A family moment captured during a rare movie night

A family moment captured during a rare movie night

Discipline.  Typically, when you hear that term, you automatically see images of punishment, time-outs, spanks, verbal reprimands, etc.  It can be such a harsh word.  Of course, any loving parent would hate such a meaning.  I have even heard it said, “We don’t discipline.”  Like most parents, I would presume, this is an issue I struggle with.  We have been counseled by those who firmly believe spanking is the only way to discipline a child, and this is typically based on the scripture verse “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”  Others have counseled along the lines of other forms of discipline.  Sometimes, this, too is based on scripture references such as “Thy rod and staff, they comfort me…”  So how can something so negative also be so positive?

If you think about it, it doesn’t have to be a harsh idea.  Even literal definitions of the word state things like “training,” “guidance,” “development,” or “instructing.”  With meanings such as these, it is easy to see how loving discipline can be.  When you look at from the perspective of self-disicpline, it is easy to see how necessary discipline is.  You can’t expect a child who has had little discipline and training at home to be self-disciplined in public, or as they mature.  

The Bible gives explicit instruction to parents to discipline. In speaking with a good friend recently on the topic of how to most appropriately discipline our children, however, she pointed out that “Even God uses different forms of discipline when training us!”  How true this is.  Sometimes, He lets us learn from our own mistakes.  Sometimes, He allows bad things to happen to change the course of our direction.  Sometimes, He may take things from us to redirect our focus.  Sometimes, He may simply make us wait, until He knows we are ready for further instuction.  The point is always the same though–to prune, train, prepare, and guide us, but the method may differ based on the circumstance. 

I have thought about this quite a bit the last few days.  I don’t know whether I have been lax in training my children, or if we are entering a new phase, but in either case, I have seen some attitudes and behaviors recently that are unacceptable in our home.  We have prayerfully sought Biblical guidance on how to best handle these situations, and I have realized that I sometimes tend to complicate the idea of discipline.  Instead of focusing so much on the method of punishment we use, I am now working on redirecting my focus to methods of training, guiding, and re-directing my children.  In the long run, it doesn’t seem to matter what method of discipline we use in different situations, rather, what matters is that we teach our children obedience, willingness, and Godly submission.

Even as simple as that idea is, though, it can seem an overwhelming responsibility.  Fortunately, God doesn’t expect us to do this parenting thing alone!  He has provided friends, family, and Scripture for counsel and guidance to help us in the journey.  He promises to give us strength in our areas of weakness, and wisdom when we need it most.  Furthemore, we must remember that our ultimate goal as parents is not to simply raise children who are obedient to us.  Rather, our desire should be children who are followers and seekeers of Christ himself, striving to dedicate their entire lives to serving.  We, in our imperfect ways, cannot possibly provide the needed training alone.  Only Jesus Christ himself could set that kind of example for our children to follow. So, if I just allow Him to provide the tools and guidance I need as a parent, do my best to live as an example for my children, then God will fill in the gaps for the sake of the children.  This certainly takes a burden of my shoulders!

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

–2 Timothy 3:1-17