Much of life is about balance – finding a balance between work and play or maintaining a balanced budget. In the “Parenting on Purpose” process, nothing is more important than the balance between relationship and discipline.
The right disciplinary program gives a child the ability to eventually discipline himself. A right parent-child relationship gives the child the secure foundation to learn the motivation to say no, and even learn to seek balance in his own life. A positive relationship also makes the child feel secure even when he hears no from his parents.
Discipline without relationship teaches a child to fear getting caught. At its worst, discipline without relationship teaches a child to fear the wrath of his or her parent. The child in a discipline-only environment will obey only when being watched. Such a child learns to rebel when the parent is not around.
On the other hand, parenting that only invests in relationship without discipline results in an overindulgent, self-centered child. This child will be too attached to the parent and grow up afraid to leave home. A child with no discipline grows up believing that life revolves around him. This child will never learn how to be part of a team and often is unteachable at school.
Neither child will grow up learning to be a leader.
The balance of implementing discipline – saying no to one’s child – in a consistent manner while maintaining a loving relationship helps the child feel safe even when he fails. This child is willing to try new things because he is prepared to risk failure. The child in this home will grow up to lead others.
It’s all about balance! Over time a child learns that no means no – and nothing more. No means that the parents are seeking what is best for the child and what will teach him to live a godly, balanced life. No does not mean that Mom and Dad don’t love him. On the contrary, a child of balanced parenting learns that even his unacceptable behavior does not make his parents love him any less. This balance is extremely important. It’s the way God loves each of us.
The goal of parenting is to raise a godly adult. The process of parenting is to raise a child in an environment where he or she first spends a decade learning that no means no and that arguing with Mom and Dad is a waste of time. As that is accomplished, the parents can simultaneously develop the parent-child relationship to the point where the child can be taught the more significant lessons of life. One of the most crucial lessons you can teach your children is that God knows the plans He has for them and that God can and will guide them through life.
Such lessons are impossible to teach a child who will not listen, because he is constantly battling the boundaries the parents set. In the absence of a good relationship to provide balance, the child only sees the boundaries, the no’s. In addition, if parent-child communication is dominated by arguments, then godly lessons cannot be taught. There is no ability to truly hear one another. The child who continually argues with his parents has learned that arguing gets him what he wants. Everybody loses in this type of environment, one that fails to balance relationship with discipline.
Discipline is not a tool to keep your child quiet so you can get on with your own life. Quite the contrary, discipline allows you to “get into” your child’s life. Discipline is the act of setting boundaries on the field of life so you can get onto the playing field and teach your children. Without discipline, there is anarchy; when there is anarchy, there is no relationship. The child in this home grows up angry and insecure.
Parenting is all about balance – setting boundaries while at the same time developing the parent-child relationship. Saying “I love you” means sometimes you have to say no … and mean it.
Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues. To learn more about Pastor Bob Barnes, go to www.sheridanhouse.org.