I read a book a few years ago that really made me think about parenting in a new way. Can’t remember the title (sorry) but I do remember the one thought that made my jaw drop. So here it is:

No amount of parenting discipline can compensate for a lack of training.

In other words, it’s not fair to discipline our kids for things they haven’t been adequately trained to do. If they aren’t trained, their failure is really ours, not theirs. If they’re trained, if they know better and have learned the skills necessary to turn a “know better” into a “do better,” discipline kicks in. No counting to three, no “the next time you hit your sister, I’ll,” just consistent, firm, loving discipline. And discipline isn’t so much punishment as allowing consequences to run their course, to press the reset button so that our kids can remember their training.

“You know better!” we’re so quick to tsk-tsk, hands on our hips—but I think we often presume too much, too soon. This week I got so frustrated with Noah, our oldest. He’s been studying for year-end exams—or rather, blithering his teary-eyed way through exam prep, refusing, apparently, to study.

Until I realized he didn’t know how. Honestly. No one had ever shown him (let’s all give a cheer for the modern school-system), so he honestly didn’t know where to start. A few nights of coaching in basic study principles and strategies from yours truly and he was actually excited to face down those exams. NOW he knows better. And not a moment before.

This is what God’s been teaching me lately. I’m a better dad for it, and just in time for Father’s Day.