Confession: I have a problem with anger. I also have a problem with impatience. Also, I have a problem using the… I’ll say, “wrong” words. As Ryan often jokes, I have a salty side—one that I’m mostly not proud of.

As it turns out, my children have only served to amplify these areas of my heart that have yet to be fully surrendered to God and made obedient to the Holy Spirit. And these salty, shaded sides of my heart almost always present themselves most when my kids are—you guessed it—disobedient.

Inconvenient Correction

Calm correction is rarely convenient. Yet, correcting the hearts, attitudes, and behaviors of our children is one of the clearest biblical calls we have as parents. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to incorrectly correct. We tend to react to their actions instead of discerning their attitudes and heart-orientations.

This is especially true when I’m tired or there’s some external factor contributing to my frustration (a marital fight, extended family drama, financial stress, insecurities).

How can we correct our children with love, especially when we’re depleted on every level? At the root, biblical correction starts with discipleship at the forefront of our minds, and discipling our kids is impossible without having an authentic relationship with them.

Inconvenient Consistent Correction

We’ve discovered that the best way to consistently correct (even when it’s inconvenient) is to address their heart before anything else. Doing so has some very tangible benefits:

  1. It affirms to your child that you *see* them and are seeking to understand what they’re processing and why.
  2. It builds trust and closeness over time as they feel safe as they learn to articulate how they’re feeling.
  3. It causes us, as parents, to empathize with them instead of snapping at behavior.
  4. It will train them to examine their own hearts in the future when they’re tempted to disobey. By walking through their heart motivations, you equip them with pre-established emotional “routes” to follow when facing similar feelings.

"At the root, biblical correction starts with discipleship... and discipling our kids is impossible without having a real relationship with them."

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But, how?

So, the question remains, how can we become the kinds of parents who know our children closely enough and see them incisively enough to address their hearts effectively? As usual, we must look at ourselves and at our children through the lens and authority of God’s Word. Here are some thoughts:

1: See ourselves accurately

Parents, too, are sinners in need of the same grace needed by our children. Yes, we are called to shepherd their hearts, and we’ve reached varying (higher) levels of maturity than our kids have yet to reach, but at the end of the day, the Gospel calls us all sinners (Rom 3:23). That truth humbles us and forces us to to to Christ, even with our “salty”, yet-to-be-sanctified sides. As parents, we should be repenting to them more than they repent to us.

2: See our kids accurately

You’ve heard us say it many times by now: children are a blessing! Are they more of a blessing when they listen and obey? Yes. Are they a blessing even when they disobey? As people, yes they are, though their sin itself grieves God and parents alike. The point is that our children are complete little humans, made in God’s image, loved by him, and in need of discipleship. If we believe those statements, we begin seeing them beyond the attitudes, lapses in judgement, disobedience, loudness, and immaturity.

3: Learn (and re-learn) how to speak slowly

This one is hard for me. Our children feel seen and heard when we (shocker) take time to see and hear them. This means speaking, reacting, and disciplining more slowly.

Much more can be said on correction/discipline, it’s a vast topic! In each case, and whatever age the child is at, let us be parents who are thinking of ways to address their heart first as a means of discipling our children toward Christ.