The discipline process for young children addresses defiant behavior, but more and more you must address "behavior that is wrong, but not defiant." The overall goal is for him to develop a concern for God and for others, as opposed to a selfish lack of concern. These are character issues. For example, to not help Mom with responsibilities around the house may not be defiant, but it shows a lack of concern and value for her.
There are some common pitfalls for your family when you have a child in this phase. First, there is a tendency to keep making more rules to cover the myriad of decisions and experiences that a child will face. Of course, this task is impossible. Another potential danger is the tendency to focus on good behavior, instead of addressing the heart issues. And there can even be peril in keeping all those rules. We must be careful that we (as parents as well as our children) don't think that the goal is to produce good little rule-keepers. Why? Because these children can easily become smug and self-righteous, looking down on siblings and friends who do not keep all their rules.
Tripp gives a good method ("Three-Pronged Tool of Diagnosis") to help us hone in on our children's real needs. There are three sets of relationships to evaluate:
- The child's relationship to God. Not "Is there a relationship?" but "What is the nature of that relationship?" The goal is to see if the child is depending on God's grace and power.
- The child's relationship to himself. God has created each of us unique, with a certain bent. You can only help your child reach his full potential if you help him know how God created him.
- The child's relationship to others. What does she want out of her relationships? What does she look for? Does she aim to serve or lead others?