I remember when my daughter was a toddler, and the punishment for disobedience was handed down. I would have a child on my hands who was sad and repentant almost immediately. The grounding hurt her a little, but still she loved me madly and accepted the punishment without even a thought of punishing me in the process.

Now that my daughter is a teenager, when the punishment for disobedience is handed down, I have a teen on my hands who is angry and fuming almost immediately. The grounding hurts her a lot, and though I know she still loves me (somewhere within that seething fury), the punishment I give is received and her displeasure with me is vehement and obvious.

Thankfully, as the hours pass and the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to whisper and guide, my daughter’s attitude goes from fury to frustration, tempered with understanding and a quiet resolve that daggum it — my parents love me enough to punish me. That Holy Spirit-formed knowledge is maddening and magnificent all at once.

Moms, I see around me (all too often) parents who are unwilling to be “unpopular” with their teen, and therefore, a punishment is not given, or a lousy excuse for a punishment is given and fails to have the needed effect on a teen.

For a punishment to really work, it does have to be something that “hurts” the teen, so to speak. A major inconvenience, a loss of much wanted freedom — something that causes a teen to “get” that rules must be followed and expectations must be met. And something that allows God time to do a work in that moldable teen heart.

Barbara Rainey told me a couple of years ago that whenever one of their children were being absorbed into the world, making bad choices, not following the “family rules,” the only way she and Dennis could rein them back in was to ground them for 30 days. She shared that it was amazing how those 30 days grounded from peers and the world’s influence would somehow cause her teens to see with a clear head how they were being lulled into complacency by the world and were driving off into a ditch … and didn’t even realize it.

So, we have chosen to take Barbara’s advice (again), and our teen daughter was recently grounded for 30 days. She was not happy. At all.

Yet as the days began to tick by, my contemplative daughter shared with me, almost daily, what God was teaching her through the grounding. And I promise you there was a part of her that seemed to be almost relieved to have a reprieve from all that is tugging at her young self right now. Don’t get me wrong; she still lamented her punishment and what she missed out on — and she pointed out daily just what she was missing out on. But she was smart enough to recognize that God was at work on her, and she was moldable enough to listen to Him … and her parents.

If we had “caved” and lifted the punishment to make her “happy” (and relieve our own guilt and need to be popular), she would have missed out on a lot of Holy Spirit guidance and God-molding.

I share this with you as an encouragement and admonishment. Are you being lulled into complacency by the world? Are you driving off into the ditch of lax parenting? Be the parent, even when it means you are unpopular!

Your children’s successful future is not dependent upon your popularity; it’s dependent upon her moldability of God’s best for her! (Even if it starts out through clinched teeth!)