I was on my way to church 7:30am one Sunday morning for setup. I had two other setup team members with me and we were going to pick up two more. I was also meant to bring my two sons with me. My eldest son told me he was going to go inside and find a toy that he wanted to bring with him.

I had already told him twice to get in the car without the toy and that if he went inside I would go to church without him. My wife would be catching public transport later, so it wasn’t a matter of him not coming to church, just a matter of him not coming with me. He made a choice to go inside and get the toy and I made a choice to start backing out of the drive way.

Predictably, when he came out about 20 seconds later he ran up to the departing car and pleaded to be let in. I calmly told him that I had given him three chances to obey but each time he had chosen to disobey. Putting his own desire before the needs of others is completely human and understandable. He wanted his father, the other two adults waiting in the car, the extra two we were going to pick up and his brother to wait for him while he did something he had been told 3 times not to. He made a choice and there were consequences to that choice.

I also have a choice as a parent. My discipline of the kids can be petty or purposeful. I could make choices (and I have) to punish my children because they’ve inconvenienced me or made me look bad. It’s easy to use my size and voice to intimidate instead of using my strength as a source of stability in their lives. This is what gives disciplining children a bad name. Petty discipline is akin to being a bully.

What has helped me be purposeful rather than petty in my discipline is the vision I have for my children. I want them to put others before themselves and to serve and encourage. My children are actually pretty good at this. But when they lapse I explain my actions in terms of the kind of people I see them becoming and the values we have as a family.

As for the times I have acted petty, mostly because I’ve failed to serve and encourage my own children, I’ve humbled myself and apologised to them. I’ve asked for forgiveness for not leading them they way they deserve. All of us have choices to make, parent or child. All of us have consequences to face. But the choices a parent makes in the kind of discipline they engage in, petty or purposeful, have further reaching consequences than those of a selfish child.

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