Examples of bad parenting are everywhere. Crime, failing students, sexual promiscuity, and the general hostility of today’s youth are evidence of the epidemic. Discipline is desperately needed in our homes.
The failure of so many parents to do their jobs is a subject that will find almost universal agreement. Yet, nothing gets any better. “The permissive crowd refuses to respect authority and rejects any attempt by others to train their children to respect them.”/1
Bad children are not always the result of bad parents, by the way. Sometimes the longsuffering parents have done all they can to raise their children properly and their efforts have been rejected.
The most important job a parent has is to lead their children to heaven. Yet, the following brief points can be made about discipline.
First, parents must establish authority in their homes. Every organization must have a hierarchy. Children cannot order their parents around. The husband is to be the head of the home (Ephesians 5:22;6:4). Children are to be obedient to their parents in all things (Ephesians 6:1,2). He must see that the children respect him and his wife as leaders. Raising children is not “women’s work,” but must involve both partners.
Authority cannot easily be set in a home after the fact. Parents must begin very early to instill discipline and authority. It is certainly easier to raise a child within this structure than it is to force them in when they are older.
Parents should have close relationships with their children. Hopefully, their children will love their company. Yet, there is a vast difference between being close to your children and being their “buddy.” This dangerous attitude leads parents to indulge their children so they are “always happy.” The goal of parenting is not their happiness, but their maturation.
Second, parents must set boundaries. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Notice, it is the way “he should go” and not the way he “wants to go.” This will require that parents set parameters that cannot be crossed. It will require parents saying no. One parent said, “I have a ‘no’ and I’m not afraid to use it!”
Parents must try to be consistent, firm, fair, and decisive. They must be united as they face their children. The slightest hint of wavering from one parent will find the children capitalizing on their weakness.
Third, parents must set consequences. There are many difficult challenges in the areas of grounding and punishing children, especially teenagers./2 Parents must continue to be consistent, firm, fair, and decisive through all of their punishments.
When discussion arises in Bible classes on parenting, the lack of discipline is quickly bemoaned. The attitude then arises from older parents that the reason today’s children are poorly behaved is because they weren’t spanked enough. This is too simplistic.
We must always differentiate between beatings and spankings. The former is never allowed, while the latter is endorsed by God (Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 23:14). Spanking has grown in disfavor, but it should not be abandoned simply for that reason.
Spanking, if used properly and within the right context, can be very effective. We must remember the following guidelines. First, never spank when angry. Second, place boundaries on ourselves. Third, ensure that boundaries were understood concerning the offense. Fourth, make sure the punishment is equitable. Fifth, make sure the punishment is consistent and fair.
“Children without discipline often become adults with temper tantrums, defiance, rage, depression, anxiety, poor school and work adjustments, drug and alcohol abuse, and criminality.”/3 We have a very important responsibility as Christian parents to prepare them for the future.
1/ Taken from a website in 2004 that no longer exists.
2/ John Townsend, Boundaries with Teens: How to Say Yes, When to say No (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).
3/ Laura Schlesinger, Parenthood by Proxy (New York: Cliff Street Books, 2000), p. 174.
How Should Parents Discipline Their Children?