Ask God how to be consistent in disciplining your children.
From the time our sons and daughters were very small, we’ve told them we expect them to obey the first time—every time—we ask them to do something. I realize this is an alien concept in the twenty-first century, but because the majority of our children were born in the twentieth century, we’re getting away with it.
Our kids have known we expect them to obey “quickly, cheerfully, completely, and without complaining” because we repeated that phrase thousands of times during their childhoods. Just ask them today and watch them roll their eyes as they recite the mantra.
Now, please don’t think the Harrell household was filled with quick, cheerful children, who completely batted a thousand in the obedience bracket. Oh, goodness no! Rather, our youngsters set their hearts on an objective to prove the theological concept that all humans are born in sin.
Consistency in discipline is a challenge for my wife Belinda and me. We get tired and frustrated having to repeat the same instructions, forgetting there is a spiritual battle raging within our children. See, the kids already know what they are supposed to do (study this, vacuum that, wash this, flush that). They just don’t want to do what they know they are supposed to do, easily proving that theological concept of inborn sin and driving their parents to be consistently inconsistent.
Hey, I do it also. I’ll hit my head on a problem and cry out to the Lord, “Oh Lord, whatever should I do?”
Predictably, God responds, “My son, you already know what to do.”
“Um, is that why I memorized all those verses, Father?” I sheepishly reply.
“Yes, My son, that was the point,” He concludes.
Being thirty years older than my children doesn’t mean I’m thirty years smarter than my children.
Consistency in discipline is right for my kids. Consistency in discipline isn’t easy with my kids. Actually, consistency in discipline wears me out with my kids. When my kids defy my instruction, sometimes I just want to ignore the infraction, hoping the behavior will magically go away. Sometimes I just want to go bury my face in a pillow and scream.
I get frustrated. I get frustrated when my sons know what they are supposed to do but don’t do it. I get frustrated when they see their mother cleaning the kitchen, yet they stay seated at the table, reading about Legos. I get frustrated when my sons step over a stack of folded, clean clothes on their way both into and out of their bedroom.
My sons are part squirrel. Yes, this sounds weird, but it is true. I know they are part squirrel because of how they stuff their bedroom closet with odd items they find around the house, just like squirrels do. I’d holler at the boys to clean out their closet about every week, only to find it trashed again the following week. I didn’t consistently check their closet each day, so they restocked it each day with socks, appliances, Legos, shoes, and toys.
Well, I got frustrated with being frustrated and finally agreed to ask the Lord what to do. He told me. Not in an audible voice, but in a revelation that reminded me why He is God and I’m not: “Remove the door,” He revealed.
“Do what?” I replied.
“Remove the door,” He repeated as He usually has to when imparting wisdom to this imperfect father.
With hammer and screwdriver, I removed the closet door from the hinges. The boys had shocked faces. By removing the door, I removed my sons’ ability to hide their disobedience. Now each time I visit the boys’ room, I instantly know the state of their squirreliness.
God has the best ideas for handling my sons, and I should ask for His wisdom more often since He has a Son too—though I haven’t detected that God had this kind of trouble with His Son. But you do have to wonder if Joseph ever stepped on Jesus’ Legos back home in Nazareth.
If you have a moment, please send an email to ImperfectFather@Gmail.com. I’d love to read stories of how you creatively discipline your children.