When Parents Use Church Attendance as Punishment

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When Parents Use Church Attendance as Punishment
Tristan had a bad week at school. He kicked a teacher (he says accidentally), talked back to his mother and refused to pay attention in class. Tristan had a very bad week. What was Mom’s solution? Keep her child at home rather than send him to church. So what do you think? Should parents use church attendance as punishment?
Here’s what Tristan’s mom was probably thinking:

  • I don’t want to send him to church because he might disrupt the class.
  • I want to show Tristan who is boss by withholding something he likes.
  • I don’t want to deal with potential embarrassment from a child who misbehaves.

Here’s what Tristan is thinking:

  • I’m so bad, God can’t help me.
  • My relationship with God is conditional.
  • I’m not as good as the other kids.

Frustrated and bewildered, Tristan’s Mom is doing the best she can. She doesn’t realize how her decision has affected Tristan’s thinking about his relationship with God. Little Tristan probably doesn’t have the skills to communicate how he’s feeling. He probably knows he did wrong (very probably) but can’t seem to break the current cycle of bad behavior. What can we do to help in situations like this?
Here’s what I’m thinking:
Lay the groundwork for support before a situation arises. As children’s pastors, the “onus” is on us to make parents aware that we are an asset to them. I have to do a better job of letting Tristan’s mom know how I can help her. That could be meeting with Tristan and his mom to mediate, meeting with Tristan to counsel or helping Mom develop a spiritual plan.
I should make it clear to Mom that I won’t betray her confidence. I’ll never embarrass Tristan openly or share with others what happened. I need to build my relationship with Mom beforehand with regular communication.
I need to help Mom identify some new strategies for helping Tristan. The first step is to identify what’s triggering the poor behavior. Is there an undiagnosed learning disability? An emotional response to changes in the family structure? Help Mom understand this will be a process and it will take some work. Help her find the resources she needs to meet her son’s needs.
Cover them in prayer. Truly this should have been at the top of the list. Commit to praying for this family privately. Keep them covered in prayer. Pray for understanding and wisdom for Tristan’s parents and for Tristan, pray for his peace.
Try not to think negatively about parents who use church attendance as punishment. Instead, take it as a clear sign that you are needed!
Read more from Mimi by visiting her blog at Tools for Kids Church.

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