Corrective Discipline

“We are to deal with our children in the spirit of Christ.” 1

I was reading again; searching for answers to my child’s willfulness and my tendency to become frustrated with her after patiently (in my opinion) and painstakingly working with her.

So, this mother’s question is: What is the spirit of Christ? How does the spirit of Christ act when disciplining my child? What does it look like? In my mind’s eye, can I rehearse this spirit of Christ?

I kept reading and jotted down a short list of repetitive phrases:

Instruct them patiently… I have been!

Do not give way to impatience… I have been.

Be firm but patient… Haven’t I been?

Surrender to God first… I haven’t.

I went back to the beginning of the chapter and read some scary words: “Exact obedience,” but, “while you do this, seek the Lord with your children; ask Him to come in and rule.” So that’s what’s wrong. I’m trying to be a good mommy but I’m not asking God for help. It’s the holiday season and I am very busy! There are appointments, deadlines and so many things to get accomplished before December 25th! I don’t have time (or patience) for a non-compliant, fussy, demanding little girl.

Lord, forgive me. I’ve diverted from the simple formula for child guidance.

  1. Instruct patiently
  2. Exact obedience
  3. Surrender myself to Christ
  4. Ask Christ to go with me to my child
  5. Pray with my child, asking Him to come in and rule our hearts and home
  6. Instruct patiently, again
  7. Exact obedience still
  8. Surrender to Christ… not to impatience
  9. Ask Christ to go with me – to go ahead of me – to my child
  10. Take decisive action, if necessary
  11. Pray with my child, asking Him to come in and rule our hearts and home
  12. Repeat, repeat, repeat

What does it mean to surrender to Christ? Before correcting or punishing, go by yourself (even if all you can do at the time is turn around) and pray. Ask the Lord to soften and subdue the heart of your child and to give you patience and wisdom. There will be times when the steps to child guidance must be repeated several times. The child has a will, just as the parent does. Surrendering that will can be difficult at times; but repetition finds strength in the One who is faithful and will not let us be tempted above that which we are able to bear.2

What I am continually learning is that if you deal with your child in the spirit of Christ, even in discipline and punishment, they will throw their arms around your neck; they will cling to you. If then, they humble themselves before the Lord and acknowledge their wrong – that is enough. Rebellion has been stayed. They do not then need to be punished. (Click here to read a discussion on discipline versus punishment.)

Appointments, deadlines and to do lists are secondary to my little girl’s spiritual development – and to my own. Lesson learned – again. Let the holidays come; with Christ by our side and in our home, they will be happy holidays indeed.


© 2011, C. Gillan Byrne

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Complete Published writings of EGW

Bible Gateway website for KJV


1White, E. G. (1954/2002). Administration of Corrective Discipline (Chapter Title). In E. G. White Publications (Eds.), Child Guidance (p. 244, ¶ 1, 2). Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.

2 1Corinthians 10:13, KJV