Day 27: Discipline
Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
“Train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6a) means, “Don’t let your child do whatever he wants.” For Proverbs teaches that discipline is both necessary and good: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (13:24). “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death” (19:18; see 23:13-14).
Dads, consider three simple words for the practice of discipline . . .
Dads, consider three simple words for the practice of discipline: teach, warn, and enforce. For example, when training your child not to run across the street, first teach appropriate behavior: “Son, please hold Daddy’s hand as we walk across the street.” Second, warn against the consequences: “See all those cars rushing by. You could be squashed like a little bug if you run across the street by yourself.” Then if he disobeys, enforce with discipline: “Son, you did not listen to Daddy when you ran into the street without holding my hand. That was disobedient and dangerous. And because I love you, I must now remind you with discipline.” Teach, warn, enforce. Put most of your effort into the first two and you will need much less of the third.
Consider also three simple words for the manner of discipline: redemptive, appropriate, and consistent. First, discipline your children redemptively. Train them to obey, though it may cost you trouble and tears. Teach them that it’s not their way, right away and do not appease them for the sake of efficiency. Keep them at the table if they refuse to eat their vegetables and patiently rebuke them for throwing a tantrum. Most children do not wake up thinking, “How can I frustrate and manipulate my parents today? How can I rebel against their authority?” For children are not intentionally evil, but they are born with a bent (Ps. 51:5; Prov. 22:15; Rom. 5:12). Like Adam and Eve, they want to see, touch, and taste the forbidden fruit the moment your back is turned (Gen. 3:6). Yet would you tolerate such conduct from a coworker? What if your spouse threw a tantrum or your neighbor demanded to always get his way? You wouldn’t stand for that, so why let your children slide with foolish words and rebellious behavior? You will never tolerate their sin if your goal is to train them up in godliness. Redemptive discipline willingly confronts. Instead of you against your children, it is you with them against their sin. You are on a rescue mission to save your children from themselves, for their obedience to you will train them in obedience to Christ.
Secondly, discipline appropriately by remembering that every child (even in the same family) is unique. They each have different levels of maturity and respond better to different forms of discipline. Some need “the board of education applied to the seat of learning” and some need only a glance to melt their hearts. The type of clay determines the vessel. Some clay is elastic and supple, while other clay is crumbly and hard to shape. So also, every child must be handled with the discernment of a skillful potter. Realize also that Proverbs describes different levels of training appropriate to the situation, for God gives parents both the rod and reproof (Prov. 29:15). The rod includes any kind of discipline: time-outs, removal of privilege, additional work, wisely-administered spankings, and natural consequences. Whereas reproof includes any kind of verbal instruction: encouragement, warning, teaching Scripture, and appealing to conscience. Parents must be skilled with both rod and reproof.
Finally, discipline must be consistent, for sneaky sinners will always find the weakest link. If momma says, “No ice cream,” they’ll go find dad. You and your spouse, however, are a parenting team, so be consistent. Never contradict each other in front of the children or allow them to play one parent against the other. As we say in our family, “Mommy and Daddy are one.” Also be consistent in how you administer discipline: “Let your yes be yes and your no be no” (Matt. 5:37). Erratic parenting is a form of deception which will provoke your children to anger (Eph. 6:4a). So do not overlook an offense three times, but on the fourth time discipline severely. Your discipline should be so predictable that your children can anticipate the discernible pattern. For example, you might pray before you discipline. Then ask good questions which lead them to confession: “What did daddy tell you to do? Did you listen? What did you want more than wanting to obey?”
Discipline when appropriate, but always bathe it with gentle affirmation and an encouragement to embrace the gospel. The ultimate purpose of discipline is to cultivate Christ-empowered righteousness (Prov. 20:11). Discipline must soften your child’s heart to become a receptive follower of Jesus Christ just as your heavenly Father does for you: “My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (3:11-12; see Heb. 12:6).
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for disciplining me when I go astray. Even in the pain, I am reminded that you love me and assured that I am your child. Thank you for sending your Son to bear the ultimate brunt of your wrath upon the cross. Teach me to lead my children into a right relationship with you. Show me how to discipline wisely, appropriately, and consistently in a way that leads them to redemption. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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