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God Says to Train up a Child His Way... But How?

A Look at Loving Discipline

“My wife is NOT a good parent, she’s a pushover!”

“My husband just doesn’t seem to care; he’s disengaged and lazy.”

Sound familiar?

So often, we default to being a pushover, or disengaging because we just flat out don’t know what to do! Or, if we respond to our child’s behavior, we fear the rage and anger we feel will get the better of us. Rather than doing something we regret, we do nothing at all.

Some would say today’s generation of parents has generally NOT been taught a Biblical answer for their questions, rather, they’ve been given a message declaring that sin (with all its torments and ugliness) is not their fault.

And so, we pass that idea on to our children by not disciplining from a Biblical position.

We CANNOT expect our children to grow into God-loving and God-fearing adults if our goal is conforming them to OUR standards rather than GOD’S standards.

God can certainly draw them to Himself, but we wouldn’t be doing them any favors. (If this strikes a cord with you, listen to the podcast Happy Wife, Happy Life: Fact or Fiction?)

Knowing some changes need to be made, where do we begin?

It all starts with a relationship

As believers in Christ, our first aim should be in leading our spouse and our kids to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.We cannot just assume that since they’re going to church, they’re in a relationship with Him.

We must know and understand their spiritual condition.

Unless our loved ones have a new nature imparted from above, they cannot be all God wants them to be.

Allow me to explain…

Once we know our child’s spiritual condition (they are either a new creation in Christ or not), our goal with them changes and so do our expectations.

If our child has not made Christ the Lord of their life, we can teach Biblical truth- and we should- but they are dead, spiritually speaking. They need new life in Christ. We need to model Christ’s love (love them as He would; be His hands and feet!) and share the Gospel.

If they are truly Christians, they need discipleship.

This may not change the discipline you give, but changes the heart behind it- and that makes all the difference.

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

We want our spouse and our kids to make decisions that align with God’s will.

How do we know God’s will?

Remember this mantra (from Getting to Know God): Pray. Read. Worship. Fellowship. Repeat, repeat, repeat?

Do the same with your family. Share details of your life with them, examples of how you have learned to trust Him in every experience.

Asking first what God wants us to do is a habit that we must nurture in our children.

Proverbs 22:6: One of the most commonly referred-to verses regarding parenting.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Sounds simple, right? Oy… if only it were so.

In this verse, God is saying a person’s early experiences and training will shape his/her ways later in life. What happens during these formative years will largely determine the kind of adults our children become.

These years will forever be imprinted in their personalities. Our children are, in many ways, what we make them.

As sinners ourselves, that is a staggering and sobering thought.

I touched on God as parent in Parenting is HARD! and asked you to search the Scriptures for more verses/passages that you could apply to and live out in your parenting.

It is SO IMPORTANT that we realize the kind of God our child sees while observing how we live, love, and interact with others. What attributes of God have my kids learned from me this week/this month/this year?are they learning from watching us?

  • That God is loving, kind, patient, and forgiving? OR that He is harsh, short-tempered, and critical?

  • That God is gentle, always guiding as we seek His way, OR do they see Him as critical, nagging and yelling at us, maybe even knocking us around when we get out-of-line?

  • That Christians have security once they are saved, OR that God’s covenant can be broken if they do something really horrible?

There are many ways we may represent God to our children, but few things in parenting can be more effective… or more destructive… in shaping their view of God than how we discipline them.

What’s your parenting bent when it comes to discipline?

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned thoughts a husband/wife might have of their spouse when effective discipline isn’t taking place. Could you relate to either one?

God asks us to be self-controlled and discipline in love. Too often we fall short.

Look at the following list; with which parent do you identify?

  • Angry, frustrated, overwhelmed parent

  • Helicopter parent- always hovering- trying to control your child’s choices, behaviors, and circumstances

  • Lawnmower parent- picking up after your child rather than allowing him/her to take responsibility for his/her actions

  • Passive, disengaged parent

  • Pushover parent

Angry, Frustrated, Overwhelmed Parent

Unfortunately, if we are brutally honest with ourselves, we too often discipline NOT from a heart of love, but rather yelling and screaming, which is wrath. Wrathful, angry, frustrated parenting rarely ends well. (Helicopter/lawnmower parents can also fall into this group; when they cannot control their child’s behavior, anger and frustration ensue. They yell to gain a semblance of control.)

