I wrote this post about the books I want to read in 2014 – mostly to keep myself accountable, but also to see if any of you wanted to join in. The book first on my list for January was one I had been meaning to read for sometime, but never got around to it – Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson. I have had the priviledge of meeting Sally Clarkson and hearing her speak about raising her four children. I loved enough of her message to know I wanted to devote some time to this book.
It started out a bit rough. Not because the book was difficult to read, but because the first half of the book has a lot of discussion of what type of parental behavior is not clearly represented in the Bible, and defining what “heartfelt discipline” was (as defined by the authors). I found myself appreciating and agreeing with much of what was said, but was then left wondering what to do as far as discipline goes with my kids. So during that time, I wasn’t sure if I should handle things the way I had been handling them, but at the same time, I had no new tools to handle them differently. It was an awkward place to be. Fortunately, Clay doesn’t leave you there too long, and the second half of the book developed more depth into the idea of “Heartfelt Discipline”.
Some things I really appreciated:
– “When we don’t understand this concept (the relational aspect of discipline) our acts of discipline and correction become only discrete incidents used in an attempt to control a child’s behavior. When seen from the perspective of the path of life, however, discipline takes on a much greater significance. It is not just about controlling behavior; it is about directing a child’s life towards God.”
– “Inadvertently, we parents can use words that we think are causing our children to feel bad about their sin (godly sorrow) but in reality are causing them to feel bad about themselves (guilt and shame).”
-“Be sure to catch your children doing good, and when you do, encourage them. Share with them why their choice pleases God, how it is an expression of godly virtue or character, or how it shows that they are becoming more mature.”
– “Information without transformation is not biblical instruction, and transformation only comes through relationship.”
– “The degree to which we fail to pray for our children is the degree to which we would rather rely on our own methods and techniques.”
I love to dog-ear pages to return to later, and nearly the entire last half of the book is dog-eared. This will be a book I turn back to read again and again. In fact, I had originally borrowed a copy of the book, but have since purchased it to keep as a reference. I have written about having “great conversations” with your kids, but conversations like that only take place in an environment of trust and acceptance. We can dampen the sense of this in our homes at times with the way we discipline. Heartfelt Discipline was great in helping me to see that. I would say the biggest takeway for me is the idea of the “adversarial relationship”. What I mean is, sometimes I feel like a “bad guy” makes an appearance at our house – either I am the “bad guy” – trying to get my kids to do things they don’t want to do (put away the dishes, take a bath, make your bed), or they are the “bad guy” (messes left for Mom to clean up, lessons abandoned, etc.) – not cooperating with what I need them to do. And somehow there is this sense of “me versus them” mentality, leading to one frustrated momma at times. This book made me recognize this at its root, and turn to the Holy Spirit to remind my heart that we are always on the same team, and that I need to instruct in a way that communicates that.
This book is about turning to and trusting God to work on our children’s spiritual heart while we demonstrate for them grace and hope and love in our home, and they see us walk with God through it all. I know that may sound like a great theory, and difficult to wrap your arms around (and if so, you are experiencing the feelings I had in the first half of the book), but the second half of the book is refreshingly helpful in tangibly seeing how this plays out. It is definitely NOT a checklist approach – you won’t find an if-this-then-that implication, but you will find some great gems to use within your own unique family situation.
I will leave you with a quote that really struck me:
“If you’ve ever walked a mountain trail, you know how much wonderful scenery you miss if all you do is look down at the trail. Unfortunately, many parents are missing the real joy of walking the path of life because they agonize over ever step they take with their children. But God wants you to get your focus off your feet and instead look up and ahead to see where you’re really going. It is only then that you discover the beauty and meaning that come with walking His path.”
They provide this acronym to sum it all up:
P – Pray for your children regularly
A – Accept your children unconditionally
T – Teach and train your children diligently
H – Honor your children purposefully
I am so glad I spent time digging through this book! Here’s to looking up from the trail, and seeing the beautiful scnery that parenthood brings!
If you have had the chance to read Heartfelt Discipline, what did you think?