Why is it that when a substitute teacher visits a class, many times the students are on their worst behavior. Because, for kids, it is very entertaining to cause someone to lose complete control of themselves, while they act like they have control over you ... when they really don’t have any control at all. How the substitute responds to discipline issues and challenges to her authority will make all the difference between gaining respect and getting the class under control, or losing respect and all sense of order. Students, and most people for that matter, don’t have respect for someone who can’t control their own emotions.
Passionate Legacy Principle #8: Deliver consequences and discipline in a godly, empathetic way. The way you discipline is as important as the discipline itself. Never discipline in anger. Don’t allow yourself to be emotionally affected by your child’s poor behavior. Learn to manage yourself. Don’t speak in anger, join in arguments, belittle, call names, yell, or slam doors. Speak to them in the same respectful way you speak to others that you teach in other life situations. Speak to them in the way the Lord spoke to those that were his disciples. Use the neutral stance. If you allow yourself to become angry, you are allowing your child to control you and the situation. Make the tension fall between the child and the consequence, not between yourself and the child. The child doesn’t need to know the behavior bothers you, the consequences speak for themselves. Rules are not in place because of the effect they have on you in the first place, they exist because they are right. You will only be an effective parent if you learn to control yourself.
The goal of parenting is to instill a desire and ability to love God and obey Him. In the early years of parenting, you can rely on your positional authority with your children to cause them to practice right behavior, but in the later years, you will transition to only having your relational influence to motivate them to choose to follow God, out of love for God and love for what is right. So to have an influence on your children’s lives, you will have to place value on the relationship. Relational influence is gained through having integrity and treating your children with respect. One of the biggest mistakes made in parenting is to use anger to motivate children to obedience. Anger is NOT an effective method of influencing behavior because it is disrespectful to children, it causes the child to lose their respect for you, it is an example of a lack of self-control, it puts the tension in the wrong place, and it presents a wrong motivation.
Let’s examine each of these reasons closely.
First of all anger is disrespectful. Disciplining children in full anger is like throwing an emotional dagger. Using strong emotion to cause a child to change their behavior is manipulative because it is holding your love for your child hostage in exchange for control. It is manipulating a child to feel guilty, afraid, small, weak, unlovable, and unworthy to secure desired results. Consider the law of love in 1 Cor. 13 Love is patient, love is kind ... it is not easily angered, also Eph. 6:4 Do not exasperate your children. Col. 3:21 Do not embitter your children. Matt. 20:25-28 “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them. Not so with you” ... you are to be a servant, be a slave. Jesus taught that he “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Anger is not a loving and respectful means of acquiring cooperation from a child and it is damaging to the parent-child relationship.
Secondly, it causes the child to lose respect for you. You can sometimes control a person’s actions but you will never be able to control the way a person feels about you on the inside. When someone treats us with disrespect we feel violated and angry and we lose respect for them. When we are intimidated into acting differently we see a person’s lack of love and integrity and we no longer respect their opinions or trust their intentions toward us. If a person were to correct you in your workplace would you be more motivated to do well at your job if you were yelled at and intimidated or treated with respect and corrected in a constructive way? Would you lose any respect for a supervisor who treated you with disrespect? How would that affect your future performance? It is the same with kids, they don’t respect someone who treats them disrespectfully and you will need their respect if you want to have any relational influence in their lives.
Thirdly, anger is an example of a lack of self-control. In Titus 2:1-15, Paul gives instructions about what to teach to older men, younger men, older women and younger women, and in each list he mentions to teach them to be “self-controlled”. Self-control is the ability to exercise restraint or control over one’s feelings, emotions, and reactions. Self-control is a foundational virtue. Every other virtue is dependent on its presence. Without it we cannot make ourselves obey God. Children and adults alike need self-control. Remember your goal of providing your child with the tools to obey God, self-control is the biggie. If we want our children to develop the ability to control their feelings, emotions, and reactions, then we must learn to control our own.
Fourthly, anger puts the tension between you and your child, rather than between the child and his or her wrong actions, where it should be. We need to allow consequences to do the teaching rather than anger. The consequences should be allowed to be the “bad guy” so that you can be the good guy. The consequences are useless when they are delivered with anger because then the child is more concerned with the way he or she is being treated than they are about their misbehavior. If the tension is between the parent and child, then the child will just avoid getting caught rather than learning to do the right thing based on love for God and love for what is right. A child can’t feel safe enough to think introspectively about their actions and the moral weight of their actions if they are not free to think their own thoughts without fear of severe emotional consequences, or they are too distracted by feeling angry toward the parent. The anger and hurt of being yelled at distracts them from learning the lesson that they need to learn, and it makes it too easy for them to blame the parent for everything. If they are going to be free to make good decisions, then they need to be free to make bad decisions and face the consequences without emotional interference. In the end, facing good natural consequences will be far more effective in changing a child’s heart than anger.
Lastly, anger does not motivate obedience. It motivates children to avoid getting caught because they don’t want to be yelled at, but it does not motivate them to love what is right. It muddies the water of why we obey. Rules are in place because they are good, right, moral, logical and bring safety and order; not because parents will be inconvenienced, irritated or angry. Remember that your goal is to instill in your child a desire to obey God, not just to get him to obey God. When your child makes a bad decision, instead of yelling or even saying “I am so disappointed”, or “I am so tired of..”, or “you make me so upset when..”, just allow them to face a consequence and try to empathize with their “situation” (their bad choice and resulting consequence). If the misbehavior was away from home and there is a natural consequence, say “Man that really stinks, what are you going to do?” or “I'm sorry, that (consequence) doesn’t sound fun.” However, if you are administering the consequence say “I’m sorry you have to face this consequence, I wish I could change it for you, but I can’t go against my conscience.” Empathize with their sad feelings about the consequence. Don’t bring up the fact that they earned it because that is obvious. And if you rub it in, you will sabotage the job that the consequence is doing in his or her heart. The message is not that you’re so inconvenienced that you are going to be mean back, but that the child’s actions were morally wrong, and you have no choice but to allow the child to face the natural consequences of his actions. This is a fact of life, there is nothing you can do about the natural order of things. A wrong action always calls for a corresponding consequence.