By Richie Thetford
God knows the importance of discipline to turn a nation or an individual around to repentance. God has always disciplined his children when they needed it. The Hebrew writer says, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by him; For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, And he scourges every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb. 12:5-10; see also Deut. 11:2; Job 5:17; 1 Cor. 11:32). Once parents have allowed God to set the standard in their home and then make every attempt to discipline themselves to carry out God’s commands, they can then exercise the appropriate discipline for correction as God has allowed.
Fathers therefore have the same responsibility within their homes. This is often where the breakdown occurs. You have heard, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself’ (James 2:17). You can apply that same thinking to discipline. Believing that the child needs discipline and not doing anything about it will not help your child. By the way some parents act today I would think that they are living a “faith only” religion when it comes to discipline!
Children need discipline. God showed us that in He-brews 12:7. The home is the logical place for this to take place. Children must learn to go by the rules. The earlier they learn the better. However, all efforts will be in vain if both parents don’t present a unified front. Once the parents have discussed how they are going to discipline their children, then it is important that the discipline is carried out consistently by either parent. When one patent disciplines the child for doing something wrong and the other parent will not discipline the child for the same offense, then the discipline becomes ineffective and the child will not know what he is to do or not to do! Both parents must be operating under the same standard and that is God’s standard. That is why it is so important to have Christian parents. One must also remember that discipline should not be administered on the basis of “moods” or it will become meaningless.
Proper discipline should be: Loving and diligent. “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Prov. 13:24).
Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary defines “rod” as being a stick used for punishing, ruling, to walk after. “Chasten” is defined to chasten (with blows) to correct, punish, reform, reprove, teach.
Timely and controlled. “Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death” (Prov. 19:18).
Educational. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother” (Prov. 19:15).
Corrective. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him” (Prov. 22:15).
Adequate. “Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you beat him with the rod, he will not die” (Prov. 23:13); “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart” (Col. 3:21). Exercise balanced discipline. Balance firmness with patience. Spank when necessary but without excess or abuse.
Balanced and Consistent. “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). When proper discipline has been given, a wise son will accept it, knowing it is for his own good for both today and in the future.
As parents we only have one chance to raise our children. Soon they will be grown and on their own. How they live their lives after they “leave the nest” will depend upon how we the parents raise our beloved children today. The following poem entitled “The Sculptor” tells the story of the parent’s one opportunity to shape the lives of our young.
The Sculptor I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it, one day,
And as my fingers pressed it, still
It moved and yielded to my will.
I came again when days were passed,
That bit of clay was hard at last;
The form I gave it, still it bore,
And I could change that form no more.
Then I took a piece of living clay
And gently formed it, day by day,
And molded with power and art,
A young child’s soft and yielding heart.
I came again when years were gone.
It was a man I looked upon.
He still that early impress bore;
And I could change it, nevermore.
Proper discipline is essential to raising our children in accordance with God’s directive. But there is another side to discipline and that is the parent who uses improper discipline on his children. There could be too little or none at all (I Sam 3:11-14; 2:23; Prov 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 29:15). Some feel that these Old Testament passages don’t apply today. Children have not changed over the years as far as the discipline that they need. These Old Testament passages are for our learning and it is time that we parents start learning from these passages (Rom. 15:4).
Other improper disciple techniques are:
Rigid and unjust punishment (Eph. 6:4): Some parents deal out punishment to children before they find out what really happened. We need to think before we act. Make sure that the punishment we give our children is justified.
Partiality in discipline: Some children always seem to get in trouble even if they were not at fault, while others never seem to get punished. We must ensure that our discipline is handled impartially.
Inconsistent discipline: This is the big one! Little Johnny may be told three times to get out of the street before he receives punishment from one parent but the other parent will punish him the very first time he is caught in the street. We need to be consistent in our discipline or the child will not know what is or isn’t important and whether or not you really mean it.
Deceptive and idle threats such as “If you do that I’ll beat your brains out.” No, you won’t, you know it and your child knows it. Make sure the things that you tell your child is something that you’re prepared to do and able to backup.
Overly strict: These are the ones that expect too much from a child and try to make them an adult at age 8. These are the same types of parents that over discipline their children by using sledge hammers to drive thumb tacks.
Response To Discipline
What should a child’s response to proper discipline be? Teach your children to understand why they are being disciplined and how they are to receive it. Here again, they’ll respect the discipline that you give them as a parent when they can see you living what you’re teaching! When a child can see mom and dad living a Christian life by doing the things that are instructed by God then they not only will respond to the consistent discipline, but you as a parent will have peace of mind knowing that you are enforcing the same set of rules that you are guided by!
There are many proverbs telling how one should respond to discipline. In fact you might want to have your children write these verses down so when they do get disciplined, they’ll know why! These passages are Proverbs 6:23; 12:1; 13:18; 19:20; 19:27; 23:12; and especially Hebrews 12:11 which says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
In conclusion, Grant Caldwell wrote, “Parents have a tremendous responsibility in training children. There are those that will still say `boys will be boys and girls will be girls,’ but boys will be men and girls will be women. What kind of men and women? Parents have a great deal to do with that answer” (The Home: God’s First Great Institution 93). May God grant that we may be good parents and bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4)!
Caldwell also said, “Young people, realize what a task your parents have. Work with them, love them, and help them to correct their mistakes. Your home can be what God would have it be. Commit yourselves to see that your home is functioning on God’s discipline and that you are honoring God” (Idem.). Honor your parents (Eph. 6:1), and your discipline will be kept to minimum!
Discipline is something God exercises in raising his children, and he certainly expects us fathers to use discipline in raising our children. But remember, before the discipline we use can be effective, the discipline must be God’s standard in accordance with his commandments! “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep his commandments, because this applies to every person”(Eccl.12:13).
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 8 p. 12-13
April 20, 1995