Enriching Your Child’s Soul Through Homeschool Discipline

Editor’s Note: This blog post on biblical models of homeschool discipline is written by Victoria Smith and Luciano Cid, Ed.D. Victoria Smith is an education major in her third year at Biola University, a member of the Torrey Honors Institute and a homeschool educator. Luciano Cid is Assistant Professor of Education at Biola University, and has contributed to The Inspired Home Educator before, on the ABCDs of writing objectives and altering student perspectives through cognitive dissonance.

Father and son look at each other, smiling - homeschool discipline blogHow should homeschooling parents discipline their children? It is our belief that discipline, either in the classroom or at home, should be carried out by an adult who is trying to “train up a child in the way [he/she] should go [and] even when [that child] is old … [he/she will] not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Consequently, the disciplining of any child has an inherent philosophical and theological responsibility embedded within it, a responsibility that lies with the adult — hopefully one who continually strives to be virtuous — rather than with the child. Therefore, when discipline is carried out, either in a traditional school environment or in a homeschool one, it is imperative for the adult to recognize that whatever is being employed to do so is either training the child to see the love, mercy, justice, freedom, and perfection of God’s discipline or the anger, vengeance, injustice, control and imperfection inherited in man’s ways.

Behaviorism and Other Biblical Models for Homeschool Discipline

Our work to generate a model that is grounded on the ways that God has chosen to discipline his people has so far led us to infuse three contemporary approaches of disciplining. These approaches have been identified by the literature as behaviorism, restorative justice, and redemptive discipline. Due to the limited space offered within any blog, we are not afforded the luxury of exploring in depth each of these models. Still, for the purpose at hand, the reader does need to know that behaviorism, i.e. rewards and punishments, has indeed been used by God to discipline his people and, as such, should be employed by homeschool parents as one possible way to carry out correct behavior.

It is extremely important, however, to understand that the way that God has employed punishment has never been out of spite, revenge, or frustration — like we so often do. In fact, our survey of Scripture has shown that when God punishes his people it is always grounded in a loving relationship that he wishes to maintain and strengthen with them. An example of this can be seen in Genesis 3:16-24 where, in the midst of God’s punishment of Adam and Eve, he displays his love and mercy by clothing them (verse 21) before he exiles them out of the garden of Eden. It is also critical to recognize that God’s punishments are never unmitigated; they are always an extension of God’s need for justice as well as the offender’s need to understand right from wrong.

Restorative Justice

Regarding restorative justice, one needs only to look at the old testament sacrificial model to see how God demonstrates the importance of repairing relationships. When we simply seek to punish children for doing something wrong, then we are missing the point; after all, wrong actions don’t only affect the perpetrator but those around him as well. When we hurt someone else, we suffer a break in the relationship and without taking steps towards reconciliation, the relationship cannot go back to where it was – either between those that have been affected or others who may have been witness to the act. This work of repairing broken relationships is a movement that God models throughout the Old Testament law. As a result, when discord occurs in a homeschool environment, it is critical for reconciliation to happen amongst the parties involved so that proper restoration of the relationship occurs and trust can be reestablished.

Redemptive Discipline

The last part of our model deals with redemptive discipline. It is here where discipline finds its catalyst in the adult rather than the child. Similarly to the way God has guided the redemption of his creation, so should the adult guide the redemptive process of the child. The word discipline in its root etymology is derived from the word “disciple.” This clarification of the word discipline is transformative in the way that we think about interacting with our children. Rather than looking at our homeschoolers from the perspective of maintaining control over them, we should look at our choice of behavior management as an opportunity to teach our children how to be in peaceful relationship with one another and to desire to do what is right.

The critical aspect here is that the adult needs to model such behavior before expecting it from the child. This does not mean that we need to eliminate consequences or discipline in order to have a grace-filled home. Rather, Hebrews 12 discusses the way in which the LORD’s discipline is for the purpose of refining and training His children as a loving Father. Redemptive discipline, therefore, is about loving children right where they are at as a response to the love that God has poured into our hearts. In 1 John 4:12, John writes that “no one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

Homeschool Discipline, Motivated by God’s Love

Did you catch that? When we love our children the way that God does, they see Jesus. We are able to introduce our children to Jesus by loving them as God does. In allowing God to love our children through us, they are able to see He who is love and be transformed into his likeness. This love should not be understood as all permissive, nor as authoritarian, but as authoritative, thus employing high warmth and high accountability from the adult (see Baumrind, 1965, 1967, 1971).¹ Therefore, this transformative process we are invited into should always be motivated by love, rather than fear or a need for control. In short, our children may never understand what divine love looks like, unless we exhibit it in the ways that we love and choose to discipline them.

Gentle Discipline at Home

Acknowledging that so far this blog has been extremely theoretical, we wanted to present you with a practical model that touches each one of the previously mentioned philosophical approaches to behavior management for homeschool discipline. It grounds itself in a Montessori view of education; in it we find what the authors refer to as “gentle discipline”, as well as a number of practical non-theological ideas that can be employed by Christian and non-Christian alike to begin disciplining the way God uses discipline in Scripture.

Pray and Reflect²

  1. How does your own approach to behavior management in your home reflect, or fail to reflect, God’s character?
  2. In the process of becoming more like Jesus, there are still personal issues that we need to address and present to God so that He may redeem them. Therefore, what are some of the issues that keep you from becoming the vessel of God’s love to your children? (fear, lack of grace in your own life, etc.)
  3. Thinking about your child, how could you practice pausing in moments of frustration to ask God what He wants to say? And, how He can love your child through you?

Notes:

  1.  Baumrind, D. (1965). Parental control and parental love. Children, 12,230-234; Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43-88; Baumrind, D. (197l). Current patterns of parental authority. Developmental Psychology Monograph, 4 (1, Pt. 2).
  2. These questions are adapted from Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into your Classroom by Dr. Donovan Graham (2009).