“You can’t discipline children for being children–you’ll just perpetuate their negative behaviour if you give them negative consequences.”
I see this kind of advice everywhere. I hear it often as I practice discipline with my children. I see the disapproving looks as I discipline my own children. I can see what’s happening: our society is caught in a swing to the extreme left of parenting after being too far right. We are swinging from the previous generation that sometimes enforced too-harsh discipline without affection to being made to believe that we shouldn’t say a negative word to our children and instead should only reinforce positive behaviours.
This trend is growing. Honestly, all this wouldn’t alarm me nearly so much if such advice wasn’t being spread by Christian women also. The world has been in the business of giving bad advice since that snake twisted God’s words in the very beginning.
But we–we as women of God–we ought to know better. We need to wake up. A thought spread by popular psychology should have no place in our home if that particular thought is contrary or inferior to what is taught in the Bible.
For the Christian woman, God’s wisdom should trump pop psychology. Every single time.
And, truthfully, if we with our Christian worldview really look deep into the implications of this trend, it should concern us. In fact, to say that negative discipline is wrong or inferior is bordering on blasphemous, if we consider who it is that gives us the example to discipline our children.
It certainly concerns me. As I go about trying to be intentional in my parenting efforts, I want to make sure I’m following good examples in the church–but so far as discipline, I find very few examples to emulate. As I hear the things the world is saying and how the women of the church are saying the same thing, I’ve had to stay extremely close to the Word to keep from being swayed or discouraged.
I understand. It’s not easy being the minority and wondering if you’re doing the right thing.
So what does the Bible have to say?
Consider these thoughts:
- While the world says children have so much to teach us, God says we have so much to teach them.
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15).
- While the world says that discipline is unkind, God says those who discipline their children are the ones who love their children.
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24).
- While the world says you’ll mess up your kids with discipline, God says that discipline is their best chance at bringing them up right.
“Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death” (Proverbs 19:18).
- While the world says that your children will resent your discipline, God says it will cause you to have joy in your children as they get older.
“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (Proverbs 29:17).
These aren’t my words–these are God’s inspired words from wisdom literature. And while I realise that these are pieces of advice and not commands–how wise are we if we neglect to seek and apply the advice that God Himself has given us? Probably not very.
And besides this, the New Testament does have something to say about it. In fact, the Bible says that if we had good parents, they will have disciplined us lovingly and we will respect them for that (Hebrews 12:9-10).
“Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:9, 10).
Notice how the Bible writes about parents assuming that they have disciplined their children? For those of us who have been disciplined lovingly and correctly, becoming conformed to Christ’s image has been easier for us as adults because of the training of our parents when we were young. The time of discipline has ended, but the fruit of those efforts remains.
And don’t be mistaken, you are still subject to discipline when you have a bad attitude. God is our Father and – just like any loving parent – He doesn’t want us to suffer the eternal consequences of undisciplined behaviour (Hebrews 12:5, 6).
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:5, 6)
God, our loving Father, disciplines. If we claim to be following His Word, we cannot be among those who say that no discipline is required. God is grace and love. Yet, while we need to remind ourselves of this, we desperately need reminding that God is also holiness, righteousness, and justice.
“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).
Grace and love are not found to the exclusion of discipline and expectations. Grace teaches (Titus 2:11, 12). Love instructs (Ephesians 4:15, 16; Romans 15:14). Where grace and love are present, loving correction is absolutely vital. If we are to become more like God and love as He loves, we will show love to our children with affection, fairness, discipline, and grace to the end that they will be holy and righteous.
If children do not receive the proper discipline and guidance from you now then they are going to have a much harder time figuring it all out on their own later. That’s why a lack of discipline is unloving – it leaves the immature to try to work things out on their own. God doesn’t leave us to figure everything out on our own, so why are we intent on doing that to our children?
Let’s start parenting the way that God parents. People have been wrong before – but God’s way has always been proven to be right.
Please, stop listening to what pop psychology has to say about raising your child, and start digging in His book for wisdom on how to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
…or at the very least can you agree not to frown upon those of us trying to practice discipline as God would have it? You can choose how you parent, but please don’t tell us were doing it wrong just because you feel uncomfortable with what the Bible teaches.
As for me, I personally feel the most comfortable choosing God’s wisdom and foresight over the fleeting opinions of popular psychology.
God be with you as you seek His will in parenting!
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:5-11).