A Break Basket

Confession: The atmosphere in our home the past few weeks has not been ideal. Months of sickness and lack of routine have left us all impatient and short tempered and lacking in self-control. Over the weekend Aaron and I talked about some behaviors that we were seeing in the boys and how we wanted to address them. Because obviously nagging and yelling weren’t effective. Ahem.

I returned to one of my all time favorite parenting books,


This book has the perfect balance of heart centered theology and practical tools for discipline. As I was reading I was reminded of the importance of routines for instruction and discipline. Routines prevent anger and frustration by setting expectations and keeping everyone on the same page. The correction routine is outlined in Chapter 4 and looks like this:

Tool 1: Use Words “What you are trying to do is train your children to eventually receive correction through words without further consequence…you’re moving them in the direction they need to go in order to listen to God.” (pg.67)

Tool 2: Have the Child Take a Break “This technique follows a biblical model of correction and focuses on a child’s heart, not just behavior.” (pg.67) When a child is disobeying, lacking self-control, getting angry, acting defiant and they are not responding to words (Tool 1) they are asked to take a break. They are asked to go to a per-determined area for whatever length of time it takes them to get calmed down and show a willingness in their heart to change and take instruction.

Tool 3: Give a Consequence If words and taking a break are not bringing about a change in a child’s behavior then it is time to give an appropriate consequence. “This kind of discipline doesn’t view consequences as a sentence for doing wrong or a way to balance the scales of justice. Rather, it sees consequences as tools for helping children change.” (pg.74)

Tool 4: End with a Positive Conclusion This tool should always be used along with one of the other three. “It’s a discussion about what went wrong and how to change for next time.” (pg. 75)
1. What did you do wrong?
2. Why was that wrong?
3. What are you going to do differently next time?
4. Make a final positive statement like, “Okay, go try again!”

We used to use this corrective routine with a lot of success but lately our discipline of the boys has been hit or miss and usually done out of frustration or anger. Obviously it was time to return to the routine and address the heart issues that we were seeing. As I thought through the tool of Taking A Break I remembered something I had read a long time ago on Ann Voskamp’s blog A Holy Experience about making a “prayer chair.” A quiet place for kids to sit and calm down with resources for them to think, pray, and read. So I looked around the house and gathered some things together.

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In our basket are 2 Bibles, 2 notebooks, cards with verses on them and pens/pencils/markers. Now when we ask one of the boys to take a break they have a choice. They can sit in the chair for however long it takes for them to calm down and make a change in their heart. Sometimes they only sit for a few seconds. Sometimes they take longer and get out one of the resources in the basket.

This morning I asked Nathaniel to take a break when he was refusing to do his school work without whining and complaining. He came back from his break with a drawing he had made. We talked about the drawing, how he felt, and how he could do things differently next time. The tone of the morning changed and we were able to continue school without the power struggle and frustration.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to disciplining children. We are constantly re-evaluating our methods and trying different things. As the boys grow we are spending more time in conversation with them, trying to guide them to be little men of integrity as they face challenges and decisions. Our ultimate goal is that they would learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and be guided by God working in their hearts. For right now the Break Basket seems to be a good tool to start that process.

What tools have you found useful for effective, heart-oriented correction?