Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Reading Philippians 4:8 the obvious challenge has been not only to think on the good, but to consistently focus on the good instead of the bad. This comes as a decent challenge in the way we discipline our children. We have become so focused on raising children who conduct themselves in a socially acceptable manner, children who fit in the box of “good manners” and “good grades” that the majority of our relationship has become about control instead of connection, chiselling instead of grafting, forcing form instead of allowing growth. So often I find myself aware of my child’s behaviour when she is doing something unacceptable as opposed to when she is doing something good. The moments our children spend alone playing and keeping themselves busy with their toys tend to make us grateful for the few minutes we have to ourselves, but this ill-fated minute of solace ends all too soon. As children will be, sooner or later they will do something that requires our attention or intervention, usually something bad or dangerous. Our children then tend to get our attention only when we are frantic, stressed, disapproving and most often yelling. This sprouts from the notion that good behaviour doesn’t need as much encouragement as bad behaviour needs admonishment. We zone in on bad behaviour like a hawk, but are content in the moments our children do not need fighting with, convinced that we are witnessing fruit of the good we have instilled in them. We believe that they behave because of the input we have given to them in a certain area, which directly results in us believing that when they are misbehaving we are losing control that needs to be regained. If we were to only readjust our focus and begin to praise them for every second of good they accomplish, the good will start outweighing the bad, even if it is only in our eyes and serves only to ease your frayed nerves. I want to stress the fact that as soon as you feel out of control you will act accordingly; these are the moments and actions that most often lead our children to believe we have lost our minds. While you maniacally attempt to regain control of your child’s behaviour, you are in fact losing their hearts to insecurity. The worst moment for me as a parent came not when my child was physically in danger, though those moments alone can render a parent incapacitated, it was when I had witness hurt in my child’s eyes because of my reaction and the words I chose to admonish with. I realised that our actions cannot be measured by the intentions behind them alone, most people I know of cannot read minds, they perceive your meaning by your actions and the consequences these actions hold for them.
If we do not realise who we are in God, realise our true identity, our effort at disciplining our children become intensely problematic. We will find ourselves in a mindset of projecting our disappointment unto our children, instead of communicating clearly defined values and expectations. Just as the goodness of God is what leads us to repentance, just so it will be our goodness towards them which will cause our children to repent and alter their ways of doing things, allowing them to manifest good behaviour. I think it is imperative that we desire for our kids to be righteous and not only well behaved. Loving them unconditionally is implicit to their developing the freedom to choose the right reaction in difficult situations. It is when we treat them with understanding and tolerance that they become aware that diversity is acceptable. There is no situation where control of another person is healthy or beneficial. The need for control of another person stems from the fear that comes when people view things differently. Allow your children to become the product of love instead of the product of your will.
Discipline does not necessarily take the form of a beating to the backside. Loving those around us requires us to discipline our own minds, and to be open-minded to allow others to be themselves, this in itself is sometimes a painful process due to the level of control and high standards we maintain. I want to point out that if we can love and tolerate only the people who see things our way, make us feel good about ourselves, and not also those who oppose and challenge us, then we are merely maintaining a mutual state of affection and approval, then we do in fact not love them at all. Love does not lose patience, love is not easily angered, love always hopes and believes, love remembers no wrong it has suffered, love is not irritable and not resentful, love is not rude and does not insist on having its own way, love never falters and never ends.