The Eight P’s of Parenting (Part 4)

The Eight P’s of Parenting (Part 4)

In these bulletins, we’re studying eight ways parents can help work toward the salvation of their kids. We started with Provide for Them, Pray for Them, Pass on to Them the Faith, and Prove to Be a Good Example. This week (cue the scary music):

Punish Them

Hebrews 12:9-10 says, “We had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Now, “discipline” is the Greek word paideia, from which we get the English word pedagogy. It is much bigger than punishment in the aftermath of wrongdoing. It includes all sorts of training, teaching, education, scripted experiences, and yes, correction for mistakes. Discipline is bigger than punishment, but it isn’t smaller.

Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.” A loving parent punishes when necessary. Parents who let their children get away with everything are setting them up for an entitled, prideful attitude in adulthood. Parents who do not exercise authority as parents wind up raising children who do not recognize the authority of God.

This well-meaning but wrong-headed modern notion of wanting to be first and foremost our kids’ friends (that will come later in their lives) sets them up to become disrespectful of man and God. Prince Adonijah “exalted himself” and led a coup against his father King David because “His father had never crossed him at any time asking, ‘Why have you done so?’ ” (2 Kings 1:5-6); Adonijah came to an ignoble, violent end. Eli the priest rebuked his misbehaving sons Hophni and Phinehas but did not remove them from their positions, thereby honoring his sons above God’s will (1 Samuel 2:29); God destroyed them.

We do our children no favors by failing to hold them to account for their wrongs, helping them to see the error of their ways and learning better ways. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Did you notice that? True love disciplines!

Children actually desire boundaries. They feel loved and protected when boundaries are plainly identified and firmly enforced. If your kid is playing in traffic and you allow it, your kid might suspect you don’t love him! Dr. James Dobson writes in Dare to Discipline, “Much has been written about the dangers of harsh, oppressive, unloving discipline; these warnings are valid and should be heeded. However, the consequences of oppressive discipline have been cited as a justification for the abdication of leadership. That is foolish. There are times when a strong-willed child will clench his fists and dare his parents to accept his challenge. He is 

not motivated by hostility, as is often supposed. He merely wants to know where the boundaries lie, and who’s available to enforce them... I am recommending a simple principle; when you are defiantly challenged, win decisively.”

For example, when your three-year-old child leans out of the shopping cart and grabs a Twix, and you say “No,” be prepared to stand firm. There may be other occasions when he can have a Twix, but you’ve decided not today, and not ever via snatching. If he doesn’t put it back (simply because you said so, with no bargaining or pleading) you must win the ensuing battle of wills. If you stand firm through the begging, whining, crying, attempting to run, pitching a fit, until the Twix is back on the shelf and you are loading your groceries in the car, you probably won’t have to go through that ever again, at least not anytime soon.

If, on the other hand, he breaks your will and exits the store triumphantly clutching his Twix, while you stomp and mutter and fume, he will be happy to cause the same tumultuous scene every grocery run to get what he wants. Worse, he will cause the same scene when he’s ten and wants an expensive toy, when he’s thirteen and doesn’t want to turn off the TV and go to bed, and when he’s sixteen and wants to borrow the car keys. In this case it’s not the parent who has trained the child; it’s the child who has trained the parent!

In fact, if he doesn’t put back the Twix quickly and politely and obediently, without you having to bargain and plead and shout and physically pry it from his fingers, he has already earned a spanking when you get home. Which is the subject of the next bulletin.