Most people don’t know what to do with authority. We either find ourselves avoiding it or abusing it. However, as we see through the Scriptures, God has created authority structures in creation, in society, and in the home. From within the home we have seen the roles and authority of both men and women, but where do children fit into this? We find the answer in, Exodus 20:12, Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. In this one simple passage God has revealed so much. We see a picture beginning to take shape…we’ll call this the circle of blessing.
In this diagram we see the essence of authority and discipline. Parents are over children and are responsible to love, lead, and teach children to honor God. When children respond to this and honor their parents, they remain in a place blessing. But when children dishonor their parents they remove themselves from God’s blessing and safety and expose themselves to danger. Therefore, discipline isn’t simply correcting unwanted behavior but it is restoring them back to God, to the place of blessing.
In this way, discipline mirrors grace. Jesus sacrificed Himself, on our behalf, to restore us back to our Heavenly Father. Grace restores…Discipline restores. Discipline then is viewed as a rescue mission. It is because we love our children too much that we can’t leave them in the place of danger, so we discipline to restore them to the place of God’s blessing.
So then what questions remain…
When do we discipline? We never discipline for childishness. If your child spills a cup of milk, that’s to be expected…kids will be kids. That behavior is expected. We discipline for 3 things:
This behavior is rooted in rebellion and defiance to God’s Word.
At what age should we discipline? As you have probably figured out by now, children are not born with a “discipline on date,” there is no set age to begin disciplining. You should begin when they start exerting the rebellious defiant listed above. Also, remember it’s never too late to begin…if you have older children, begin teaching them this material. Instruct them on how bad behavior moves them outside the circle of God’s blessing, and the purpose of discipline is to restore them back to that circle.
How do we discipline?
1. Out of love
We never discipline out of anger…that’s abuse. If you’re angry or you’re a person who struggles with anger or a temper…you should covenant with your spouse and children to never discipline out of anger. In times of anger, take a walk, pray and get your heart right before God. Remember your children have a sense of justice, disciplining them when you are angry will only provoke them to anger.
2. In private
Never discipline in public, this shouldn’t be used as a form of embarrassment or made a spectacle of…this is a deeply personal and private matter and should be dealt with as such. If your children are acting out in public take them some place private or take them home.
3. Tell them specifically what he has done or failed to do
This is where the work is involved. Bad behavior is not simply failing to “do what I say,” it is behavior that is contrary to the Word of God. When disciplining bring it back Scripture and explain why that behavior is wrong. One idea I heard is keeping a notebook and writing the scriptures that deal with specific behavioral problems for your children. When discipline is required you can go back to the notebook to reference the Scriptures.
4. Secure an acknowledgement
Make sure your child understands why their behavior is wrong. You never want a child to feel that they are being disciplined for something they didn’t do or for something they did right.
5. Remind him that your objective is restoration to the place of blessing
Remember the goal of discipline is not simply correcting behavior it is restoring the child back to God’s place of blessing, remind your child of that before you discipline him.
6. Tell him how many swats he will receive
This will depend on the child’s age and proclivities. Whatever the amount, tell them how many 2, 3 or 5. Remember the goal is to not to inflict unbearable amounts of pain or to bruise them…don’t go overboard.
7. With the rod, not your hand
The Bible tells us time and time again to use the ‘rod of discipline’, see Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, and 29:15. Use a paddle that stings but doesn’t bruise; never your hand. Your hands should be seen as instruments of love, protection, safety and security.
8. Restore them
After you have disciplined them, pick them back up and restore them. Tell them you love them; be gentle and kind. Tell them that you hope to never have to do that again. It is a good thing if you can leave the room happy. If your child refuses to be restored, if he’s throwing a fit and tells you he hates you, there are two things you need to check:
i. Your spirit – is your spirit wrong in the discipline. Maybe you’re doing this out of anger or for the wrong reasons. If you’re wrongly disciplined him, you need to ask for forgiveness.
ii. Child’s spirit – maybe he’s still outside the circle of blessing, this doesn’t not mean to continue spanking him, talk with him, tell him your concern and explain again, that the purpose of this is restoration.
9. Pray with them
Finally pray. Acknowledge the sin committed and ask God for His forgiveness and grace. Restore them to yourself and to God.
Remember the purpose of discipline is not for us to get our own way, or for us to simply correct behavior, but it is for us to restore the heart of the child back to God. By doing this we model the message of hope and grace of the Gospel.