5 Common Discipline Mistakes Every Parent Should Avoid

5 Common Discipline Mistakes Every Parent Should Avoid
July 30, 2014 Matthew L. Jacobson

matthewljacobson-com_noWhat should you do as a parent when you daughter winds up babysitting “that” kid? You know, the one who is a combination of Napoleon and the Tasmanian Devil? (you should have watched more Bugs Bunny as a child).

It wasn’t the kid’s fault; she was just along for the ride. Well, truth is, she thought she owned the entire theme park, but, again, it wasn’t her fault.

We learned later that evening that, after we dropped off our daughter and just before leaving the house, the mother turned to her and said, “Be sure you never say ‘no’ to our little monster.” 

Okay, she didn’t say ‘monster’ but she did say not to tell their child “no” and 1 + 1 does equal 2.

You already know how that evening went! We’ve all seen children where misguided parents create a child no one wants to be around. It may seem open and loving to refuse to inhibit the will of a child, but it’s against God’s design for children.

If you don’t discipline your kids, you don’t love them. That’s what the Bible says in Proverbs 13:24 – He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.  Even for adults, the Bible says the discipline we receive from the Father is proof of his love for us.

Hebrews 12:6 says, “ . . . For the Lord disciplines the one He loves and chastises every son whom he receives.”

According to the Bible, discipline is evidence that we love our kids  – not just any discipline, but godly, biblical discipline. Too often, the ‘godly, biblical’ part is absent from discipline. As Christian parents, when it comes to correcting our kids, sometimes we need a “gut-check.”

Godly, biblical . . . is that how you’d describe the discipline your kids live under?

Discipline is discipleship, or rather, an important aspect of discipleship. Are we shepherding their hearts to Christ in this God-given responsibility?

What goes on in your home when no one is looking? From a very young age, children discern the hypocrisy of discipline designed for public consumption compared to what they experience when no one else is around.

In the discipline of our kids – as in so many areas of life – who we are is what we do when no one is looking.

Ungodly discipline is every bit as destructive as being too lenient, perhaps even more so.


Here are 5 common ungodly patterns in discipline that every parent should avoid:

1) Disciplining in anger

Anger, itself, doesn’t have to be a sin. The Bible instructs us to “be angry but don’t sin.” Let’s keep it real.  A large bike-handle scrape down the side of your new car after you told your kids not to bring the bikes into the garage is temperature-inducing. But, does it call for explosive anger? Most of the time, anger brings a long-term harvest of destruction.

Disciplining our child in anger is destructive and sinful. Venting in the moment might relieve some of the steam from the top of your head but far worse than scrapes on your car, you’ll leave a scar on your child’s heart. Angry discipline leaves scars on your child’s heart and, all too often, scars on a child’s body.

That’s not godly discipline and discipleship – that’s destruction. I would encourage you to take the long-term view. Your anger in discipline will incrementally close the heart of your child to you until, when the teen years arrive and they begin to feel their independence, they close you out of their lives completely.

2) Disciplining because of pride

We’re prideful creatures, aren’t we? Our flesh just loves to be thought well of when it comes to our children. Wow, they are really great parents! What great kids! Who doesn’t love hearing that? Have you ever caught yourself correcting or disciplining your child because of what you thought others would think of what your child did? That’s pride talking, not godly discipleship.  Seek only God’s approval, not that of family, friends, or that stranger in the grocery store.

3) Disciplining with continued condemnation after repentance

What your child did was really bad, so bad that you find yourself wanting him/her to feel the weight of it days after it was addressed and repented of.  Your child is still out of fellowship with you because you won’t let him/her back in – not until he/she does ‘penance’ for the sin. You want him/her to feel bad for what was done until some undisclosed future date.

God never does this to us, and it is sinful to do it to our children. When we repent before God, His forgiveness is immediate and complete. He instantly accepts us back into fellowship. Don’t treat your repentant children in a manner God would never treat you. This doesn’t mean there are no consequences for what was done, but fellowship should never be withheld from a repentant heart.

4) Disciplining to get a certain behavior outcome rather than winning the heart of your child

As the adult, you have the power. You can “make” Johnny do what you want him to do but the old adage still holds true, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m still standing on the inside.”

We can too easily settle for compliant behavior rather than a yielded heart.

What seemed okay in the short run will only lead to rebellion over time. There are times when God asks us, as parents, to just do what He wants, without explanation. There are certainly times in parenting our children where this is appropriate but, as a rule, we should seek to disciple through discipline to reach the heart of our child so obedience isn’t merely compliance in the face of powerlessness, but a yielded heart desiring to be in fellowship with Dad and Mom.

5) Disciplining without listening

Our children are distinct, unique individuals. They may be small, but they still need to be heard. Godly discipleship in discipline listens carefully to what the child is saying, gathering all the relevant information before meting out consequences. Listening and hearing the heart of a child can often shed further light on a situation that appeared one way, illuminating a different perspective.

Christian parents are called to love their children and one proof of your love for your kids is godly, biblical discipline. May God bless you as you seek to honor Him in this great privilege and responsibility of shepherding your child’s heart to Him.


