Andrew Linder on How to Break Your Child’s Will but Not Their Spirit

Discipline balanced with love is the key to parenting. From the time they were just a baby, one of our four children had a will that was noticeably stronger than the others. I can remember the days of them growing up and getting in trouble time and time again because of their stubbornness and unwillingness to conform.

There’s one situation in particular that I remember quite well. Our child was about six years old at the time, and there was an instance of outright defiance and blatant rebellion. The options were laid out clearly, and either they would conform, or be disciplined until they conformed.

So the process began, and after many go-rounds, I was worn out. Neither my discipline nor their stubborn will had budged, and there was no way that I was going to lose this battle with my six-year-old.

So I took a break, went to the kitchen, and said these words to my wife, “How in the world do I break their will without breaking their spirit?” I was concerned that continued discipline could be unwise, but raising the white flag of surrender wasn’t an option either.

Have you ever been there as a parent?

  • You want so badly for this to be a “growth moment” for both you and your child, but they will have none of it.
  • You’re frustrated almost to the point of anger and you don’t seem to have any answers.
  • You’re adamant about breaking their will but equally concerned about crushing their spirit.

It was a few weeks later in talking to an elderly friend that I asked him that same question – “How do I break their will without breaking their spirit?” And to my pleasure, I was given an answer that has had an ongoing impact on my parenting. The advice I was given was this – “Discipline balanced with love always equals respect, but discipline without love always equals rebellion.”

And all of a sudden it finally clicked with me – As long as I’m disciplining out of love, their will eventually will be broken, but their spirit will stay intact.

Ephesians 6:4  Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

If we discipline correctly, our kids may not always obey us, but they will always know they are loved by us.

If we discipline balanced with love, they may not always agree with us, but they will still maintain respect for us.

If we discipline balanced with love, our motives will be pure, and never have to be brought into question.

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Source: Church Leaders