As an older woman and now as a grandma, I often receive questions about parenting. Times sure have changed since my husband and I were raising our children, and many of the discipline methods used then are no longer recommended by the “experts” of today. Young moms and dads are looking for help and wisdom. Regardless of the newest studies and books about parenting, the Lord has given timeless counsel in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (NASB).”
The core of discipline is to disciple, to teach, to train, to clarify what is right and wrong through instruction. Children need these things, and they will not learn them from videos or children’s television programs. Parenting is not a passive activity; it demands consistent and personal involvement by mom and dad.
Dads have an enormous responsibility in discipling their children. Far too often I observe them leaving all of the child training up to their wives and only getting involved when mom is frazzled because the kids are out of control. Fathers are to teach their children to fear God and walk in His ways. They are to teach their children, both by modeling and by instruction, how to serve the Lord with all their heart and soul (Deut. 10:12).
Moms have the responsibility of supporting and enforcing the discipline methods that Scripture provides and that their husbands determine is the best course of action. There is little that is more destructive to family relationships than for mother to undermine the authority of the father, deciding that his instructions for discipline are arbitrary, or that her way is better. Usually, these arrangements are clandestine and the children are told, “Don’t tell dad!” There are no winners when this becomes the norm. The kids get mixed messages about discipline; the mother sets up a secret treaty with them and becomes an adversary of her husband instead of his partner in parenting.
Expectations for behavior must not only be made clear, but must also be enforced. If you are going to set a standard, you must be sure your children understand what it is. Ask clarifying questions such as, “What did I ask you?” “Do you understand what I want you to do?” When children fail to obey, it is important to discern if the failure was intentional disobedience, a lack of understanding, or simple childishness. Not all disobedience is willful; sometimes children are just being silly, squirrelly kids!
When children are out of line in action or attitude, it is important to rebuke them. Reprimanding, scolding, admonishing, and chastening are all part of biblical parenting. Notice, none of these involve screaming at children, beating children, demeaning children, or calling them names. Rebuking also does not mean over-correcting children; this leads to bitterness in the heart of the child (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21).
Rebuking your children means you are calling them to account for their words or deeds. You are reminding them of the biblical standard and showing them how they have failed to meet it. This would be the “put off” of Ephesians 4:22-24. For this to be effective, these standards must be taught and upheld by everyone as part of everyday life in the home. While most children are not wise, they can be fairly discerning at a young age, especially when they see parents saying one thing and doing another.
It is easy to become weary in consistently calling them to account; some days it may seem that all you do is discipline! However, if that is the case, it is time well spent.
When children wander off the path of righteousness, they need to be corrected. Biblical correction involves informing them of the “put on” aspect of the previously cited Ephesians 4 passage. It is not enough to tell a child to stop doing something; parents must take the time to help their children understand the heart behind the sinful and disobedient actions that necessitate the corrective action. If the heart is not addressed parents run the real risk of creating a Pharisee who performs righteousness outwardly, but has a darkened heart (Matt. 15:8).
Correction often involves a physical component. Sometimes it is the use of the rod (Prov. 13:24; 22:15) or loss of privileges. The physical component of correction is commonly the only method employed. I would suggest that is a grave error on the part of parents, for then the opportunity for biblical discipling is lost; it becomes “punishment” instead of discipline. Biblical discipline involves all of these components.
Training in Righteousness
The final step of this process is training in righteousness. This is actually structured training in righteous behavior (Eph. 6:4). Often, disciplined training involves enduring repetitive misbehavior as the child learns how and what the actual process of change looks like (Heb. 12:15) and then begins to put what he has learned into practice. In a regenerate child, this is the process of sanctification by which he learns to conform to Christ-likeness. In an unregenerate child, the inability to change at the heart level is an opportunity for discussion about the need for salvation.
The goal in parenting is to raise kids who will be thoroughly equipped for every good work—raising children to be responsible and honorable people who will make a positive impact on the world for Christ. Do not become weary in well doing, for in time you will see a harvest of beautiful fruit develop in your children.