What 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.
Matt Jacobson is a biblical marriage coach and founder of FaithfulMan.com a biblical marriage, parenting, and discipleship ministry providing written and audio teaching, as well as couples marriage coaching. He is the co-host (with his wife, Lisa) of Faithful Life Podcast and is author of the bestseller, 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. Matt is pastor of Tumalo Bible Fellowship and is married to Lisa, founder of Club31Women.com (they have 8 kids!).