This article is about parenting, and specifically about children and discipline and punishment.

Source: Clarion, 1992. 3 pages.

Disciplining our Children

How does one discipline children and bring them "into line", the line of God's demands and norms? In this day and age when the boundary between necessary discipline and child abuse sometimes becomes somewhat blurred, the subject of discipline surely merits attention. Indeed, what constitutes correct discipline of our children?

Una Sancta, a periodical published for our sister churches in Australia, recently published (in the issues of October 10 and 24) an address by Mr. D. Pot on this subject.

What is Discipline?🔗

Some people incorrectly think that discipline is synonymous to punishment. Yet, these two: discipline and punishment – are distinctly different. Punishment focuses on past misdeeds and inflicts a penalty on the child for a particular offence, whereas the overall purpose of discipline aims at promoting future growth. It leads the child to maturity. Solomon teaches us in Proverbs 13:24:

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

Indeed this text refers to physical, that is corporal punishment. Even though corporal punishment is an important part of discipline, it is but one aspect. Whenever we use the word discipline in biblical context we are to think of teaching, admonishing, instructing as well as correcting. So in the first instance discipline refers to training. The word disciple is linked to discipline and has the idea of follower or learner. Then secondly there is that notion of submission to particular rules.

Parents and teachers, who are called to train God's covenant children in the fear of His Name, do well to have a Scripturally based view, a biblical vision of discipline. That vision is not only unique, but at the same time is taken as foolishness by the very world in which we live and in which our children are growing up.

Modern Thinking🔗

The new gospel for education and society of today claims: freedom for the individual! No interference from anybody, hence no authority, no indoctrination, no religion and therefore no discipline either. Authority is traded for equality of parents, teachers and children alike.

Without realizing it, parents as well as teachers are influenced by these unscriptural and often anti-Christian philosophies and thoughts. Let us not pretend to be immune to these humanistic influences as they are more often than not very appealing to the human mind and our sinful flesh.

We know that any philosophy and teaching which does not honour the Lord and His Word is to be rejected by us. It is God Himself who has set out very specific guidelines for us as to how God wants to have our children disciplined:

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Modern thinking assumes that a child is by nature good and is free to choose what is good. However, according to Scripture, a child left on its own will make wrong choices (Proverbs 22:15; 29:15) and therefore parents have a divine mandate to guide, discipline and correct their offspring. Think of Proverbs 23:1 3-14:

Do not hold back discipline from the child; although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with the rod and deliver his soul from Sheol.

The baptismal vow to bring up our children in the nurture and fear of the Lord must also be mentioned here.

Brother Pot continues by noting:

It is the true, genuine love which we as parents have for our children which demands that we discipline them. Even though we are inclined to be affectionate and compassionate towards our children, our own flesh and blood, we should not neglect our duty to discipline them if the situation demands it. It may even hurt us and cause us pain. As long as we have the opportunity to discipline our children, as long as we have the chance to correct them, we should do so. How many parents aren't deeply sorry for having walked in the paths of Eli by lamenting now: That's what we SHOULD have done, but now it is too late!

Again Proverbs gives us guidance: “Discipline your son while there is hope; do not set your heart on his destruction” (19:18).

It is better to hear your child cry for a little while now (and it may be painful realising that you are the cause of that pain), but it hurts even more to know that your children may weep and wail eternally in hellish agony.

In that context one can understand the words of Proverbs 13:24. "He who spares the rod, hates his son.”

A Matter of Concern🔗

I think it is far to suggest that in general parental support in disciplinary matters taking place at school is gradually waning. That in itself is a serious matter and a cause for concern. Especially many of our younger parents seem to have difficulties with discipline. It can indeed be very frustrating not knowing how to deal with your own children. Several of these parents are far too tolerant; they lack consistency and are not firm in their discipline. After a lot of "whining" on the part of the child, the parent's "no" changes into "yes" and the "yes" becomes "no.” The result? The child rules the parent, the children "reign" in the families. These kind of children often are "selfish" and unpleasant little creatures who always want it their way. Yes, authority in reversed order. Within the Communion of Saints, let us build one another up and remind each other of the Scriptural values, biblical principles and Scriptural truths, also in regards to disciplining our children. We certainly are not immune to the worldly philosophies, worldly thoughts and ideas of our day.

Practical Guidelines🔗

In the last part of his address, br. Pot gives practical guidelines.

  • Firstly, children should know what they are up to. The rules must be clearly and explicitly spelled out.

  • Secondly, discipline must be administered consistently.

Without doubt this is the most significant but also the most difficult aspect of discipline. In theory we may agree that we ought to be more consistent in our approach, more consistent in disciplining our children, and yet bringing this into practice is definitely not an easy assignment. If we on the one occasion, when a child oversteps the mark, react quite harshly, while only a couple of days later a similar offence occurs and we turn a blind eye, then we act very unwisely. Inconsistency makes children feel insecure. They do not know what to expect.

  • Thirdly, discipline must be firm, but fair.

Parents are to be clearly in control, should not waver, back down or water down their demands. Paul teaches us in Ephesians 6 as well as in Colossians 3 that children are to obey their parents for this is right. This kind of obedience is at the same time an honouring of God. Children must learn already from an early age to obey promptly.

Furthermore, discipline must at all times be fair. In other words when we set guidelines, these guidelines and rules must be reasonable and when we do apply corrective measures, we must remember that the punishment must fit the crime. Not for nothing does Paul add in Ephesians 6: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger…”

Not provoking means, among other things, do not overprotect your children and hem them in with far too many rules. Also, do not show favouritism, discourage, neglect, or be cruel to them.

  • Fourthly, discipline should be exercised out of love.

  • And fifthly, discipline should lead to self-discipline. Children must receive responsibilities and grow to maturity. Pot also notes that,

a lot of self-discipline is caught from good models rather than taught. Acting as a living model yourself often has more impact on children than teaching them with many words.

  • Finally, since we have then been called to nurture children in the fear of the Lord, let us be aware that we cannot do this in our own strength. We do not have to do that either. God will guide us by His Word and Spirit. He has promised us that if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all men liberally (James 1:5).

If we carry out our task faithfully and diligently in dependence upon the Lord, we have the rich promise that when the child is old he will not depart from the way he should go.

May God grant us as parents and teachers much wisdom to discipline our children in such a way that they are trained well for this life and for the life to come, that they may be trained for Kingdom's service, trained for God and for eternity.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.