On Disciplining Your Children: Do It!

It seems that from one perspective disciplining our kids isn’t a kind or nice thing to do.  Think about it.  If your child disrespects you, you might take his dessert away for a week.  If company comes over, they’d all get dessert, but your kid won’t.  Seems mean.  Or maybe your teenage daughter was terribly disobedient and you took her phone away for three months.  All the other parents let their kids have phones, but you don’t.  Are you being cruel?  The list goes on.  Discipline – especially more severe kinds of discipline – seems unkind from one perspective.

However, from a Christian and biblical perspective discipline is beneficial for our kids.  Of course, I mean discipline that comes from Christian love and a concern for the child’s well-being.  In fact, biblically speaking, if we fail to discipline our kids for disrespect and disobedience we are failing to show them love.  We’re letting them go down the path of sin and destruction.  Proverbs 13:24 puts it this way: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (NIV).  John Kitchen has a helpful commentary on this verse:

The notion of corporal punishment flies in the face of much popular psychology, but is a clear part of God’s program for parenting a child to maturity.  To withhold corporal punishment is not a sign of advanced learning, wisdom, or even greater love for the child.  Far from it, it proves that a parent ‘hates his son’!  The contrast between ‘hates’ and ‘loves’ is intentionally strong.  The notion conveyed by these words is often that of comparative love, rather than emotional revulsion over someone (Gen. 29:31; Deut. 21:15; Mal. 1:2f; Rom. 9:13).

Thus, withholding appropriate spankings is not a sign of superior love for one’s children, but rather a signal that one loves something, or someone, more than his child.  Perhaps the parent loves himself (avoiding the personal pain or self-discipline that comes with disciplining his child) more than his child, or perhaps he loves the affirmation and approval of others (who may disapprove of corporal punishment) more than he desires his child’s welfare.  Certainly, such a one loves someone more than he loves God, since he yields his obedience to them in this matter, rather than following God’s word.

The true signal that parents love their child is their willingness to do the painful work of discipline.  Here, ‘discipline’ certainly includes corporal punishment, but Proverbs also demands other forms of ‘discipline,’ which include verbal instruction, reproof, and correction (Prov. 15:5) as well as action.

Disciplining our children isn’t easy, nor is it fun.  It’s hard to be fair and consistent.  But discipline for sure has to be done – even swift, severe discipline!  It’s not an option in a Christian home.  If you’ve slacked in your discipline, now is a good time to remember Scripture’s call to parents: discipline your child (see Prov. 19:18; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 29:15, 17)!  If you do so with Christian love and instruction, it’ll help them learn right from wrong, good from evil, and it will give them a reflection of our heavenly Father’s love in Christ: …The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father [disciplines] the son he delights in (NIV).

The above quotes are found in John Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, p. 296-7.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015