Disciplining our children is a hotly debated issue in our culture and the Christian community. Typically, the flashpoints in these debates ignite around issues like spanking, public reprimands, and what consequences (if any) non-parents should be allowed to enforce. But these debates tend to occur without a foundational Biblical understanding on this issue. So, with Scripture as our guide, let’s look at 5 big questions and answers about discipline.
5 Big Questions And Answers About Discipline
Why is discipline important?
With the controversy that swirls around this subject, the question must be asked: Is discipline something parents should be genuinely concerned with or is it an overblown side-issue? The Bible tells us in Proverbs 6:23 (ESV) “the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” Discipline is the way of life! Or to look at it another way, to withhold discipline steers our children down a path of destruction.
Discipline teaches our kids to respect authority, that actions have consequences, and that God and his Word must be honored. If our children fail to learn these lessons, they walk a dangerous road. Why is discipline important? Because it leads our children down a path of life! With this in mind, let’s look at some more questions and answers about discipline.
How should we discipline?
Hebrews 12:5 NIV teaches: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you.” In this verse, we see two key words tied together, discipline and rebuke. Healthy discipline requires both words and actions, expectations and consequences. If we divorce the two, discipline loses its effectiveness.
Failing to set expectations, and then disciplining children leads only to confusion and frustration. They know they are in trouble, but they don’t understand why. They don’t learn. If discipline fails to teach, it has become nothing more than punishment. Conversely, if we set expectations that have no consequences, our words become empty. Our kids may see what we mean, but they come to believe that we don’t mean what we say. If our expectations are important, then we must have the courage and conviction to follow through when they are disregarded.
A basic principle in all of this is that discipline should be proportional. If the consequence far outweighs the broken expectation, the result is a crushed spirit rather than a correction of behavior. If the consequence is insignificant, it erodes the place of authority parents are to hold in our children’s lives.
What is the heart behind discipline?
It has been said that, at the heart of every issue is an issue of the heart. This is certainly true as we take on these questions and answers about discipline. In Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT) we are told: “My child, don’t reject the LORD’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.”
God disciplines us, because he loves us. This understanding is key. Discipline is not a shameful action or something parents should be embarrassed about. Quite the opposite. Discipline is an expression of love for our children. We love them too much to allow them to stumble blindly into danger, this love compels us to discipline our children when they wander into sin.
What is the goal of discipline?
If you don’t know where you are going, you are never going to get there. So what is the goal that we’re trying to reach as parents in disciplining our children? Let’s take a quick look at Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV) to find our answer:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
In this passage, Paul stresses the desired goal of obedience, while highlighting the means to achieve this goal: discipline. We discipline because we want to teach our kids obedience, first to us as parents, but ultimately to God and his Word. The goal of every parent should be to raise children who are faithful and obedient to the Lord and his commandments. Because all who are obedient to the Lord will find abundant life in Christ!
It is important to note the emphasis Paul puts on not provoking our children to anger in this process. Discipline is not an end unto itself, nor is it a way for parents to vent anger or frustration. Discipline is always to be instructive, not punitive.
Is discipline worth the effort?
Effective discipline requires a consistent long-term effort from parents. At times it seems a whole lot easier to throw in the towel and give up, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. To those who faithfully bring up their children under loving discipline, the Bible makes an amazing promise. Hebrews 12:10-12 (ESV) speaks of God’s discipline toward us as follows:
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.
Those who have been trained by godly discipline share in the holiness of their heavenly Father! Moreover, their lives bear the fruit of peaceful righteousness. Can you think of a higher blessing to bestow upon your children? If we invest in discipline today, our children will reap the reward of righteousness tomorrow.
We all love our children, but it is easy to forget that discipline is one of the foundational ways that we are to express this love. Take time to read what God’s word has to say about this issue. Be reminded as you examine these questions and answers about discipline that God’s voice, and not the voice of culture, is the one we need to listen to in order to define our perspective on this subject.