I went to a meeting about disciplining children up to the age of 6. It sounds like a loaded topic. Because it is. The guest speaker, a mother of 5, ages between 18 and 10, shared nuggets of wisdom from the future perspective of reaping the benefits of discipline during adolescence, by starting at the earliest ages. Routine in a baby’s schedule is a form of discipline. Of ours and his.

She shared two different approaches on discipline. Regardless of which approach we take, the effects of discipline or lack there of, will give its fruit. For example, we may think discipline is important, but we can make do without it, and somehow we and the kids will survive without it. Or we think it is important but often we are too tired to be consistent in disciplining our kids. But hopefully we pay the price of disciplining, in time, persistence, humbleness and courage. Being “the bad guy” with no immediate reward or satisfaction is not appealing.

The speaker, shared a few Proverbs with us. One that remained vivid in my mind was 22:15 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” Often times saying no, staying put and keeping your word, disciplining may seem less loving than giving in to your kid’s requests. But I forget that the simplest rules, tasks, expectations are new to her, and she needs gentle reminders and a firmness of mind to keep straight on the course. A river that is not channeled in its bank, has little to no flow, life, speed, vividness. It is ultimately not a river, but a swamp.

This month’s seminar came around the time of my reading the short article about “the uncomfortable prayer”. It is easy to pray for health, happiness, fulfillment, smooth life for our children. Success in school, good friends, financial stability in the future. But as we look back at our own lives, the crucial moments, the nuggets of gold in our own lives were brought forth through pain, in the desert, at our lowest points when we clung on to God for dear life. And we discovered Him, more powerful, more life-giving. I had prayed in earnest as an adolescent, that God would never let me forget the Truth, blinded by the business of life, its comforts and routine. He has honored that prayer. I often think of being ready to go about life in offense versus always watching our backs for defense. Hardship can and will come our way in a diversity of shapes. Hardship can take the shape of numbness too. Helping our children to embrace discipline, along with the joy of life, as life is indeed joyous and joyful, in my opinion, is preparing them for the inevitable and necessary hardship that would bring forth true life and happiness.

Conrad, as the father he is, worries about Jaclyn’s future, how the world we leave behind will be, how equipped will she be to make it, the community and inheritance/legacy. But if my own mother, who brought me into this world, regarded me as a gift, and herself as a steward of my young life, how much more should and do I feel the same: that Jaclyn belongs to God, always did, always will, and He will care for her. He created her beautifully and chose us to parent her, to nurture and shape her character, to instill in her the love for our Creator, and help her to learn to immerse herself in His Spirit and be filled with His strength. I can already foretell the nuance of her hardship, related to identity, to the fact that the woman that gave birth to her was unable to care for her adequately, that she had to deal with a lot of pain that I will never be able to fully comprehend, at a very young age. Yet God redeems. Sometimes I think that faith, in it’s purest and most powerful form, can easily be regarded as madness. But who ever added another day to the length of their lives by fretting?

I have left this meeting with young mothers, with one practical advice. When disciplining your child focus on winning their heart. With Love. Not fear. Adapted to their understanding, it is on my heart to send this message through to my daughter:

“God loves us and he wants what is best for us. God is wise and fair and loving. He has commanded that children listen to their parents (because they have a tad more life experience). I love you and I want the very best for you. There will be times when you may not understand why you have to listen to me, but I urge you to trust me. To the best of my ability I will always explain to you why you have to do something, or are not allowed to do another thing. In time you will learn to discern God’s will. As ultimately it was never about getting my way.”

We focus and strive to give our kids perfect childhoods: happy, connected, fulfilled, easy. We try to protect them from discomfort and any kind of pain. But the truth is, what we truly want for them is strength and endurance, patience and empathy… and those do not develop in a vacuum. We struggle and practice, we endure and embrace hardship. And eventually they desire to climb higher and higher despite the struggle.