The subject of discipline is more often avoided than properly dealt with, because it conjures up thoughts of abuse, neglect, and a generally unloving home. Even amongst concerned Christian families many questions regarding the correct way to discipline our children remain unanswered. I have yet to know of churches who deal with the subject sufficiently to help parents negotiate this minefield.
God is a God of order and not of chaos, and our homes should reflect this. Scripture speaks to this subject very clearly and it is up to us parents to take heed. Not only will the souls of our children thrive, but our home will be a far more pleasant place for all who dwell therein. So, instead of waiting until our children are older, the process of discipline should begin during the first years of their life.
Perhaps a more pleasant term to use would be ‘training’. The Book of Proverbs tells us to train up our children in the way of the Lord, and no training can take place without discipline. A well disciplined athlete is a well trained athlete, similarly with children, well disciplined children are well trained children.
Parents who establish, during the earliest years, a relationship of trust and respect with their children will have achieved the first step toward child training. We must enjoy our children and cause them to enjoy us. They should bask in our smiles, our approval, our touch, our laughs and our hugs. Children in this environment know that their parents really want what is good for them. If these are the ground rules, all training will flow from there.
One of the first ground rules to have is ‘prompt, cheerful, first-time’ obedience. If we as parents have to continually repeat ourselves, raise our voices and start to count then we are encouraging delayed obedience which is the same as disobedience.
Ideally, our reach as disciplinarians cannot exceed the limits of our fellowship with our children. Rebuke should be delivered in an atmosphere of trust and respect. If we lose the heart of our children, then they will have lost the heart to please us. Rebukes and chastisement should not be the constant tone of a home environment; it will only strangle the relationship. Our children must know that we as parents answer to a higher authority – our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We ourselves have boundaries, and we should expect our children to adhere to these as well. Unless we teach our children to obey us as their parental authorities, how can we expect them to ultimately obey God themselves?
When and if rebellion does occur, the best thing we can do is stay 100% consistent. Our rules should be simple and attainable, but we, as lawgivers, should always win. God has given us 10 commandments, so we should have no more for our children. Establish the ‘non-negotiables’ and stick to them. Always. This is no doubt the hardest thing for a worn out parent at the end of a long day to do. It has been well said, that often parents need to discipline themselves before they can deal with their unruly children.
Our discipline of them should not be as a result of irritation, or having finally reached our limit. The chastisement of our children should have as its goal the betterment of our children. Their souls are at stake.
If physical punishment is due, it should occur in the privacy of a room. Wildly wacking out at a child walking past is never a good strategy. Take the child to a calm place, explain what the offense was and ask if they understand their guilt. Ask your child to willingly submit by bending over onto the bed and use a slipper with a rubber sole. This has enough flex in it to not bruise the child, but has enough of a sting to be felt. After the spanking, spend time hugging your child and remind him of your love for him. Pray with him and explain that it is your duty to train him or her up into a godly person.
Above all, we must be: Just, reasonable, consistent, and tough. We must also be there, all the time loving, smiling, and demanding compliance as foreman of the home. After all, discipline is a heart issue. We are the shepherds of the hearts of our children for a very short time, and dealing with attitudes of rebellion in a two year old, consistently, will make life so very much more pleasant when that same child is thirteen. I should say here, that it is not too late for parents of older children. Parents need to pray and confess their wrong doings as parents. Ask God to guide you in new strategies for disciplining. Search the Scriptures and get good advice from successful parents you may know. Apologize to your children for your failings and tell them that things will be different from now on.
As parents we should be interested not only in the academic success of our children, the sports they play, the school they attend or the friends they have. While these are all important aspects of their life, nothing is as important as shaping godly character. All success is in vain if their character ,heart and behaviour does not reflect godly training.
Michael Pearl, in his book No Greater Joy sums it up well:
“What can be called success if your children turn out to be part of the world’s problems rather than its cure? What satisfaction can there be in the comforts of material success if our children grow up needing counsel rather than being sought after to give counsel? The success of a tree and a man is measured by the fruit that is borne. The fruit of a man or woman is their children; everything else is falling leaves. Let me not measure my giving by the money I spend on them or the educational opportunities my station in life can afford them, but rather, by the hours I spend with them in fellowship. May they graduate from my tutorship to become disciples of the Man from Nazareth. May they learn good and evil from the pinnacle of obedience rather than from the pit of despair. May they have the wisdom to choose the precious, and the courage to reject the trite and the vain things in life. May they always labor for the meat that endures. May they be lovers of God, co-workers with the Holy Spirit, and a friend to the Lord Jesus. And when their trail ends, may it end at the throne of God, laying crowns at the Saviour’s feet.”
May this goal inspire us to diligently discipline and train the children God has placed into our care for such a short time.
by Lenora Hammond