Personal Growth
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Are You Disciplining to Punish or Teach?

About three years ago I wrote about how I use a belt to raise my kids. Since then, we’ve added two more kids to our family. I thought it was time to see how this practice has been working.

In the post, I talked about how my children see how I am dressed physically and spiritually. Are they watching me put on my best? Am I leading by example?

Like any parent will tell you, this is only one part of being a parent. You could model perfectly how to be an outstanding citizen or loving Christian and your kids will still be jerks at times. (Yes, I said my kids can be jerks and I stand by that statement.) I love my kids and, for the most part, they are really good kids, but they are human too and make mistakes.

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Discipline can be a difficult subject to talk about. Some parents lean to the strict side of discipline while others are more lax. But the Bible is very clear in that we should discipline our kids.

Hebrews 12 gives us a good look into how and why we should discipline:

And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.” – Hebrews 12:5

God speaks to us and then corrects us. Likewise, parents should give warnings and then consequences.

For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? – Hebrews 12:6-9

Discipline is an act of love; it just doesn’t always feel like it while you are doing it. It still breaks my heart every time one of my kids look at me after I discipline them. But kids need boundaries. Children need to feel safe and safety comes from knowing their parents care enough to be involved in their lives. They may not like it in the moment (I know I sure didn’t growing up), but they will come to respect it later on in life.

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. – Hebrews 12:10-11

Short term pain for long term rewards. In the first parts of discipline it’s all external. My kids obey (most of the time) because they know there will be consequences for disobedience. My prayer for them is later in life their external obedience will become internal and they will no longer try to do the right thing because “I have to,” but out of love and trust.

Here’s the tricky part, at least for me:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4

My discipline often comes from my anger and not my love. And if my heart isn’t in the right place, how can I expect them to eventually understand the reason for correction? Many times I have to step away from my kids and collect myself before handling the situation. If I don’t, I run the risk of letting my anger punish them rather than letting my discipline teach them.

So if I had to rate myself on how well I use my belt in my discipline I would have to say I don’t do a very good job. Every day I need to remember that love should be the reason for everything I do with my family. Love should guide how I act when we are playing, eating, teaching, and even in my discipline.

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