here to read the other posts in the 30 Days of Practical Grace-Parenting Tips series!)
There is great power in the human touch.
Babies die without it.
Marriages fail when there isn't enough of it.
And children crave it.
A quick cuddle before bed.
A pat on the head that says, "You're mine."
A touch to the back that says, "You can do it!"
A single fingertip, gently caressing a little cheek.
An Eskimo kiss.
A tickle fight.
Arms to hold a grieving heart.
A hand-in-hand walk that shows you belong together.
Yes, there is great power in the human touch.
I'd like to offer a way in which the powerful touch between parent and child can effectively help with discipline.
I remember a time when I thought I couldn't or shouldn't touch (ie, comfort, snuggle, etc) my child when they were misbehaving. I needed to show them strict authority. After all, they were choosing to disobey and therefore our "fellowship" was hindered until they yielded, right?
I was so, so very wrong.
I remember the first time I used the power of touch to help with the discipline of one of my children. The child was about 5 at the time, and had done something they clearly knew was wrong....something they had been repeatedly struggling with for some time.
I sent the child to my room to allow us both some time to think.
I prayed, "Lord, I want to reach the HEART of this precious child! I don't just want to see the outward behavior changed. I want to see genuine repentance. It seems like everything I try causes this child to just become angry. I'm at a loss, Lord. Please show me what to do."
I was shocked at His answer:
Hold this child.
What??!! (my very submissive reply to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Ouch!)
Nevertheless, I was willing to try anything.
I opened the door to my room, walked over to this tiny gift-from-the-Lord, and gently scooped the child up in my arms. I held the child close to my heart and as I rubbed their back and stroked their hair, I began to softly teach.
"Sweetheart, you know what you did was wrong." (The tears began to fall.) "I know how hard it can be to obey. You know why? Because Mommy disobeys alot, too." (Little sobs now.) "But you know what else? God helps me obey. And God gave you a Daddy and Mommy to help you obey. You are so very precious to us and to Him. I know you're going to choose to obey Mommy now, aren't you?" (Tear-filled eyes looked up at me and a little head nodded, "yes".) "That's wonderful! I love you SO SO much! Why don't we pray right now and talk to God about how you're feeling and what you're struggling with. Then we can go try again to do right, okay?"
We prayed. This precious child who, just a few minutes earlier was defiant and seemingly not able to be reached was now repentant and willing to try again.
There were several things that played into this discipline scenario, some of which I'll touch on later in this series.
But the thing I feel was initially most effective is that the walls came down quickly when the child felt the warmth of Mommy's embrace.
When I stopped to think about it, I realized how alike this child and I were. I, too, long to be touched when I am hurting. Even if I am very upset about something, Brent knows that the quickest way to help me calm down is to give me a hug. :)
Why would our little children be any different?
We are tempted to show love when they meet our expectations and then just as quickly withdraw that love when they misbehave.
No matter what "law" they've broken, no matter how "defiant" the behavior, children need to feel comfort, security, and whole-hearted acceptance in the arms of their parents.
"We love Him because He first loved us."
God loved us FIRST and demonstrated His unconditional love to us, even in the midst of our willful, awful, sinful choices.
We should do no less for our children.
A HUG is actually one of the most effective grace-filled discipline tools we use in our home.
I want to encourage you to try this if you haven't already: The next time one of your children is openly struggling with obedience, take them into a private room, scoop them up onto your lap, love all over them with affirming words as you begin to teach them. Go back to the situation and try again to do better.
Then come back here and let me know how it goes.
I'm betting (except I don't!) the results will surprise you.
P.S. This works on teenagers, too! :)
Blessings, sweet friends, on your parenting journey!