There is a great deal of punitive practice within christian homes that bears the guise of the heart of God.

After spending some time with Dr. Karyn Purvis last week, this was what stuck out to me the most.  Maybe as I unpack what that means, it will hit you hard as well.

If you don’t know Dr. Karyn Purvis, let me introduce you.  She is the Director of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Ft. Worth, Texas.  She has a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology and is recognized as an expert  in the area of at-risk children.  Her book, The Connected Child: Bringing Hope and Healing to your Adoptive Family, has become a best-seller in adoption books.


My wife and I have had quite a few foster kids come through our home these past few years.  They are delivered dirty, confused, hurt, cautious and quite simply – afraid.  This is to be expected.  After all, for them to end up at our home at midnight – like our first foster daughter did – something must have just gone really wrong in their family.

Some of you have adopted from overseas, or might be looking into it right now.  Maybe you have reached out and taken in children who come from tough backgrounds.  Some were in orphanages.  Others were starving, abused or neglected.  Their stories are different, and most importantly, theirs aren’t anything remotely like yours or mine.

So how do you discipline them?  How do you somehow blend in these little ones into your own family without destroying your home in the process?  I thought Dr. Purvis had some great insight to this regard.

Dr. Purvis boiled it down into the difference between C’s and D’s.  Healthy correction for a child leads to C’s, not D’s.  When you finish discipline with a child, there should be 3 C’s after the discipline.  The child should be:


Connected to us.

Content because they have succeeded.

This is in stark contrast to the 3 D’s.  If discipline is done poorly with a child,

The behavior is Deferred.

The child is Discontent.

The child is Disconnected to us.

“Think about it this way,” she said.  “Good, solid discipline for a child must be IDEAL.”

I – Immediate – Don’t let little things get under your skin over and over and over again.  Deal with them as they come up.  If you don’t, you will end up erupting at something small, only because it was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

D – Direct – Be within 3 feet of your child.  Give your eyes and full attention to them.  Possibly touch their hair or their shoulder.

E – Efficient – Our response as parents should match the infraction of the child.  Meaning, we should be using the least amount of force as necessary.  All too often, well-meaning parents jump to being too stern and forceful, when all that was needed was a simple correction and redirection.

A – Action Based – When a child does something wrong, they have a body memory of the wrong thing.  We want to help them learn the motor memory of the right thing by showing them the appropriate action or response.

L – Level – The discipline is clearly level at the behavior and not the child.

The heart of God is filled with compassion, justice and mercy.  I don’t want to present a hollow shell of this to my kids, nor do I want you to be an example of that to yours.  When we welcome foster or adoptive kids into our homes, we need to be diligent to meet them where they are and bring them to a new place – a place of love, connection, trust, grace and mercy.

As we do, I pray that God will work in the hearts of these little ones to redeem and restore that which has been broken.

I’m sure glad he has in mine.

Which one of these points most resonates with you?  Mine was the “Efficient” part of discipline.  Yours?

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