Life Hope & Truth

Disciplining Children: Seeing the End From the Beginning

Raising children is challenging, and there is much disagreement among parents over the proper use of discipline. What is the proper basis for discipline?

When it comes to children and discipline, there is much controversy. Discipline comes in many forms and is given in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons—some right and some wrong.

Loving discipline has its place in child rearing. When practiced correctly, it will assist you in helping your children become confident, self-reliant and able to follow parental instructions and rules. As challenging as it can be, parents should seek to do what’s best for their child in regards to discipline.

The right tool for the right job

It is important that parents choose the right form of discipline to fit their child. All children learn differently, so when it comes to discipline, which is also a teaching tool, it is important that we administer it in a way that our child will understand.

Sometimes children simply do not understand directions and need guidance. For example, if a standing rule in the home is that all action figures be returned to the toy box after playing with them, the children should be made aware of the importance of this rule. Parents might explain the safety hazard of leaving small toys on the floor to ensure their children understand the rule.

It is also important that they understand what the consequence will be for failing to follow the instructions. If the consequence is losing the privilege of playing with the action figures for a day, then we must be prepared to follow through, but should not add additional consequences for the infraction. Consistency is the key for both the parent and child.

Parents must be careful not to punish out of anger. Anger is never a good basis for discipline. Keep in mind that at times it may take additional training and modeling for a child to grasp the importance of a rule.

Parents should ask themselves, “What is it I want my child to learn from this experience?” All parents want children who are responsible and accountable for their behavior. Parents must wisely use discipline in a responsible way.

Discipline is an investment

Teddy Roosevelt once said, To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”

Sometimes the most meaningful things are the most challenging, and discipline falls into this category. Discipline can be the tool parents want to use least, yet it is a tool that can gradually bring about the desired result in parenting.

When a parent identifies the rules of the home and the lines of morality for a child, the role of discipline should also be introduced.

Discipline is an investment that works for our children. If we are reluctant or refuse to discipline our children, in time the end result we desire for our children will become unclear. Parents who simply wait for their child to make a good decision without discipline may suffer the consequences of a child who does not know where the boundary lines of responsibility, accountability and morality lie.

If you have more than one child, the potential for upheaval in your home could be multiplied without the proper use of discipline. Even with rules in place and clearly understood, there will be times when our children will disappoint us by bending the line or crossing over it. Our loving but firm response to their infraction is important.

Our perfect God uses discipline

When it comes to discipline, it would be wise to learn from the greatest parent of all—God. It is our Heavenly Father’s desire that His children prosper and mature. The Bible refers to this as bearing fruit. Because of His love for us, God is not afraid to use discipline as a means to get our attention and to refocus our efforts to obey Him.

The writer of Proverbs put it this way: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest [or be discouraged by] His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12; this is also quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6).

God does not delight in disciplining us, but He (as every parent should be) is forward-thinking in regards to His children. He wants what is best and is willing to intervene to help us reach our ultimate potential. With this mind-set, committed parents will provide the necessary discipline even when they don’t particularly want to. The desire to help and serve our children should override any reluctance a parent may feel.

God knows it can be just as hard on the parent as it is for the child when it comes to discipline and correction. The Scripture says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

We mentioned that discipline is an investment, and the Bible confirms that in regards to yielding the desired behavior in the future. Consistency is vital when it comes to exercising discipline. According to Bob Lancer, author of Parenting With Love, Without Anger or Stress, children can learn to be responsible at a young age, and parents should have this joyful expectation.

The amazing transition

Parents are admonished to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). There is great satisfaction when, after years of instruction, which includes discipline, a child begins to embrace what he or she has been taught and actually acts on his or her own without help from parents.

When our children measure their own actions in terms of right versus wrong and good versus evil, they are using the measuring tool instilled in them by their parents. Properly trained and disciplined children will have a tremendous resource to draw from when faced with their challenges in life and won’t be overwhelmed by them. They will draw upon what they’ve been taught and practiced their whole life.

For more practical tips on parenting, see more articles in the “Parenting” section.

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