I think almost every mom that has ever lived will say that disciplining their children is the hardest part of being a mother. Providing Biblical discipline for children can be even more overwhelming. When our children are rude, selfish, lie, cheat, steal, hit, deceive, mock, slander, and make a myriad of poor choices, we make a choice: discipline them or let it slide.
Proverbs 13:24 (NIV): Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him
Proverbs 22:15 (ESV): Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
When our children are young, it’s hard to know what to do to effectively discipline them so that they “get it.” Oftentimes we are met with back talk and opposition rather than understanding and repentance.
One particular day, in the height of battle with my three-year-old’s blatant defiance, I was so completely desperate for help to control my anger towards him that I made him stay in “quiet time” until daddy got home. He was losing it. I was losing it. Desperate times called for desperate measures. My sin has never been more obvious to me than when trying to discipline my children. I get angry, inpatient, am rude, and raise my voice. I’m ashamed of the way I act when things aren’t “easy.”
When our children are older, we question our parenting and wonder what we did wrong when they continue to make poor choices or disappoint us because “they know better.” Oftentimes, we are met with flippant nonchalance or purposeful rebellion. It’s maddening and once again our sin takes center stage. “After all that I have done for them, they continue to treat me this way?!?!” Our desperation just went from “stay in your room until daddy gets home” at 3-years-old to “You are never leaving your room ever again. EVER” at 16.
Biblical Discipline for Children
Regardless of the age of our children, it’s time to consult the best parenting book ever written – the Bible.
Hebrews 12:5-11 The Message (MSG)
In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
We are called to discipline our children the same way that God disciplines us. Not with punishment, but with training. Mommas, this is HUGE. How much more effective and CALM will we be with our children when we approach these incredibly difficult times through a biblical and gospel lens?
Biblical Discipline Is As Much About Us As Them
We cannot discipline our children when our sin (anger, impatience, selfishness) is running our actions. That is not a reflection of Jesus Christ. And while the Bible doesn’t directly tell us what methods to use (time outs, take away privileges, spanking, grounding, etc.) it does tell us how WE need to be conducting ourselves while doing the discipline.
Here’s what we know about Biblical discipline for children:
- We need to be disciplining in a way that is best for our children (Hebrews 12:10-11)
- We need to be donning the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)
- We need to discipline through love, which is not easily angered, does not dishonor our kids, and keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5)
This should be a convicting lesson and one that we will need to intentionally work on as long as we are parents. Discipline is not easy because it tests our own actions and attitude more than most other situations. If we aren’t striving to reflect Christ daily, it will be obvious in the way we react to our children’s poor behavior. Just remember, they are learning and you are training. Be in the Word daily. Pray before you take action. Create a process for discipline that you follow through every time. That will help keep you on track with your gospel-centered goals.
Today, ask God if you are providing Biblical discipline for children in a way that reflects Christ. Pay attention the next time you have to step in and correct behavior. Stop and say a prayer before you react. Ask your children for forgiveness when you don’t get it right. You will reflect Christ by admitting you sin and need God’s grace just as much as they do.