Though there are many parenting styles, beliefs and opinions in the Christian community, one of the biggest controversies today is discipline. Personally, just hearing that word brings up a lot of discomfort for me because I am nervous about others people’s opinions of the way that I raise my child.
I remember the first time that someone of my generation expressed hatred towards physical discipline. Someone was talking about spanking, and this gentle and kind friend of mine immediately changed his countenance and said he couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever hit their child.
At that point in my life, not having children yet, I scoffed at his comment. My parents had spanked me and I turned out just fine – in fact, I loved them deeply. I didn’t think that the physical consequences for my actions had harmed me in any way. I honestly didn’t know that there was any other way to discipline your kids.
Then, I had a child.
God has been teaching me so much since then about how he loves us and how he parents us. The revelation came to me one morning as I was talking with an older couple that I know.
Discipline of the Past
Both of them were raised in very authoritarian homes. The father was in charge, and everything he said, went. There were severe consequences for any disrespect or disobedience, and almost everything was off limits.
I didn’t realize the severity of that situation until having a discussion with them and some of the comments made really struck me.
Even if discipline is non-physical, it can very easily be fear based. Much of the discipline given to me was based in fear, as I think it has been for generations.
Often it seems like the best way to get a child to behave is to make them think something bad will happen if they don’t do it. I do remember that if I could find a way to hide my disobedience, I would do it. I wasn’t concerned about respecting or obeying my parents – I was only afraid of getting caught.
1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
During that conversation with this couple, this Bible passage popped into my mind. There is NO fear in love. If we are to love our children like Christ loves us, then there should be no fear in them when we discipline them.
If we are to exhibit the perfect and true love of Christ to our children, then our discipline should be completely and perfectly out of love towards them – never out of frustration, or trying to scare them into obedience.
Does that mean no physical consequences? Not necessarily. My husband and I have chosen to include spanking in our discipline. I believe that this is up to the family and their particular convictions. The rules and consequences in your home should be between you and your spouse, and those decisions should be made through prayer. As you make those decisions, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I discipling out of frustration? Am I trying to use discipline to take control of the situation? OR am I discipling out of love for my child, to help them grow in holiness and understanding of Christ?
- Am I helping my child understand what it is that they did wrong? Am I helping them see what dangers they are opening themselves up to? OR are they confused and hurt by my response to them?
- Do my kids desire to obey because they feel loved by me? Do they respect me as their parents and trust me when I say no? OR are they only obeying out of fear of my discipline?
There are definitely times when I am so frustrated by my child, I want to react in that anger. But I don’t think that this is how God wants us to be training our children. Sometimes I have to remember to take a moment to think about why I am angry and whether or not my child understands what is doing.
Works in Progress
We also must remember that we are sinful and weak human beings, and we won’t always get it right. We cannot expect to be perfect parents, because that will harm our children as well. Parenting in humility will be a necessity: always going to God, accepting counsel and advice from those who have gone before us, and being able to admit our weaknesses and mistakes.
Dear fellow parents: no matter what means you choose to discipline your children, our goal as Christian parents should be the same: to usher our children into the arms of Christ as they experience his love through us.
Wishing you blessings as you raise your little ones to know the Lord. Always remember what a great blessing and gift each one of them truly are.
Psalm 127:3-4 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”