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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Heart Based Discipline

I have a three year old daughter who is sometimes a challenge. She is bright, beautiful and sweet. She is also obstinate, strong-willed, too verbal for her own good, and prone to drama.

In regards to the latter, that also means that she like me.

Over the past two years I have read every book on discipline I can get my hands on and spent many hours in prayer, trying to figure out what works with this child. I am delighted to announce that I seem to have (finally) found a method I feel good about: heart-based discipline.

Heart-based discipline focuses on changing the heart of the child as opposed to simply the behavior. Most of us were raised using classic behavior modification techniques, which in my case, meant as soon as no one was watching or as soon as I ran a favorable risk analysis, I frequently made the bad choice. But I want my children's hearts to be made more holy, not just their actions. I want their behavior choices to be based on biblical truths and a desire to please God, instead of a reward/punishment mentality or a desire to please mom and dad.

There are many books that tell you exactly how to implement this and several now sit on my nightstand. I still have much to learn, but I have applied some of the advice already. And here's the glory glory hallelujah - it's working. I have seen more changes in my daughter's behavior, and in her heart, in the past month than ever before.

So. Tonight. My husband is working late and I have been home all day with my four tired, cranky pre-schoolers. I am giving them a much needed bath. My oldest has been told four times to quit splashing. He splashes soap in the eyes of his two year old sister and she begins to cry. Do I:
a) look into his eyes calmly, discuss the sin of disobedience, quote some Colossians, lead him to repentance, and finish with a prayer, or do I
b) scream "I SAID STOP!!!!!" as loudly as I can?

If you chose letter B you get a sticker.

I apologize, he forgives me. I apologize again. He forgives me again, and tells me I hurt his ears. Ten seconds later my three year old clone is irritated by her sister and screams at her as loudly as her little voice can. Hmm, wonder where she learned that behavior. Sheepishly, I tell her not to yell.

Later, I ponder the Bathtub Incident. You see, this isn't the first time I have blown my top and yelled at my children. I've been trying to stop doing this for a while. I have been trying to modify my behavior, and I have made some improvement, no doubt. Until my husband works late and I am tired and I am hormonal and and and...

Suddenly That Voice whispers inside my head, Sounds like you need a little heart-based discipline.

Conviction, meet Hypocrite.
Oh, we've met before. Many times!

So here I go with a little Grownup Version of Heart Based Discipline.

Step one: Identify the sin.
Anger is not a sin. Yelling at a four year old is.
What is at the root of my sin?
-Being easily angered.

What does the bible say regarding my actions?

1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Proverbs 29:11: A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

How could I have handled the situation better?

Proverbs 12:18: Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 16:21: Pleasant words promote instruction.


Psalm 51:10: Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Dear Lord, please forgive me for taking my frustration out on my precious children. Please change my heart so that my temper is kept in check and my words are kind.

And now, the best part, encouragement:

Hebrews 4:16: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • Are there any behaviors for which you seem to be on the "repent and repeat" track?
  • Can you identify the specific sin behind the behavior? (Sometimes a mature friend in Christ can help you narrow it down.)
  • Find some bible verses that apply to your sin (googling works great!)
  • Repent and ask God's forgiveness, remembering that he will forgive and purify those who earnestly seek his grace (1 John 1:9)
  • Apply the verses to your life, and pray them for yourself.
  • Wait with me for the Lord to change our hearts and our lives!

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Blogger Denise said...

Blessings to you dear one.

June 5, 2008 at 12:26 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

As usual, great post!

I'm off to Google my sins to find some appropriate scripture right now!

June 5, 2008 at 6:27 AM  
Blogger secondofwett said...

When I was a young mother....I was a yeller....not a good thing to admit, but there it is...after 33 yrs and numerous kids later, I rarely yell, even though I still have 4 teens in the house.....I think I'm just too old! but I do like your post....I wish I had thot of that back then....but then we didn't have google back then either! hehe.

June 5, 2008 at 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Christy said...

ouch! ouch! ouch! ouch!
You stepped on all my toes!

June 5, 2008 at 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christy that's FUNNY!

Good post Missy, and so timely.
Me thinks I've got a lot of work to do.

June 5, 2008 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Chelsey said...

Jeez - alright already - the Lord is hammerin' this one home to me today! I JUST blogged about forgiveness on my blog today and woudn't ya know it involved this crazy mom who yelled at her kids. Ah conviction - I know that one all too well.

