Discipline is an issue with which all parents struggle. Our brother has given us practical and helpful ministry in this article.
Don Sergio had four children, and one of the boys had misbehaved. As he prepared to apply what the case required, the strains of the well-known carol, “Silent Night” filtered into the room. The Spanish title of this carol is “Night of Peace, Night of Love.” “Listen Dad,” the boy said, “this is a night of peace and love.” The built-up tension evaporated, and punishment was suspended.
Every parent yearns to have an atmosphere of peace and love in the home, not only at Christmas time, but all year long. Since this is not always the case, correction is often needed. Discipline is used to teach what kind of behavior is acceptable.
The word “discipline” means to establish authority, to teach acceptable behavior, and enforce regulations. Discipline correctly applied educates, instructs, and promotes the learning of morals and manners.
Discipline is a method used by our Heavenly Father to teach His children what pleases Him. “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb 12:6). It is incumbent on every Christian parent to follow the divine example. Love must be present in applying any discipline. Anger, impatience, and vengeance should never form part of the process.
In the same verse in Hebrews 12, “scourging” is mentioned for “sons.” The one disciplined is part of the family that knows the Father. This consideration will temper the application of the discipline, whatever form it may take.
Discipline is not always physical. Hebrews 12:5 asks if the recipients had forgotten the exhortation spoken to them, and calls on them to properly assess the rebuke administered. Verse 7 speaks of the beneficent effect of discipline when it is understood, since discipline is part of bringing up the family “for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”
David and Abraham
Failure to apply discipline when required caused King David much grief, especially with Absalom. Similar sad stories could be told of Eli and Samuel and the handling of their sons.
When discipline is absent in bringing up a family, disobedience and disrespect poison the atmosphere and destroy relationships. Some parents today look back with dismay at their failures, especially when they see their children following a wayward path of sin and showing no interest in spiritual things.
What kind of instruction does God expect parents to give? It is instructive to read what God says about Abraham when He revealed to him His plans regarding Sodom. It was not because Abraham was to become a great and mighty nation, but it was Abraham’s handling of his household that God took into account. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen 18:19).
A God-Given Responsibility
Each parent entrusted with children has a corresponding responsibility to bring them up for God’s glory. Psalm 127:3 reminds us, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD.” Any inheritance received is valued, appreciated, and carefully protected against loss and damage. The training of children starts before they are born. They should be prayed for, and wisdom should be sought to nurture them for God. He expects care to be exercised in guiding them correctly. When do you suppose that Amram and Jochabed started being concerned about Moses’ safety? A plan was already in place when he was born and God worked marvels to give them the privilege of training him for his future life.
Discipline in the Family
Children are instructed to “Obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). And to “Honor thy father and mother” (v 2). These instructions presuppose that children are taught what their parents expect of them. Respectful relationships between the parents themselves show the children how honor is given. Parents should establish norms by which the family is guided, and these should be reasonable. Verse 4 exhorts, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This requires dependence on God for grace to fulfill the role of parent and carry out discipline that will have its desired results.
Here are some guidelines:
1. Decide what disciplines are important, and how best to apply them. Communication of plans for the family, establishment of time limits, and expected levels of cooperation in tasks in the home, should be clearly transmitted. At the same time, a warning should be included outlining the consequences of any disobedience. These need not always be corporal punishment, but something that causes reflection, such as reduced privileges or restricted liberties.
2. Never discipline when angry. Hebrews 12 shows that God’s method is motivated by love and for OUR good. Some parents discipline when their inward passions need an escape valve and the children bear the brunt. In such a case, it isn’t so much for the good of the child, but to relieve the parent of inward pressure. Hebrews 12:10 recognizes that our earthly fathers at times, “chastened us after their own pleasure.” It then draws the divine parallel, speaking of our Heavenly Father, “but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.”
3. Each child is different. Proverbs 22:6 suggests taking into account the “way” of the child, that is, his personality and sensibilities. Study the child to know what discipline would be appropriate. Some children need only a nod of the head as a reprimand; others require a more vigorous display of disapproval.
4. Corporal punishment is not effective in older children. In today’s world with its laws that embolden the “rights of children,” and with the numerous social agencies abetted by sensitized citizens, corporal punishment of older children is not wise. Wisdom in achieving our goals in training must be exercised.
5. Parents should seek to be of one mind on requirements of the family and the rules of the house. If there are any disagreements between the parents, resolve them behind closed doors and not in front of the children.
6. Consistency and even-handedness are necessary to achieve the desired results. Favoritism can cause discouragement and produce rebellion.
7. Parents, keep your word and fulfill your promises. Carry through with the warnings given and reward good behavior when there is a positive response.
Bring up your child in such a way so that when he is an adult, it will be apparent that what was true of Timothy is also true of him. “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15).