Discipline. The word alone makes us cringe. As parents, it can makes us feel guilty, or it makes us feel justified. But whether you embrace it or abandon it, you will have to confront it as some point in the journey of parenting.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been reading and studying the book of Hebrews during my time with God. Just as I was narrowing down what I would teach yesterday to our mom’s group, I read Hebrews 12:6-11.
“For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all.
Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
The word discipline here is translated, Paideia in the Greek. It means, “instruction which aims at increasing virtue”.
You see, discipline is NOT:
- controlling your kids
- when you’ve “had it”
- having well-behaved kids
Discipline is not behavior modification, discipline is heart training.
Focusing on the heart would change the way we view discipline. While that still doesn’t make it easy, knowing what it is and why it’s so important helps us persevere through it.
So, how do we discipline?
We discipline by encouraging right behavior and correcting negative behavior. Failing to correct the heart condition minimizes the offense, and it trains a child to think that wrong behavior is acceptable.
Somewhere in our culture we have put discipline into the same category as anger. They are not the same. We can be an angry mom and never discipline our kids, just as much as we can discipline and not get angry.
Remember, discipline is not about you, but the child and their heart. Their behavior gives us a window into their heart.
What do you see in the window?
Now, what about grace?
Grace is not overlooking the sin, but loving in spite of it. Discipline is an act of love. If we see someone doing something to harm themselves, and sit back and doing nothing, that’s not love. But often, that’s what we think grace is.
God offers his grace to us by loving us no matter what we’ve done. But he doesn’t just let us stay there. Out of his love for us, He disciplines us to strengthen our character and to help us grow. Why shouldn’t we do the same for our kids?
Our kids don’t understand the full implications of their behavior. It is our job to teach them right behavior, and while it may not be easy or comfortable when they are four, I would rather discipline them at age four than see them suffer more serious consequences at twenty-four simply because I didn’t want to deal with the issue.
My favorite part about discipline is that it actually leads to more freedoms. It took me a while to understand this. So often we look at discipline as what we can’t do, but in reality, the more disciplined we are, the more freedom we have.
Psalm 119: 45 says, “I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”
You see, I do not have the freedom to go and run a marathon (heck, I can’t even run a 5K if I wanted!) because my body is not physically disciplined to do so.
I often tell my kids that when they show self-control, they will have the freedoms to have more fun.
If my kids are disciplined to come to me when I call them, I can trust them (& myself) to take three kids to the Children’s Museum and not worry about having to chase them in three different directions. But that’s my job to teach. It’s my job to discipline.
Discipline is not easy, it’s probably the hardest part in parenting. But the outcome is worth it. And I believe it’s one of the most essential ways in reaching your child’s heart.