If I’m going to be completely honest (which I recommend I should) then I have to admit that it happened on accident. Our son is nearly three years old. For the last year, we have put him in timeout when he doesn’t obey or listen. The typical scenario looks like us telling him something, him not listening, us getting his attention and telling him again, him not obeying, us encouraging him to obey, him not obeying, us warning him of discipline if he doesn’t obey, him not obeying and then us putting him into time out. Timeout meant that he sat facing the wall for 2 or so minutes until we would come back to him and say, “OK Asa, timeout is over. Let’s talk.”
The rub came the day that Asa responded to “Timeout is over” with “No, me stay in timeout.”
“Uh, what do we do now?” I said to Tish with a confused look on my face. How is timeout effective if our son wants to stay in timeout?
This happened a few times and we wondered what route to take. One day Asa’s Apraxia Therapist explained to us that children with Apraxia often benefit from time to sit and think on their own and that when given that time, they respond well.
So we decided to change up our timeout approach and try it out. The next time Asa needed a timeout I said, “Asa, you are not obeying so there is discipline. You are going to timeout. But listen bud, whenever you are ready to obey daddy, then you can come out of time out and tell me. When you do, I’ll be here with a hug and a kiss and timeout will be over. OK?”
I sat him in that corner and I walked about 10 feet away to do what I was doing. About 30 seconds later Asa says, “Daddy, me all done now.” “Ok bud, come here!” And I held out my arms to receive him with a smile on my face. He jumped up and ran to me with a smile and we talked about how he needs to obey and then we did what we were supposed to do in the first place.
The next day I had to put Asa in timeout again, this time he took over 3 minutes before saying, “Daddy, me all done now.” But he said it and we reunited in a joyous hug.
That’s when it hit me. This accidentally discovered way of discipline was so gospel-drenched that I could hardly contain myself.
When God’s children disobey, their sin does separate them from their Father. Not in a way of justification, they are still his children. But in a way of discipline. The Father disciplines those he loves. Yet, the Father doesn’t sit his children in timeout and say, “I’ll be back in 2.5 minutes to get you.” Rather, the father stands, looking out over the horizon for his son and his daughter to come running home and when they do, he runs to meet them, with arms open and face aglow. He welcomes them with a hug and kiss, and the relationship is reconciled unconditionally. We see this in the story of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32).
The way we discipline our children matters. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to use our parenting as a means by which to implant the seed of the gospel deep into the heart of our children. Do not let your moments of discipline be separated from this gospel-proclaiming responsibility. Take the opportunity to think through how you discipline and how you restore your child.
There is a puddle of gospel truth dripping from rightly administered discipline. Let’s splash in that puddle with our kids.
Note: This post does not intend to persuade you to do timeout exactly like we do, rather, it is intended to help you intentionally think through how you discipline and restore within your family.