Thanks for the great post!

June 5, 2008 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Dang, I hate it when the hammer comes down so squarely on the nail.

I particularly loved this:

"Conviction, meet Hypocrite.
Oh, we've met before. Many times!"

Truer words were never spoken.

June 5, 2008 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Mocha with Linda said...

I never thought I had a temper until I had a 3-year-old. Too bad you were still a youngster yourself and not around to tell me these things back then!!

Very, very wise words.

June 5, 2008 at 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure you weren't at my house watching me last night? 'Cause I'm pretty sure almost the exact same scene was played out here! Thanks for the scripture AND encouragement for another mommmy prone to "passionate displays".

June 5, 2008 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Kelly @ Love Well said...

I need some book titles! That method sounds awesome -- whether applied to kids or parents.

June 5, 2008 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger windycindy said...

I have never been one to yell and my husband is. He was raised without the loudness and I, the opposite. Thanks for your wonderful thoughts! Cindi

June 5, 2008 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger rusty'swife said...


Have you and Lynn over at Spritual Unequal Marriage, along with God been talking about me and my mouth by chance? Sadly not only have I visited and pasted on being a yeller to my childern, but has now being practiced by childern on grandchildren.

Thank you for a plan to go with a prayer to stop this behavior.

Please provide titles of books you are using.


June 5, 2008 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

I haven't been spying on any of you, I promise! :)

I will definitely post some book recommendations, probably this weekend on It's Almost Naptime.


June 5, 2008 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Colored With Memories said...

Great post, Missy! I think our 3 year olds were twins separated at birth.

We love Shepherding a Child's Heart, but I'll be interested to know what other "heart-centered" books that you have come across.


June 5, 2008 at 4:19 PM  
Blogger Gina@Chats With An "Old Lady" said...

The best heart centered book is the Word of God...I know you already know that!!! (: I love the verse in Proverbs that says, "The rod (physical punishment) and reproof (talking about the sin, how to do it better, and repentance) brings wisdom." You need them BOTH to bring the wisdom. They can't be separated.

June 5, 2008 at 7:22 PM  
Anonymous Mrs. Parunak said...

What a great post! I, too, have heard my sins of the tongue repeated by my children. And then Conviction meets Hypocrite over here as well! Thanks for the wonderful encouragement.

June 5, 2008 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

We found the heart based parenting to be a God-send. We had done behavior modification for many years before God gave us insight into approaching the heart of the child. It has made all the difference in the world.

But there are days, when it all gets to me and I lose touch of the heart...and I see the flesh....right up in my face.

If I can see the heart of the child BEFORE I see the flesh....then I can respond correctly. But when I see their flesh before their hearts....well it's not too flesh mixes with their flesh and it's an ugly mess.

I am grateful for forgiving children.

June 5, 2008 at 10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FABULOUS post....& it certainly hit home with me! Wow! OK, I am hearing the message loud & clear now!! ;)

Are you sure we don't share that 3 yr.old?

June 5, 2008 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger rusty'swife said...


I am going to need your prayers please. I am an Adult Child that needs this heart based discipline in my own life also.

Can anyone recommend a bible study that might cover this?


June 5, 2008 at 10:40 PM  
Blogger Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...


The bible study that has made the most dramatic change in my life lately as far as heart based self-discipline - and goes right along with everything that God has been telling me re disciplining my children - is

"Conversation Peace: The Power of Transformed Speech" by Mary Kassian.

What she refers to as "cleansing your cup" is the same thing.

I just can't recommend this amazing bible study highly enough. Beth Moore also listed it recently on her blog as one of her favorites.

Love, Missy

June 5, 2008 at 10:47 PM  
Blogger rusty'swife said...


Thank you I will run to our local Christian Bookstore and pick it up.

Is there an option where I can come be your oldest and you just regrown me?

No, Well guess I will have to let God reconstrut me.

Please be praying for me and you can keep up with me at my blog..

Thank you for stepping into my mess.

June 5, 2008 at 11:17 PM  
Blogger TulipGirl said...

"Repent and Repeat."

And repent again. . .

"It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."

June 5, 2008 at 11:27 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

hi missy! i found you over here actually by accident...funny, huh! i loved this. i am interested in heart-based discipline and am hoping you are going to blog more. ;-)

June 17, 2008 at 9:07 AM  

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