Lessons in Discipleship(23) دروس في التلمذة

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LID #23 – Parenting and Child Discipline

This is Dr. Ed Hoskins welcoming you to Lessons in Discipleship, a series designed to help new believers become established in their Christian faith.  Today’s topic is Parenting and Child Discipline.

First, let me tell you a little about myself.  I am a retired physician who spent 34 years in family medicine and student health.  I became a Christian 50 years ago and was helped early in my faith by the Navigators, an international, non-denominational Christian organization whose stated goal is To Know Christ and to Make him Known.  Lessons in Discipleship is a compilation of what I learned from the Bible and under the guidance of the Navigators during that time.  What I learned then I now pass on to you.  Today’s session is Parenting and Child Discipline.

Well, let’s start off with biblical parenting.  This is modeling God’s character to our children through the love and actions of the father and mother as they grow to maturity.  We are helping them transition from our protection and authority to God’s.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children.” (I Thessalonians 2:11)

Our next topic deals with biblical child discipline.  Biblical child discipline sets boundaries for godly behavior in our children.  Lovingly, it reinforces good attitudes and behaviors.  At the same time, it puts boundaries against inappropriate behavior.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother – which is the first command with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-2)  The same passage elaborates on our children’s education.

We are not to frustrate our children.  “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and the instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

Well, why is child discipline necessary?  Ever since sin came into the world through Adam, all children were born with a sinful tendency.  “Surely, I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalms 51:5)

I’d like to tell you a personal story.  My wife Charlene was talking with a girlfriend of hers many years ago.  This friend was a Muslim who came from Bangladesh.  She was really frustrated about an episode she experienced with her young daughter.  She said to my wife, “I never taught my child to lie.  What happened?”  It turned out that her two-year-old daughter had been playing in the front room by herself, while the mother, my wife’s Bangladeshi friend, was in the back bedroom.  The girlfriend heard a loud crash.  She ran in and saw her daughter standing next to a broken vase.  She asked her daughter, “Did you do this?”  The daughter answered, “No.”  But the mother knew the daughter had done it.  She told my wife, “Charlene, I never taught my child to lie.  How could this possibly happen?”

The Bible is very clear as to why it happened.  All children need to be taught to tell the truth.  They don’t need to be taught how to lie – that comes naturally.

Part of biblical parenting is effective child discipline – teaching children to do what is right.  I know this is a threatening topic in today’s culture and society.  But basically, we discipline our children because we love them.  Let’s look at more details of this from the Bible.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.  For what son is not disciplined by his father?  If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.  How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” (Hebrews 12:7-9)

As parents, probably the most important thing for us is to first find out how serious was the offense.  We must differentiate between behavior that is childish and irresponsible and that which is actually defiant behavior.

Childish and irresponsible behavior includes things like: a child acting silly in the living room, falling against the table and accidentally breaking something expensive like a glass vase.  Another example of childish behavior would be accidentally losing their bicycle and forgetting where they put it.  Maybe it’s gone forever if another child stole it.

Another example of irresponsible behavior may be leaving the father’s electrical power saw out in the rain where it rusted.

Defiant behavior is more serious.  That is a direct challenge to authority.  One thing we have learned over the years is what we call the 3-Ds: dishonesty, disobedience, and disrespect.  Each of these are examples of defiant behavior.  We’ll address them shortly.

But first, how do we deal with childish and irresponsible behavior?

Our answer is to begin with a verbal rebuke (reprimand) followed by restitution – working with the child to make good (correct) whatever was lost or ruined.  If not dealt with, childish and irresponsible behavior often leads to more serious behavior problems, resulting in more serious negative consequences.

Here is a personal story of what happened to me when I was a young boy about six years old.

