Jennifer Noel Wilson
Updated: Oct 3, 2021
A wise woman once taught me that to discipline a child is to disciple them. The word “disciple” is in the word “discipline.” That changed my whole perspective on the word discipline. So, what does it look like to disciple a child?
The word “disciple” simply means a student or a follower. As Christians, we are disciples of Jesus. We follow Him and He teaches us. We look to Him to learn how to disciple or teach our children.
There are so many topics I can focus on when it comes to discipling a child. I want to focus on the power of our words. Our words can teach our children so much. The bible tells us in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” We also learn in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
So according to God’s wisdom and guidance, we are to encourage and build up our children. Whether we are parents, coaches, or teachers, we are to encourage and build up. Before I get too far into this post, know that I’m not perfect at this either. In my 16 years of parenting, I have messed up and said things I regretted later and had to apologize. Apologizing is not a weakness, it uses healing words to build back up what was torn down.
Let’s break down this word, “encourage.” Here’s how I like to think about it. Within the word, “encourage” is the word, “courage.” The prefix “en” means “within” or “in.” Therefore, the word encourage means to put courage within a child. When the bible says to encourage and build one another up, I take that to mean we are to build courage within a child.
Now let’s look at the opposite word, “discourage.” The prefix “dis” means “not” or “none.” This tells me to discourage a child, would mean there is no courage. We would be taking the courage out of a child when we discourage them.
Our words have power. The bible has many scriptures about our words because the Lord knows we can easily build up or tear down others with our words. Our words can crush a spirit (Proverbs 15:4) or stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1). We learn, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body,” in Proverbs 16:24. Our words can be life-giving water (Proverbs 18:4) or wound like a sword or sharp arrow (Proverbs 25:18). Our words can build up or tear down. They can put courage into a child or take the courage out of them.
So choose your words wisely and think before you speak to your children. We all have to work on that in our home, adults and children. We have the popular “THINK” acronym posted in our home as a friendly reminder for all of us.
I have noticed sometimes there are adults out there that think putting children down and using negative or condescending words is motivational. However, doing so only intimidates them and takes the courage out of them. It makes them want to quit or be afraid; it holds them back. Those are not life-giving words, but just the opposite.
Whether you are a parent, coach, teacher or anyone working with children, please remember that if you want to motivate a child, then build courage into them with life-giving words, words like a honeycomb. Then, they will climb mountains.
God, You are our teacher. Show us the way and help us to use life-giving words with our children. Help us to build courage into them to live for You in all areas of their lives. Amen.