“There is nothing that a mother cannot bring her child up to.” ~ Charlotte Mason
As a Christian parent, where does disciplining my children fit in? What does it look like? Is disciplining – that is, pointing out wrong behaviour and correcting it in a manner that fits the situation – damaging to my child?
A Little of My Journey
One aspect of disciplining that I have struggled with is the contention within our society today – even in Christian circles – that discipline is somehow wrong, or damaging, or too harsh. Being born in the 1980’s, my parents were “old-school”: when I did wrong, they made sure I knew it and, therefore, grew up with a strong sense of right and wrong. God blessed my parents efforts and gave me a strong moral compass right from young childhood.
Becoming a mother then, I knew I would walk a similar path. It was right that I teach my children right from wrong. The Bible is clear that children are born with sin inbuilt within them (Psalm 51:5) and – hey, we don’t need the Bible to tell us that. Who teaches them to lie? or yell? or disrespect us? or hit when they don’t get what they want?
But suddenly, I began to doubt.
Blogs, books, the internet – so many voices began to contradict what I always thought was right. Suddenly, I received the perception that being a parent who disciplines her children is a horrible parent. Disciplining will harm your children. Correction stifles their personalities. Giving consequences stops their self-expression. There are even laws in my country that determine how to parent.
And so on.
Despite knowing this sort of thinking is very New Age and based on the belief that everything is relative (that there is no right or wrong), all over the internet, I began to see Christian parents singing a similar tune (without New Age-y words, but the same meaning). I felt the assurance I had in God’s Word, and my own strong childhood, begin to drip away. This was coupled with the fact that, I had children. And parenting children was hard. Maybe these people were right?
Truth From Childhood
“But You desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.” Psalm 51:6
Right from the moment our children are placed in our arms, God asks us to lead our children in the way they should go. Though expressed in different ways and are used differently in different circumstances, all the below words are required of us as parents:
A newborn is trained to feed from her mother. A six-month old is taught to eat solids. A one year-old is corrected with the word “No” when they start reaching and touching things that they shouldn’t. A toddler is disciplined when they scream for something they are not allowed to have. A preschooler is taught manners and how to treat others.
It is a continuous path towards adulthood. And hey, God’s not done with us adults yet, right? 😉
God’s Word clearly teaches us that all people are self-bent, and children are no different. They need us, as their parents, to show them the way to live on God’s Earth.
The Fruit of Discipline
Though on the surface, especially in the younger years, it seems that discipline is all about changing a child’s behaviour, in the long haul, it’s all about transforming their heart. The Christian parent needs to be disciplining behaviour and training hearts. True character in our children can only come from both, just as faith in a Christian must come with deeds (James 2:14-26).
As the hearts of our children develop upwards (to Christ) and outwards (to others), God’s Spirit will used our teaching and correction to instill in them another blessed fruit of discipline: wisdom.
“A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.” ~ Proverbs 10:1
“For lack of discipline they [the wicked] will die, led astray by their own great folly.” ~ Proverbs 5:23
“A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.” ~ Proverbs 15:5
We don’t want foolish children! We don’t want our children to make stupid mistakes (at best) or live lives of wrong and pain (at worst). But that is what is happening to children all around us in this “Don’t say ‘No’ to your children” society: the younger generations are deeply troubled and hurting. We don’t want that for our own precious ones.
We must love wisdom and pass that wisdom on to our children. We must raise our children to listen – heed – our instruction, and accept – respect – our authority as their parents. They will chafe, they will buck, they will rebel – and we just press in deeper to them. It is our job.
Discipline is True Love
If we deeply and truly love our children, we will lead them on the right path of teaching them right from wrong. We cannot listen to the world’s “truth” that there is no truth. They have no strong branch to stand on – by saying there is no truth, they are proclaiming the belief in a truth! It is utter foolishness.
Let us love our children with a heavenly love and discipline them when they need it. Let us do it lovingly, in a way that suits their personalities, gently and softly so as not to anger or exasperate them (Proverbs 15:1, Ephesians 6:4). And in so doing, we will bless them with a true treasure:
“Then he [the father] taught me, and said to me, ‘Take hold of my words with all of your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. She will give you a garland of grace to your head and present you with a glorious crown’.” ~ Proverbs 4:4-9
As you have been mothering your children, how have your faced the different pressures about discipline in your circles? How has God guided you?