I accompanied my mother shopping on a Saturday morning.  We walked through one store.  My mother made some purchases.  But I had wrongly taken something I wanted from that store, a packet of rubber bands.  My mother saw them in my pocket and immediately knew that I just didn’t find them.  She asked me if I took them from the store and I said “Yes.”  She explained what I had done was wrong and that she would buy rubber bands for me if I ever wanted them.  But right now she had another responsibility for me.  It’s called restitution – making this right.  She marched me back into that store.  She had me find the manager of the store and tell him exactly what I had done.  I gave the rubber bands back and apologized to the owner.  Well, I’ve never forgotten that story.  My behavior was childish behavior but still it needed to be dealt with.  My mother did that so that later in life I would not have to deal with something far more serious, like stealing money or a car.

Now let’s get to the more serious issue: openly defiant behavior. Remember the 3-Ds – disobedience, dishonesty, and disrespect.  Let’s touch on each of these.

Disobedience is a direct challenge to the God-given authority placed over us.  Ultimately, all authority comes from God.  Learning to respect a parent’s authority is the first step towards learning to submit to God’s authority.

The second “D” is dishonesty.  This is a direct challenge to truth.

Note that “truth” is the essence of why Jesus came into the world to begin with.  When Jesus appeared before Pilate, the Roman governor, Jesus said, “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” (John 18:37)

Incidentally, truth also includes integrity issues such as lying, stealing, and deceit.  The Bible commands, “Do not steal.  Do not lie.  Do not deceive one another.” (Leviticus 19:11)

Let’s continue on to the third “D” – disrespect.  Whether it is disrespectfully talking back to a parent or teacher, this is a direct challenge to another person’s character – a challenge to that person’s inner self.  How we show respect to our parents and to others in authority over us (like a police officer) is ultimately how we will respect and relate to God.

“’A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  If I am a father, where is the honor due me?  If I am a master, where is respect due me?’  says the Lord Almighty?” (Malachi 1:6)

Again, a violation of any of the 3-Ds must be summarily and effectively dealt with.  If not, it will eventually lead to the destruction of our children, either spiritually, physically or both.

Before getting into specific points, let’s look at a few more Bible verses having to do with parental discipline.

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24)

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.  Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” (Proverbs 23:13-14)

“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Proverbs 19:18)

I know that the importance of parental discipline sounds serious.  It is serious.  Here are some more specific pointers – specific pieces of advice.

First, don’t discipline in anger.  If you need a few minutes to cool off and calm down, go away and then come back.  When parental discipline is required, do it in love.

Second, use verbal affirmation whenever possible.  But always tell your son or daughter, “ I love you.  I just don’t like what you did.  That’s why I discipline you.”

Third, don’t verbally abuse your children or make use of name calling.  This is not a time to shame children.  We always want to respect them.  We want to break their defiant wills but not break their spirit.

Fourth, identify rules and boundaries in advance.  For example, when I was very young I always tried to touch electrical cords.  My father had to deal quickly and harshly with that.  He knew that if I continued to touch an electrical cord it might kill me.

Fifth, be consistent.  Don’t discipline for some things and then later, for the same offense, do nothing about it.  That’s a terrible thing for children to have parents or their authority be inconsistent in discipline.  Being consistent in punishment reinforces a child’s sense of safe boundaries.  If there are no boundaries, life gets very uncomfortable.

Sixth, make the punishment immediate.  “ When the sentence for crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

Seventh, following punishment, give affection immediately afterwards plus a hug and “I love you.  I just don’t like what you did.”

Eighth, be sure that the discipline is painful in some form.  If it is not painful, then there is probably no lesson being learned.  However, if you’re using swats (paddling the behind), limit the number of swats you use.   Also, with swats, use a neutral object – something that is NOT your hand or another part of your body.   In our family, one family member used “Mr. Spanky” for their children.  It was a wooden spoon that pictured a man’s face and frown (hand drawn) on one side.  This was kept hung over the doorway.  The children knew when physical punishment came they knew it would be applied with “Mr. Spanky.”  In other words, the child does not associate the object with you, such as your hand.

