Journal Entry Date: June 24, 2012

I have no problem disciplining. I’ve written about it extensively here. I understand both the power and the difficulty inherent in correcting behavior and patterns—ultimately the heart. I’ve been doing this for a while, so I have a lot of experience with it.

I learned something new the other day, however, that I hadn’t considered before. Actually I knew “about” it, but had not thought of it in a different application.

There is a student who is transitioning from early childhood into elementary ministry at my church, which means this child is directly in my care. He’s sort of a handful. I’ve seen and interacted with this kind of behavior before, but the circumstances surrounding his situation make his case unique. My normal tactics are being exhausted and I’m running low on leverage. As I was thinking about this student, I tried to put myself in his shoes. I tried to think about how I would feel if my life was like his. This not only gave me great compassion and understanding, it moved me to try a much different approach to correction and discipline.

I realized I need to play with him.

Duh, right?!

I was pulling and withdrawing plenty from the relationship bank account (because I needed to do some justified correction), but I wasn’t putting any relationship time into his life. So I started to play with him.

The other day there was a weird airplane someone had left in our large program room and we were tossing it back and forth to each other. Then we had this great idea to try and get it through the light bar in the ceiling.

It took many tries, but we did it! He was so excited when he accomplished this otherwise meaningless goal, but when we were doing it together while laughing and going back and forth, it became super meaningful.

It was not only a relational deposit (which will help for potential future correction), but it was a momentary reprieve for a child that is usually always in trouble with adults instead of on the positive side of interaction.

It’s an easy temptation to organize events and programs, but miss the “human” beings that are present and craving positive, healthy “human” interaction. As God’s people who believe the gospel, we get to engage with the “human” need with the only true and living water that satisfies.

This young child needs that gospel that exists both in correction=discipleship and “human” relational contact.

Discipline is important. We all need it.

I pray that I will continue to engage the person and not just the behavior.

Photo credit: Adetunji Paul on Unsplash