How Do We Lovingly Discipline Our Kids Without Breaking the (Canadian) Law
Discipline has been defined as “the ongoing training of children as the parent helps them submit to authority and develop self-control and character.” We probably identify it more with spanking but really it is more about nurturing and training our kids. As parents, we have been entrusted this God-given responsibility to train our children.
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” (Proverbs 22:6, NLT)
This means that discipline is not limited to a single act but a whole lifestyle of nurturing, training, encouraging, demonstrating godly principles and values. Discipline is therefore more positive than it is negative.
I recognize that the way we have been disciplined by our parents may no longer be acceptable and may even land a parent in court. We’ve all heard the anecdotal warning, “Discipline me and I will call 911!” Many parents, especially immigrant parents, find themselves lost, quite unsure about how to go about managing their children’s behavior. Can we still do our God-given responsibility within the bounds of what the laws allow?
So, what is a parent to do? I firmly believe that when it comes to discipline, consistency is much better than intensity. This means that letting your child sit in the corner will be more effective over a period when applied consistently than intense but sporadic discipline.
Having said that, the Canadian Government has given guidelines to parents regarding using the “use of force” in managing children’s behavior. Here are the highlights taken from the Ministry of Justice website:
The use of force to correct a child is only allowed to help the child learn and can never be used in anger.
The child must be between two years old and twelve years old.
The force used must be reasonable and its impact only "transitory and trifling".
The person must not use an object, such as a ruler or belt, when applying the force.
The person must not hit or slap the child's head.
The seriousness of what happened or what the child did is not relevant.
Using reasonable force to restrain a child may be acceptable in some circumstances.
Hitting a child in anger or in retaliation for something a child did is not considered reasonable and is against the law.
It can be observed that these Canadian guidelines give enough latitude for the parent to carry out discipline while protecting the welfare of the child, something we as parents should also consider our top priority. This means that, contrary to what we may have heard or believed, the guidelines given by the government doesn’t have to keep us from doing our responsibilities as parents in training and disciplining our kids.
Here are a few reminders for us parents:
Be positive. A positive parent is quick to encourage and reward good behavior. It is easier to reinforce good behavior than to correct bad ones. Shower your kids with encouragement and praise.
Be consistent. Do you discipline the same way when you’re tired or worn down and when your rested and relaxed? Do we expect the same behavior from our kids inside the home as when we’re outside? It will be difficult for our children to stay within the boundaries when the boundaries keep moving with the kind of day we had.
Be discerning. Learn to distinguish between willful acts of disobedience and simply childish ways. Your child will lose his toys, forget his snacks, and will play in the rain. These are to be distinguished from acts where your child challenges your authority. The former deserves your reminder and instruction, the latter deserves discipline.
“Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” (Proverbs 19:18, NLT)
This article may not be comprehensive as it should be but I hope it sheds some light on the subject. As parents, we have been given the privilege of being part of a child’s life and raising that child to maturity. They are ours for a time but the Lord’s forever.
 Insight for Living, Counseling Insights: A Biblical Perspective on Caring for People (Plano, TX: Insight for Living, 2007), 128.
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