One of the most controversial areas of parenting is the disciplining of our children. It’s an area we can easily underdo or overdo. But it’s not something that is an optional extra for parents.
In fact, the Bible says if parents do not discipline their children, then it proves they really don't love their children. Proverbs 13:24 reminds us that “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him”.
What’s more, we are reminded that in avoiding discipline, the parent is participating in the destruction of the child. So, Proverbs 19:18, “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death”. This is a sober warning for all parents and carers.
The purpose of discipline is to promote growth in the child, for that child’s own good, so the parent can help them avoid the dangers in life. Some of these dangers have the capacity to kill them. It is not for the faint hearted.
Important principles in discipline
There are a number of helpful ways in which you can discipline your children well. Here are four principles to keep in mind as you seek to discipline your children in a way that honours God:
• Firstly, never discipline to relieve your own frustration or anger or resentment, as tempting as this might be. Proverbs 29:11 is a sober warning to all parents: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control”.
• Secondly, take care not to exasperate (or provoke to anger) your kids without knowing it. This is something especially addressed to dads, but is also relevant to mums. Ephesians 6:4 tells us: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
• Thirdly, share the discipline in the family. Unless you have the additional challenge of being a single parent, then make sure that you take turns with your spouse in disciplining the children. That responsibility should be shared between husbands and wives because it’s a team effort, not a game of good cop/bad cop.
• Finally, don't discipline children for just being children. Instead, only discipline them for rebellion and active defiance. Colossians 3:21 echoes the earlier reminder to us: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
Feed them well
Here’s another tip if your children are regularly out of control and nothing you try to curb their bad behaviour seems to work.
There is a growing mountain of evidence that soft drinks, energy drinks, supermarket fruit juices, canned processed foods, chips, lollies, chocolate and even some breads – the things that contain heaps of sugar and mountains of artificial colourings and preservatives - affect the behaviour of some children.
So maybe watch and limit their diet for two weeks. If it makes a marked difference in their behaviour, you will be very thankful to discover the cause.
Don’t forget they are kids!
Also, remember that young children break things … that’s simply what they do!
Young mothers, if you've got toddlers around the house, rather than 48 times a day saying, “Don't touch!” and “Keep out!”, try your very best to child-proof your home for a few years.
Take the breakable precious items and put them in the garage or your mum’s place till the kids get a bit older. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief and pain, and you won’t be constantly riding on them to stay away from your precious and expensive items.
The love of discipline
As we think about this vital topic, it’s important to remember it is a sign of God's love when he disciplines us. Hebrews 12:6 reminds us that “The Lord disciplines those whom He loves”. So, when God disciplines us, it is evidence that we really are a believer, one of his true children, and it is proof that God loves us.
So, if God disciplines his children that he loves, and since we are to be like God, it follows that we should love and discipline our children, too.