The Confidence to Discipline

If you're anything like me, you sometimes (okay, frequently) question whether you are too lax or too strict with your children. I tend to think of this as a modern problem, but this weekend, I delved into some of my antique home keeping and child rearing books and discovered parents have been struggling with this for a long time.  

But it occurs to me we have the perfect example of how to discipline our children: God. The Bible speaks regularly about how God disciplines us. (See, for example, Deut. 4:6, Deut. 8:5, Job 5:17, Ps. 94:10, Prov. 3:11-12, Jer. 10:24, and Heb. 12:6) It is no mistake the Bible refers to God as "Father" and to us a his "children." So what can we learn about disciplining our children by studying the way God disciplines us? 

* Disciplining children is necessary. (Prov. 13:24, Prov. 19:18, Prov. 22:15, Prov.22:6, Heb. 12:11, Eph. 6:4, for example) To not discipline a child is to, in the words of the Bible, "hate" him. 

* Consequences are a natural part of discipline, just as the natural consequence of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) * God disciplines us in love. He is full of patience and mercy. God also calls us to have a heart eager to forgive (Col. 3:13, Eph. 4:32, for example).

So, the Bible teaches us to always discipline our children when they do wrong, but to do it in love. To some people, these two points may seem at odds, but let me give an example that I think makes the point clear. 

In Genesis 4, after Cain kills his brother Abel, God disciplines him by making him a wanderer, always fighting for food for the rest of his days. God even explains the natural consequence related to the punishment (the ground that contains his brother's blood will no longer grow food for him). This is a specific and strong discipline, but God tempers it with love, for when Cain fears that he, too, will be murdered, God assures Cain he'll allow no one to kill him. In other words, he tells Cain that although he's punishing him for his sin, he loves him and will continue to protect him. 

Likewise, when we discipline our children, we should be specific - and strong, if the case warrants it. But we should act and speak in love, reassuring our children after the discipline that we love them and want what's best for them. 

 For me, studying the way God disciplines us gives me confidence to discipline my children. I don't have to consider which currently-popular parenting advice to follow, or which friend's advice to mimic. Instead, I can follow the example of my Father.


1 comment

  1. great article once again. At a great time too, my son has been quite the terror recently. Thank you