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Preventing Discipline Problems by Love at Home

Many homes in twenty-first-century North America have a problem with attention deficit disorder—the children don’t get enough attention from their parents. Abraham wasn’t too busy, nor was he careless in parenting. God said of him, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment” (Genesis 18:19).

God designed a homeschool lesson on spiritual priorities for Abraham on Mt. Moriah. I think the fact that Abraham successfully passed this test was linked to his love for his son. God recognized this as He gave commandment to Abraham to sacrifice his son: “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest” (Genesis 22:2).

Besides giving suitable attention to children, which should be relatively easy in a homeschool environment, how can parents prevent discipline problems through love?

Love mixes affection and firmness. In a ten-year study at Harvard University that ended in the late nineties, the conclusion stated that the best parents are “firm disciplinarians who simultaneously show great affection for their children.” A good homeschool maintains a balance of adherence to rules and affirming love. Love sets boundaries and imposes restraints. Have you ever wondered why so many parents in America put a leash on their dogs, but let their children run loose?

Love admits mistakes and is quick to apologize. A parent may say, “I got angry and didn’t speak very graciously. I’m sorry.” Or she might admit, “I made a mistake in totaling your test score. Sorry about that.” Confession is good for the soul. It is also very helpful in maintaining good interpersonal relationships. A homeschool teacher’s rapport is vital in preventing discipline difficulties.

One teacher wouldn’t acknowledge any mistakes that he made in the course of his classroom instruction. When he made an error, he would say, “I did that deliberately to see if any of you would notice.” He lost credibility and respect and so encountered behavior problems in his classroom.

Love sets a good example. The story is told of a child who asked his father, “Daddy, what is a Christian?”

The father collected his thoughts. “A Christian is a person who loves and obeys God. He loves his friends, his neighbors, everybody—even his enemies. He is kind and gentle. He prays a lot. He looks forward to going to Heaven. He believes that knowing God is better than anything on this earth. That, my boy, is a Christian.”

The boy thought that over and asked, “Daddy, have I ever seen a Christian?”

Many behavior problems in a home are prevented as parents model their Biblical teaching about relationships, priorities, and solid Christian living.

Love gives words of commendation. Often we find it so much easier to criticize and find fault. A helpful rule of thumb that I try to follow is this: Give ten commendations for every criticism. Words of appreciation help to make a child feel secure. When children feel secure, they are much more likely to behave properly. Words of affirmation also help a student feel motivated, want to please the teacher, and enjoy school—all factors that help to prevent discipline problems.

Reading the epistles of Paul, I see over and over how he commends those whom he is instructing. Take, for instance, his letter to the church at Corinth. Although he has many disciplinary matters to address, as he writes 1 Corinthians, note what he says first: “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4-8).

Later, in his second letter to them, Paul communicates his appreciation for their response to his instructions.

Love gives verbal expression. Take a lesson from the heavenly Father who spoke at Jesus’ baptism: “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

What’s the application to parents?

Personally express your love. God spoke to Jesus, “Thou art.” It’s fine to tell other folks that you love your child, but it is more important to tell the child himself. This may be done with your voice or your pen. Lately, I was in a home in the States where a daughter’s birthday cards were hung on a door. I noticed one from her dad, communicating his love and appreciation to her. Verbalizing your love gives a sense of recognition to your child.

Stress words like my. God said, “Thou art my beloved son.” This helps to give a sense of belonging and security.

Specifically and repeatedly tell your children that you love them. This meets a basic human need of affection. The Father called Jesus “my beloved son.” I recall when our first child was small, my wife often sat with our daughter on her lap saying, “I love you” and the little one happily responded, “I wuv you too.”

Ultimately, the love of a Christian parent points to Christ. Genuine conversion prevents numerous discipline problems. In fact, pointing a student to Christ is the best way, for then the student has an inner motivation and power to demonstrate Christ-like behavior.

Timothy benefited greatly from home instruction and it greatly impacted his behavior. Ponder the words of 2 Timothy 3:14, 15: “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

—Howard Bean

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