The Why, When, and How of Child Training

October 29, 2014

This week I would like to take what we’ve discussed the past several weeks and apply it to child discipline.

Much of the suffering that happens in the world is due to people who never learned as children to conform to the will of their parents.

If I could give you a nice little formula that magically works every time for discipline, I would. I’m sorry, I can’t. It’s like explaining God and His purposes. You can’t put God in a box, nor can you put your child in a box. (He is, after all, made in the image of God.)

So how does an understanding of suffering help you discipline your child?

I was told by one mother, “I don’t like disciplining.”

Did she think that I enjoyed correcting my boys? You’ve heard the statement, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” It’s true.

Do we need to like it? Do I like to get up at 5 AM to make my husband his lunch? No; I do it because I love him, not because I like to make a lunch at 5 AM.

We discipline our children for their good. If they can’t obey me (who they can see), how will they obey God (Whom they can’t see)?

No one wants to be around an undisciplined child. They are unkind, selfish, unruly, greedy, arrogant, and untrainable, besides being annoying. It is for their own good that you discipline.

Why should you discipline?

Do you discipline the neighbor’s kids? Do you take pains to make sure they clean after themselves? No. Why? You don’t care deeply about the neighbors kids. They aren’t yours.

You discipline your children because you care.

I remember early in our marriage, I’d call my husband at work, after I’d faced one of those discipline episodes, and ask, “So why do I do this?”

“Because you love us,” he'd say. 

I would take several breaths and ask, “Are you sure?” You must hate evil more than doing what is comfortable. Confronting evil in your child requires a fight. They will fight and your love must choose to confront.

When should you discipline?

You will know when your sweet toddler looks you in the eye and says, “No!” The defiant child whose will must be conformed to the parents has just shown his sin nature. Allowing that nature to grow only brings heartache later. Confront. It is a fight. Remember the last article? 

How should you discipline?

A book on discipline that we’ve used as a guide (please note, I don’t agree with everything) is To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl. They present Bible verses on discipline and give examples.

The Bible’s words are neither popular nor acceptable today. Others will judge your actions as unkind. God is also seen as unkind and unloving when the definition of love is cheapened. He desires our best. God is good and desires us to be conformed to His Son. We seek to conform our children to our will (for their own good).

If we don’t discipline…

Look at the Old Testament. “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard. Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.” Deuteronomy 21:18-21

We do not live under the law, we live under grace, but these verses show us how God sees an undisciplined child. Wouldn’t our prisons be emptier, our crime lowered, and our suffering lessened, if we did this today?

Samuel was given to Hannah after she was barren for years. She kept her vow to God by giving her son back to him in service. Samuel lived at the temple and learned the duties of a priest. He was able to hear God’s call, because he had heard his mom’s. That’s what I want for my boys. I fight to make sure they can hear the call of God. Won’t you? 

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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