Discipline is a recurring theme in the book of Proverbs, and numerous verses are spent urging parents to understand their responsibility in correcting their children. Children are indeed a blessing, and very often a challenge. Someone once described having children as realizing that your heart, formerly safe and protected, is now living on the outside of your body, exposed and in harm’s way. After many years of being a mom, I can confirm this feeling of vulnerability!
Psalm 127:3 says that “Sons (and daughters) are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.” Who doesn’t agree with this verse while holding a sweet newborn in their arms? But as they grow up and begin to struggle against their parents, it can be difficult to see them as a reward! Responding to a child’s disobedience is frustrating and often leaves us wanting answers. The good news is that these are answers the Bible clearly gives. Hebrews 12:11 states: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
The most obvious point in this verse is that discipline will not be fun. Not for the giver or the receiver, but it is necessary for training. This training marks the difference between discipline and punishment. Punishment focuses on what the child did wrong and making them pay for disobedience, while discipline focuses on training and teaching the child to choose what is right next time. The harvest that discipline produces is desirable in the life of every child: righteousness and peace. Righteousness is the ability to make wise choices that while difficult, keep us in right standing with God and others. Teaching a child to do what is right at a young age makes it easier for them to choose right as they grow into adulthood. Even in the midst of difficult circumstances, they will then experience the peace that comes from a clear conscious.
“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death” (Proverbs 19:18);“Discipline your son and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17). As parents we can grow weary in trying to discipline our children, especially living in a culture that condemns this practice. It is easier at the time to give in, but in failing to correct a child, we allow disobedience. We may avoid a temporary battle, but we lose the war in building self-control and responsibility within the child. This allows them to travel a path that leads to destruction of their relationships, reputations, health and possibly their lives. Our desire to be “friends” with our children can be realized after they are adults and will come as a result of the respect gained though the hard work of being their parent when they are young.
Consistent, loving discipline ultimately teaches our children how to discipline themselves and guard their hearts from the consequences of bad choices. After all, their hearts really do matter!
Heart Matters is a weekly column written by Angie Land, Director of the Family Life Ministries of the Lafayette Baptist Association, where she teaches bible studies, leads marriage and family conferences and offers biblical counseling to individuals, couples and families. Contact Angie with questions or comments at email@example.com