Taking a Stand
My husband deployed when my oldest two children were ages three years and three months, and in support, my in-laws treated the kids and me to a nice Italian dinner. I will never forget the chaos that ensued in the restaurant that night! The two-year old at the table behind me was running loose, as well as employing his vocal chords to their greatest capacity. When the family’s food was delivered to their table, it took hardly any time for that child’s spaghetti to go airborne, and before the evening was over, it ended up smeared into his hapless dad’s hair. After an evening of cringing and dodging, hoping the spaghetti would not end up in MY hair, my decision was sealed. I entered that restaurant a tired, self-pitying, single-because-of deployment-mom, but left it with a determination to stand strong as a parent and to do everything I could to not allow my household to descend into disarray while my husband was gone. I was a young mom, but I knew that for my survival (and my children’s!), I must maintain discipline in my home.
Some children are stronger-willed than others; individual parenting styles vary widely; popular parenting strategies change from year to year. But the fact remains that discipline in the home is a biblical concept. The very structure of the home as outlined in the Bible points to the necessity of discipline. For God has given the father headship over the home. He is charged to submit to Jesus Christ and to love his wife as “Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:23, 25).” Wives are to submit to their husbands, and children are to obey and honor both parents in the Lord (Eph. 5:22; Eph. 6:1-2). In other words, dad and mom are given the authority in the home, and children are not meant to “rule the roost,” as the saying goes! Therefore, when a child’s natural tendency to place himself or herself in the center of attention and to seize control kicks in, biblical discipline is necessary and important; necessary because God commands it, important because discipline brings benefits.
Scripture is Clear
God clearly commands throughout scripture that parents discipline their children:
Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Proverbs 13:24: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
Proverbs 19:18: “Discipline your child, for in that there is hope. Do not be a willing party to his death.”
Proverbs 23:13: “Do not withhold discipline from a child.”
Proverbs 29:17: “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest.”
Hebrews 12:7-8: “God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline…then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
Notice that these scriptures go beyond merely commanding parents to discipline; they highlight the great gains made through the discipline process. While parents would often just be happy to have a well-behaved child, discipline goes so far beyond that temporal goal! Discipline proves the parent’s love for the child (Prov. 13:24); discipline brings hope to a child and rescues him from certain death (Prov. 19:18); discipline brings rest to the parent (Prov. 29:17); and, discipline proves sonship (Heb. 12:7-8). What amazing promises for parents to keep in mind as they labor, day in and day out, to consistently discipline their children. After all, what parent doesn’t crave rest??
Greatest Value of Discipline
The greatest value of discipline though, is that it prepares children for a healthy relationship with God. As a child learns obedience to his earthly parents, he also develops the capacity to obey his heavenly Father. Hebrews 12:9-10 states, “Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” The ultimate goal of discipline, then, is not only a child’s obedience, but also the child’s holiness. What an end worth fighting for—the holiness of our children!
Just as the people of Nehemiah’s day responded to his challenge to “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (see previous articles on this topic here), may we as parents today have that God-given strength and determination to fight--against current cultural trends that place the child at the center of the home and downplay the need to discipline, against the child’s own self-centered nature, against our own exhaustion—and to win the battle for our children’s obedience.
Fighting for Your Children Series