are. We are in this with you, and just know, God commands us to discipline our children. This a major aspect of your role as a mom and your husband as well. It’s not popular these days to discipline your kid, it’s like, “Just let them go and do whatever they want”. Or, a lot of times too, we could just teach them morals like we were saying; or just the no, no, nos. But when we really strive to show them their need for a savior and the deep grief over their sin, that is when in the long term, when they see their true rebellion, they are going to understand the beautiful grace that they have access to. Don’t shy away from discipline.
Emily: We know we've left you with a billion practical questions about how that looks in real life. We’re going to hopefully—as time goes on—continue to flesh this topic out more. We will try to provide some resources for you on our Show Notes at risenmotherhood.com. As always, you can also find us and more information or resources on social media on Facebook and Instagram @risenmotherhood and Twitter.
Thanks for hanging in there with us today, guys.