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  1. Summer 2 years ago

    Great article. Things i knew deep down, but to have them laid out in words was a big eye-opener. I have a lot to work on.

  2. Michele 2 years ago

    I think one thing that’s hard is that a parent can strive for this perfect balance their entire parenting years (failing, of course – everyone does – but maintaining the balance a good part of the time)……………………..and not see the fruit.

    If your child’s heart has not yet surrendered to Jesus, it’s not necessarily your fault, Mom and Dad.

    If your child has suffered under extreme trials and questions God loudly, that doesn’t make it your fault, Mom & Dad.

    If your child struggles with severe mental illness and it affects the behavior and emotions of everyone in the house, that doesn’t make it your fault, Mom & Dad.

    If your child feels same sex attraction and can’t reconcile it with God’s will and understands little what the answers are, it’s not your fault, Mom & Dad.

    If you are perfect in every way, your child still may not be. God the Father was/is the perfect parent and His children remain highly imperfect and do not seek Him.

  3. kidseducstion 3 years ago

    Great article i love it thanks for the post

  4. tina 3 years ago

    Thank you for this article! It makes me feel good that there are still people who choose to discipline in a godly way!

  5. Rose 3 years ago

    wow! this is incredible and yet so simple! Im ordering the book from amazon that you recommended! I have three kids 6,3,2 and they are all strong willed children. I mean seriously strong willed!!! 🙂 I believe God made them that way for a reason and I know they have great calls on their lives but its hard being their mom! 🙂 I often time find myself disciplining and not listening. #4 is a good truth and Im so grateful I found you of all places on pinterest while trying to find quotes for a grandparent Christmas gift hehe 🙂

  6. Amie Engels 3 years ago

    Thank you for this article, I really needed to hear this today in particular. I have two young boys, 5 ½ and 2 1/2. One is particularly strong willed, and is also in Kindergarten and picking up some verbiage and actions at school that he brings home that we’ve deemed as unacceptable, however it still occurs and my 2 1/2 year old has been repeating. My husband has been a stay at home Dad for 3 years, and I deal with “Mom guilt” due to being a full-time working mom and feeling like I’m missing out on things as well as a lack of consistency with discipline.
    Thank you again! This article was meant for me today! I appreciate your responses to the other readers as well. I’ll be on here often as a reminder! (PS I am unable to capitalize my sentence.)

  7. Theresa 3 years ago

    This article was a serious eye opener. And although I’ve noticed that most of the responses are from moms with younger children, it thoroughly applies to dealing with teenagers also. I am very guilty of being to lenient and I also know that I don’t listen enough or as closely as I should. because of what I call “momma guilts” I give in when I shouldn’t or I defend his behavior/actions/attitude. I am blessed because my husband helps to keep me in balance and because I know this is an area of weakness that could be exploited by “the enemy” I am receiving counseling from my pastor so that I can break the chains that bind me in this area and so that I can love my son and be able to show that love with affection and discipline.

  8. angie 3 years ago

    Could you please explain #4 more to me? It confuses me! I like the idea, but not sure how you do that, I read it several times and still feel lost there! thanks!

    • Matthew Jacobson 3 years ago

      Angie, first of all thank you so much for taking the time to write. Here is the issue – Parents often discipline a child to keep the child from doing what they do or don’t want (and often for selfish reasons rather than for the purpose of training up the child in the way he should go). But, if this is all we are doing, essentially, we’re exercising our power to make the child comply without reaching the child’s heart. There are legitimate times to exercise raw power in parenting – think of issues of safety such as grabbing your disobedient child by the scruff of the neck to keep him from falling off the curb into oncoming traffic or enforcing a barrier perimeter around a fire, etc., – but, if this is the pattern for all of your discipline and you haven’t won the will of your child, then when you lose your power to the growing independence of your child, he will go his own way. Our parenting should be based on winning the will of our child, not on the exercise of power to gain mere compliance. Does that help?

      • Alicia 3 years ago

        I am so thankful a friend shared this on Facebook today. everything you said in this article i needed to hear this week, and most weeks with two head strong young girls age 3 and 5.
        I had a similar question to angie’s but would like to ask a follow up to your reply. Can you expand on how to base our parenting on winning the will of our child on a regular basis?
        Thank you for this article. It was very enlightening.

        • Matthew Jacobson 3 years ago

          Thanks for writing, Alicia.

          Parenting isn’t a power struggle – it’s a discipleship process, training our children to know and to love the Lord. What our children ultimately need is Jesus Christ and the grace that is offered through His sacrifice for our sins. But that’s a lot for children to comprehend so, as with math lessons (we don’t start our children with calculus) we need an incremental approach. The Bible describes the process by saying the Law (moral Law of God – 10 Commandments) is our “schoolmaster unto Christ”.

          Your children need “the schoolmaster”. Teach your girls the Ten Commandments, incrementally, over time. Remember “Honor your father and mother”? The reason your children are to honor you isn’t because it’s what you want but what God commands. Your girls are little but they are individual people – treat them as people who need to hear what God says directly to them. Embrace the power of the Word by speaking the truths of Scripture into their hearts. You have a wonderful advantage because they are so young!

