The third and final skill is that of discipline. Proverbs says a lot about the discipline of our children. It clearly lays this responsibility upon the parent’s shoulders. When Proverbs talks about discipline it’s clearly talking about somehow creating consequences for our children when they willfully disobey. This includes spanking, what Proverbs refers to as “the rod of discipline.” But as a child gets older and spanking is no longer appropriate it should include other forms of punishment such as taking away a privilege or assigning an unpleasant task or even allowing a child to suffer the natural consequences of his or her actions.
I realize that what I’m saying here isn’t very popular these days. Part of the reason for that is we have a tremendous problem in our society with out-of-control parents and child abuse. The discipline I’m talking about should only be done by a loving parent who is completely in control of his faculties. When done properly, it’s painful for a child, but it doesn’t injure a child. If there are parents who can’t control their own anger and are at all prone to be abusive, then they should find some other form of discipline.
But look at Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” The motive behind all discipline is love. The one who doesn’t discipline his child hates him. Proverbs has a radically different view of discipline than we often do. Many would say that the reason they don’t discipline their children is because they love them too much to hurt them. Parents are rightly concerned about being abusive, but the parent who won’t discipline his child is the truly abusive parent. The parent who won’t discipline his child is creating a situation where the child is bound to fail in life.
Part of the reason for this is the reality of sin in every child’s heart. Look at 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Proverbs has a very realistic view of children. It recognizes the presence of foolishness, sin, and self-will in every child’s heart. We might like to think that every child is born with kind of a clean slate or even a propensity towards good, but that’s not what the Scripture teaches. Yes, every child is of infinite worth to God, but they are born with a bent towards self will. It’s a parent’s job to train a child through discipline that he cannot always have his own way. And this will pay off later on as that child grows up and learns to submit his will to God. I’ve seen many willful adults, even believers, whose was never broken and still insist on running their own lives.
But all of this is not negative. There’s a positive purpose and result in discipline. Proverbs talks about this in 29:17, “Correct your son and he will give you comfort, he will also delight your soul.” The result of discipline is that a child will bring comfort and delight to his parents. In other words, he’ll be a joy to be around! One of the saddest things is to see a family with an undisciplined child that makes everyone, parents included, miserable. God wants us to enjoy being with our children, but that rarely happens automatically; it takes discipline. I see a profound psychology in this. In order to feel secure and happy, children need parents who are firm in their discipline. A disobedient child is often a child who is trying to find out where his parents stand. If his parents don’t take a stand, he’ll continue to test them until they blow up. Deep down, the child just wants to know that someone cares enough about him to enforce limits.
How do we train our children? We start by knowing them, being students of them. Then we seek to train them by being models to them of authenticity in our own walk with God. We also intentionally impart the truth to them with confidence, with clarity, and by sharing our own story with them. And finally we discipline them in love.