Trust me, I get it. Most times it’s easier to yell at our children, trying to get them to do what we want quickly, so that WE are happier.

Remember the mini pharisees from our last post? Our yelling, angry outbursts and threats may yield “rule followers”, but just because they’re doing what we told them does NOT mean their heart has changed. Seeking behavior modification is only a band-aid; a lazy attempt to cover the problem so we don’t have to look at it. Whatever sin issue is driving our kids’ behavior will continue to grow and reveal itself in other ways.

What does God’s Word say about this?

God gave you your children; He designed your family. And He has instructions that will help us parent their hearts, not just their behavior. Godly discipline requires much more time and investment but yields lasting change.

Hebrews 12:11 says, For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

If we put off the hard parenting work today, we will pay a much higher price as our children get older. The older a person gets, the harder change becomes.

Proverbs 29:17 encourages us: Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. God wants us to delight in our children as we watch them conform and grow in the likeness of Christ. One of the ways our children become more Christ-like is through discipline. Well-disciplined children give rest to their parents because, rather than fighting an exhausting battle of wills, it becomes parent and child both seeking God’s will.

Passive, disengaged, pushover parent

Alternatively, we (or our spouse) might default to doing nothing at all (this would include the passive, pushover, disengaged parent) to avoid yelling, throwing things, acting out in anger.

Again, this method is lazy.

Rather than facing an uncomfortable/inconvenient situation, we keep quiet, hoping it will resolve itself (or our spouse will take the reins and deal with it). When we do this, we are indirectly telling both our spouse- and our children- that we just don’t care. We’re silently communicating these words: I don’t want to deal with you.


What does God’s Word say about this?

Proverbs 13:24 tells us: Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Proverbs 3:11-12 says, My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of His reproof, for the Lord reproves him who He loves, as a father the son in whom He delights.

In other words, we do a disservice to our children when we withhold proper correction. We show love and care for them when we engage and discipline diligently.

How do I discipline in a loving, God-honoring way?
When we are hurt, angry, disappointed, or frustrated with our child’s actions, it is SO difficult to discipline in love. It’s in those moments we need to recall God’s grace for us, pray for a huge dose of supernatural strength and self-control, and extend God’s love to our child… who is also HIS child!

To discipline in a God-honoring way, we must:

  • Consider where our child’s offense does not align with God’s Word

  • Consider their offense against God (not just you or someone else)

  • Give the necessary discipline that will lead to their repentance

Remember: the point of discipline is NOT to just check a box that a stern response has acknowledged the offense; that’s just a punishment.

Discipline done in love leads to repentance, which leads to lasting heart change.

Once your child desires forgiveness, GRANT IT! Do not hold their offense over them, rub it in their face, or tell them how much they hurt you… just give them true forgiveness. Show them your forgiveness comes from God, whose love covers your sins and theirs. (The model God’s Word teaches about forgiveness applies to our children just as it does our marriage.)

Vow to change: an encouraging call to action

On your own and then with your spouse, spend some time thinking through and discussing the following questions:

  • Do I understand God’s love and discipline in a Biblically accurate way?

  • What is more urgent: the outcome of our parenting (i.e., our children acting how we want them to), or the heart level understanding they have of God? Why?

  • Is there anything we haven’t agreed upon as parents, but have still tried to force our own way? Discuss this together and seek GOD’S way (through His Word and prayer) rather than your own.

  • Do we have a home that lovingly disciplines, or just shows our wrath? Using God’s Word as a guide, prayerfully establish goals for loving and disciplining our children. Considering each child: In what areas do they struggle? Where do their strengths and weaknesses lie?

  • What practices do we need to put in place to successfully train up each of our children in the way of the Lord?

1 Corinthians 13:6-7 says Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The next time your child needs discipline, show them the loving discipline that your Father in heaven has shown you.

Check it out

Whew… all this talk about children leads right into the next post. How did our children get here? Well… sex of course. Read Let’s Talk About Sex to learn more about God’s design for sexual intimacy in marriage.

Listen to the corresponding podcast:


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