          I like the approach of asking questions. After you’ve taught your girls what the Word says, When your headstrong girl opposes you ask her, “Are you honoring Mommy?” Then, follow through with what you require of your child. (this assumes you are walking int the Spirit, discipling, not just forcing your preferences on your child for your convenience). Your authority doesn’t come from the exercise of your personal power. It comes from the position you have, given to you by God.

          Parenting little ones is consuming and especially draining when the children are strong-minded (a wonderful quality, by the way, when properly directed!)

          Get and read the best parenting book and work book ever written (In my humble opinion!) Tedd Tripp’s book and workbook Shepherding a Child’s Heart Click Here : http://amzn.to/1vj5uSk

  9. Jennifer Smith 3 years ago

    Thank you for this great article! I have a two-year-old son, and I am trying so hard to be consistent with discipline without over-disciplining or under-disciplining, all the while keeping the right attitude, and at the same time nurturing positive attitudes in him…Whew! It can be overwhelming at times.

  10. MICHELLE 3 years ago

    Hey Matthew,
    I really appreciate the article, and have a very defiant 4 year old boy. I’m a single mom, and while my dad helps with him, I’m largely alone. Im really struggling with number four. I KNOW I want him to be obedient because he loves and respects me, but it seems that no matter what I do – even if I’m down on his level, showing him respect, even praying with him – it’s like he is still angry that he is not allowed to do what he wants. I’m desperate to find a book that addresses this specifically. Can you lead me to one???

    • Matthew Jacobson 3 years ago

      Thank you so much for writing. You have a challenging road as a single mother, especially of a strong-willed son but, you can do it with God’s help so, hang in there! I can recommend a book to you that I believe is the best parenting book every written: Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp. Lisa and I came across this boo kin 1995. You will be challenged and encouraged. Please write back after you’ve read the book. I’d love to hear your thoughts. One piece of advice I would offer – Don’t give in to his willfulness. Each time you “cave” just to get a moment’s peace, you strengthen his willfulness for the next battle. He needs to learn (clearly he doesn’t know) that Mom’s word is the final word, the first time. He will only learn this through your consistency over time. The clearer the boundaries you set and enforce, the more secure and happy he will become. Some call it “Tough Love”. This is the case with most children. If you are dealing with things outside of “normal” (for instance, life circumstances that have had a major impact on him and made him angry) there are other considerations. But you are the authority and need to provide a consistent, loving, but very firm context for his life, never giving in to his willfulness which is being a loving parent, even though it may not feel like it at the time. May God give you strength for this challenging time.

  11. sheena 3 years ago

    could you please write on how to carry out these disciplining that you wrote about?like a practical approach?really loved your article.have a 6 month old baby girl and would like to learn as much about Godly disciplining as possible…thankyouso much.really admire both yours and your wife’s blogs.may God bless you and your family

    • Matthew Jacobson 3 years ago

      Sheena, thanks much for your feedback and request. Yes, I will address this issue in detail in the near future. God’s best in your high calling of motherhood.

  12. Kayla 3 years ago

    Thanks for this article. Have you written a book or can you recommend one on the topic?

    • Matthew Jacobson 3 years ago

      Thanks for writing, Kayla. The book is in the works but, in the mean time, I would highly recommend Tedd Tripp’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

  13. Bethany 3 years ago

    So so great!!! This is some of the best parenting advice I have ever seen. I definitely needed that today. Thank you.

    • Matthew Jacobson 3 years ago

      Thanks so much for sharing, Bethany. You are an encouragement! God bless you.

  14. Tara 3 years ago

    i agree, please post in more detail about this! wonderful post!

    • Matthew Jacobson 3 years ago

      Thanks so much for your feedback, Tara. I will definitely revisit this topic in the near future.

  15. Lindsay 3 years ago

    I really loved this! I would love to hear more on biblical discipline , as this was not modeled for me! Thanks for your wisdom

    • Matthew Jacobson 3 years ago

      Thank you, Lindsay. We’ll definitely be addressing this issue in more detail in subsequent posts.

  16. Shonda 3 years ago

    Oh, I have made all of those mistakes. I’m really trying to work on this area. It’s the toughest! Thanks for your words of wisdom.

    • Matthew Jacobson 3 years ago

      You’re welcome, Shonda. You are not alone when it comes to parenting mistakes! Praise God He is a healer and a great restorer. Blessings.

  17. Summer Vandenbos 3 years ago

    This is spot on… and so very convicting. thank you for your words of encouragement and caution.

  18. Karilec 3 years ago

    Great topic. Please share more about Godly biblical discipline. My husband and I would love to learn more about it. Our parent weren’t Christians so we felt lost about this topic. Thanks in advance and hand full of blessings to all of you!

    • Matthew Jacobson 3 years ago

      Thanks for your feedback, Kari. I’ll keep this in mind as a future topic.

  19. Daniel 3 years ago

    Well said!

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