A natural body area for paddling that is well padded in a young child is their bottom or buttocks.  Remember, as the child ages (above five or six years old), this type of punishment (physical) should rapidly be transitioned to other forms, such as loss of privileges, grounding (making them stay at home), verbal reasoning, etc.  This is especially important as you are able to verbally reason with your children.

Ninth, whatever punishment you use, don’t physically damage the person.  Don’t break the skin or bruise it.  Never, ever, beat a child.

Don’t strike areas more likely to be damaged, such as slapping them or hitting their ears or eyes or face.  If you do that, that’s abuse.  Real paddling is controlled and limited and thoughtful.  That kind of paddling is not the same as beating!  Just don’t do that.

Tenth, sometimes as parents, we go a little too far in punishment.

If we do, be sure to apologize.  I’ve done that and I’ve apologized.

It helps.  The relationship does not suffer from your apology.  Don’t forget, the ultimate goal of discipline is to build respect for God-given authority and obedience.

Here are a few final thoughts.

The wise parent knows there are sometimes more and better tools for punishment besides paddling, such as time-outs (sitting by themselves on a chair in the corner of a room for a limited time of 5-10 minutes), restitution, apologizing to the offended party, loss of privileges, deduction from allowance, and actual negative consequences (like the permanent loss of a broken toy).

Here is another personal story.  My brother played a musical instrument – the bassoon – a reed instrument. The bassoon’s mouthpiece required  reeds that were very expensive.  Fifty years ago they cost $3.50 each. That was quite a lot of money then.  Well, my brother told me, “Don’t ever play with my reeds.”  Well, I saw them one day and I played with them.  I thought I would just try to bend one a little bit.  Unfortunately, I bent it too much.  It snapped and broke.  I was terrified.  How should my discipline take place?  Well, my father wisely chose this as restitution: I needed to pay my brother back the cost of a new bassoon reed.  My father gave me the job of painting our backyard fence on a sunny Saturday when other children were out playing and having fun with their friends.  He paid me 50 cents an hour.  So for the next seven hours I painted our back fence in the hot sun.  I paid off the debt and never forgot the valuable lesson I learned.

An additional thought is that physical punishment is most effective for very young children with limited verbal ability.  As children age this type of punishment should be rapidly and completely phased out.

Here is another personal story about a dented car.  My son and a young friend of his were in front of our house throwing rocks.  Another car came driving by.  My son threw a rock which dented the passing car.  The angry driver stopped and came to our house.  I told my son he would have to take care of it.   But who should earn the money for that?  My son had to do odd jobs at home.  He has never forgotten that story and lesson.

Here is another thought about restitution.  Making things right is always essential, no matter whether it’s childish behavior or defiant behavior.  Restitution is always needed.

Also, for any child, every situation is different and unique.

The Christian parent must pray and ask God for wisdom in how to handle each situation, but each incident is also another opportunity for deeper communication and emotional support and teaching.

Let’s summarize what we’ve learned in this brief presentation.

First, the purpose of discipline is to teach the child obedience and respect for authority.

Second, pray and ask for God’s wisdom in each situation.

Third, plan ahead.  Both parents should agree on specific rules and consequences.

Fourth, be consistent.

Fifth, make all punishment immediate and afterwards always use physical affection and affirmation.

Sixth, discipline is a reflection of the character of God.   Proper discipline helps our children see God better.

Seventh, don’t discipline in anger.

Eighth, never beat a child.  This is abuse.  Thoughtful, controlled, and limited paddling is not beating a child.

Ninth, immediately following discipline there  is often an unusual opportunity for teaching our children deeper communication and spiritual growth.

We will see you next time when we cover lesson 24 of Lessons in Discipleship when our topic will be Interpreting the Bible and Principles of Hermeneutics.  That wraps up today’s presentation.  Thanks for being a part.  Until next time, keep following Jesus.  He’s worth it!

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