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by Kellie Copeland Swisher
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening…. But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:11, New Living Translation
Isn’t parenting wonderful? I can honestly say that I have loved being a mother at every stage of my children’s lives—from infancy through college. In raising all four of them, I’ve learned an important truth: God’s grace is sufficient, no matter how old our children are. He always gives us the wisdom we need.
James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” That’s a great scripture for parents. We’re not asking for wisdom from someone who won’t give it. God says, Ask and I’ll give you more than you need. The Amplified Bible says, “Ask of the giving God.”
I recently asked the Lord what He thought about parenting, and He said something surprising: I want to help, but My people won’t let Me. They close the door on My wisdom and grace.
We do that by looking to the world for parenting instruction. Only God knows the best way to raise children. Remember God made us, and He made our children. He knows every little quirk and bent He put in them, so He knows what needs to be corrected in them. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it” (The Amplified Bible).
I would like to share several principles the Lord has shown me about disciplining children that will work for you too. If you’ll allow Him to, God will give you wisdom to know how to handle each situation.
Do Things God’s Way
One of the biggest ways parents close the door to God’s wisdom is by thinking that His Word is archaic. Everything God says about parenting works—even what He says about discipline. But we must choose to be doers of His Word.
The Lord explained to me, It’s your responsibility to see that your child is a doer. If you’re not disciplining your child, you’re not a doer. Not only that, by not being a doer, you are sowing bad seed in your child’s life.
Matthew 7:26-27 shows the result of not being a doer of the Word: “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
Temptations and pressures are great in the lives of children today. But if they have a deep foundation in the Word, and have learned to do what you say and what God says, they will be able to stand. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (verses 24-25).
Just praying for your children won’t make them doers of the Word and certainly if you are not a doer you aren’t being a good example. It’s up to you to teach them the Word and teach them to obey and to be a doer yourself. The Word says to discipline them.
Discipline, Don’t Punish
Discipline is not the same as punishment, and it’s important to recognize the difference. It will change the way we respond to our children.
Punishment makes a person suffer for doing something wrong.
Discipline trains a person to develop skills or orderly behavior. It helps them become successful in life. According to Proverbs 10:17, “People who accept correction are on the pathway to life…” (New Living Translation).
However, Proverbs 1:7 says that “fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline” (The Amplified Bible).
When we lovingly discipline our children, we are doing it for their benefit. Discipline creates needed boundaries, helps children develop self-control, and establishes order and peace in our homes. As parents, it’s our responsibility to explain the concept of biblical discipline to our children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.”
Sit down and teach your children what God’s Word says so they will understand why they must be disciplined and how to repent.
Biblical Discipline, Repentance and Forgiveness
To begin with, explain that disobedience is sin. When a person sins, they walk away from God and there are consequences for that. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Sin opens the door to the enemy, and that enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Ephesians 4:27 says we are to give no place to the devil.
Through discipline and repentance, a person is able to repent and turn back to the Lord.
But here’s something I should point out: Discipline is not verbal. Proverbs 29:19 says a servant can’t be corrected by mere words. Neither can a child.
According to Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Foolishness is normal in the heart of a child, but if left there and not driven out as the Lord has commanded it will pervert him or her. Proverbs 19:3 says, “The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares his rod [of discipline] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently” (The Amplified Bible).
Did you notice how strongly that is worded? Most people would tell you that the Bible says, “Spare the rod, you spoil the child.” But it says “Hate!” The world would have us believe that we shouldn’t spank our children. But if we don’t, and I can’t emphasize this enough, we “hate” them. If we refuse to discipline our children God’s way, we are setting them up for failure.
Spanking teaches a child that there is a sting to sin. It teaches them to repent quickly. That will carry over into their adult lives.
Now there is a right way to spank a child. Never should a child be beaten, abused or spanked in anger. Never use your hands, but rather use a “reedlike” rod as Proverbs 23:13 says in The Amplified Bible. I use something like a switch or a wooden spoon.
When my children were young, I explained that in the Old Testament, an altar was made of wood and a sacrifice was placed on that altar. The sacrifice was burned up, and then the people’s sin was gone. When Jesus died on the cross, He died on a wooden altar and our sin was gone.
When a child willingly submits to discipline and repents, it is like an altar of forgiveness. He is forgiven by his parents and by God. The sin is gone, and there is no place for the devil to get in to his life.
Explaining this will help your children understand the point of discipline so they can come into agreement with what you are doing and not resist it.
You can also show them the benefits of being obedient with scriptures like Ephesians 6:1-3: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”
The whole point of disciplining your children is that you want them to learn to repent, turn to God immediately when they sin, and close the door on the enemy.
After being disciplined, when a child truly repents and is forgiven, it sets him free. His heart is cleansed.
After spanking your child, pray a positive, restorative prayer. Hug him and let him know how much he is loved. Your child should leave the experience with a smile on his face!
As we discipline our children, we are teaching them how to quickly repent in the future when God admonishes them with words. That is something they need to understand in order to have a strong relationship with the Lord. Aside from this, discipline is so much more effective when Jesus, parents and children are on the same page and in agreement.
Say Goodbye to Excuses
Once when my children were still small, I was asked to teach about parenting. They were generally well-behaved but were still challenging me. I didn’t feel qualified to teach on the subject and gave God excuses for why I shouldn’t. He responded by saying, If you make excuses for your condition or the condition of your home, you will not change. He then added, If you make excuses for your children, you won’t discipline them and they won’t change.
That statement really struck me!
How many of us have been at a restaurant with friends when our little Suzie has thrown a fit? Rather than discipline her, we made excuses like, “She’s just tired.”
Instead we should tell our child, “That behavior is not acceptable,” and deal with the situation according to the Word.
Proverbs 29:17 says, “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest.” That isn’t easy or convenient at times, but it is necessary. No matter where we are, we must take the time to correct our children. As we sow seeds of discipline in their lives, we will reap a harvest of rest.
Parenting is one of the most important jobs we’ll ever have. If we do it correctly, our children will grow up knowing the Lord and walking according to His Word.
God has a plan for the lives of our children and it includes discipline. We must base that discipline on God’s Word, stop making excuses for poor behavior, commit to practicing discipline—not punishment, teach them to repent and offer them forgiveness. By disciplining our children God’s way, we are setting them up for success!