In Defense of Discipline

April 9, 2010 at 5:39 pm Leave a comment

   Discipline seems to be a difficult area for many parents, and there is much encouragement in worldly society to let children be “free spirits,” unencumbered by their parents’ imposed expectations.  Further confusing the issue are arguments over spanking, and some dictionary definitions emphasize training, teaching, and instruction in obeying rules while others refer to punishing in order to gain control, enforce obedience, or  impose order.  

Let’s start with some basics.  Experience and common sense tell us that a child’s selfish impulses cry out for restraint (“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”  Proverbs 22:15); direct observation reveals that failing to correct bad behavior leaves a child feeling uncared for, and eventually confused and rebellious (“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”  Proverbs 29:15); and logic demonstrates that a child who learns to respect his parents’ authority has the groundwork laid for accepting God’s authority (“Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”  Proverbs 29:15, 17).  

As mixed as society’s messages are, the believer can know that God offers concrete guidance for parents in this area, and recognizes that – whether seen as punishment or correction – discipline can be unpleasant for both parties.  So, how are we to discipline?  With balance, the Word instructs us.   “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21)  Discipline with a goal of leading the child toward God-pleasing actions and based on understanding, not anger, is a gift.  Children who don’t experience externally imposed limits in their formative years have a long, uphill trudge in developing the self-discipline necessary to be well-adjusted adults.  

“He who spares the rod, hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”  Proverbs 13:24 

Our understanding of God’s heart suggests an interpretation of the “rod” of scripture more as the shepherd’s guiding tool rather than a symbol of inflicted pain – a form of “reproof [that] gives wisdom.”  This leaves us with a very clear answer to that question of how to discipline:  consistently, with a loving attitude, and with the knowledge that correction is a means of passing along godly values to our children.  

A note from my pastor regarding the above treatment of this topic: 

My emphasis has always been to lay clear boundaries using God’s Law and yet always follow the sorrow (brought about by the Law) with the love and forgiveness found in the Gospel.  I know that I, as a sinful human being, have not always been consistent or perfect in my discipline.  Thanks be to God that He forgives even those sins, just as He does the children’s.  And yet in spite of my failures as a parent, God’s grace covers a multitude of transgressions.  Children still can turn out well, all by God’s Grace which they have experienced through consistent discipline and instruction from God’s Word.  It’s God’s doing, not mine.

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