We constantly see/hear parents of little ones say, “Nothing I do makes any difference. No discipline works for him.” Truly, if I had felt in my nearly thirty years of parenting that it made no difference whatsoever whether I trained my children in obedience and self-control, I would not have done the hard work! We have to believe that our child discipline makes a difference.
As for our role in a young child’s obedience and self-control, several Scriptures have confirmed our role and impact, as has our toddler and preschool parenting years. First of all, to believe that we can have a strong influence on our little one’s behavior, we must believe the preceding paradigm—that “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.” That is, we must believe that they are capable of evil—of bad behavior, in spite of their wonderfulness. (I know that’s not a word—but it truly is the best way I can describe young children!)
Then we must believe the second part of this verse—that “discipline will drive the foolishness from the child.”
Those were covered in the last couple of paradigms. However, even more importantly, is the belief that young children are incapable, in most cases, of controlling themselves—and that we are these kids’ “outward control” and initial “conscience influencers” during those years.
I Corinthians 13 says that when I was a child, I thought as a child. Coupling this with “foolishness being bound in the heart of a child,” we believe that they are truly the sweet, darling, yet control-lacking, beings that they appear to be. And we believe that parents are given the role of “outward controller” and even partial “conscience” (and definitely conscience-influencer) during these years. We, as their parents, can control their outward behaviors (through discipline) as we teach them and influence their consciences for the future.
A toddler naturally runs the other way, screams “no,” hits his playmate with the truck, and throws his food from the high chair. A parent can gently discipline the child (controlling his outward behavior for a bit), and build his conscience for future behaviors. (Obviously, this is coupled with Paradigm #10 about relationship being foundational to parenting—coming up soon!)
We will discuss the concept of building the child’s conscience through what some experts call “making deposits in the child’s moral bank” more fully in weeks to come. For now, suffice it to say, that if we believe that we are the child’s “control” at first—and that we are his or her primary “conscience-influencers” during the first few years, we will not be lax in correcting early behaviors that are unacceptable.