Parents are called to disciple their children.  Parents are also called to discipline their children.

Have you ever noticed the connection between disciple and discipline?

  • disciple – to teach; train
  • discipline – to train by instruction; to bring to order by control; to punish in order to correct

Most people hear the word “discipline” and think negative connotations.  You must understand that discipline is different from punishment.

  1. Punishment is consequences given when a line has been crossed.
  2. Discipline is instruction when a line has been crossed.

One of the ways that we make disciples is through disciplining our children.

Due to many factors, many parents cannot find a healthy balance when it comes to discipline.  Scripture teaches that if we love our children, we will be diligent to discipline them (Prov. 13:24).  The Apostle Paul warned though against fathers being too harsh in our discipline (Eph. 6:4).

Parents must discipline themselves before they can discipline their children.

Unfortunately, instead of finding a healthy, biblical balance of parents disciplining their children in love, I often see parents swinging to one of the far sides of the parent pendulum.

Parent Pendulum

Most parents tend to be either too harsh or too lenient in disciplining their children.

While we can obviously think of the dangers of being too harsh in discipline, I want to suggest that being too lenient can be just as dangerous.  If you are too lenient on your children and let them get away with everything in the early stages of their lives, they grow up thinking that the rules don’t apply to them.  Eventually, they will encounter another authority figure who won’t give them the benefit of counting to 3 before laying the hammer down.

If you go far in either direction, you are endangering your child.  So, why do parents go too far to one side?

Parent Pendulum

  1. Parents – repeat or reject?  Many people discipline their own children as a response to how their parents disciplined them.  If you approve of how your parents disciplined, you often repeat their example.  If you disapprove, you reject their example and swing the pendulum far in the other direction.  Were they too harsh?  You might be too lenient.  Were they too lenient?  You might turn overbearing.
  2. Culture – conform or condemn?  Our culture displays greater animosity towards parental discipline year after year.  The pressure to allow children to express their true emotions and discover things on their own is actually endangering them.  Will you conform to society’s pressures or will you condemn that which doesn’t line up with biblical teaching?
  3. Experiences – withdraw or withstand?  We have all had that moment in the store where we watched a tired parent handle a temperamental child.  While we have each seen that scenario where a parent is too rough, we have also seen that parent that used negotiation tactics to avoid further conflict.  Whenever we see how other parents deal with their children, it is increasing our memory collective and shaping how we think we ought to do things.  Will we withdraw our convictions based off of others doing a good thing in a bad way?  Will we withstand and discipline ourselves before we discipline our children?
  4. Peers – endure or endanger?  “I don’t care if Suzy’s mom is letting her go to that party.  I’m not Suzy’s mom, and you are not Suzy.”  That conversation has probably taken place in every home in America.  In reality, Suzy’s mom is endangering her child and yours.  If you have a problem with your teenager being somewhere without adult supervision, but other peer parents are sending their kids off to the beach house for Spring Break thinking that debauchery won’t take place, you are not the crazy parent!  Will you endure being ostracized by peers or will you endanger your child?

We live in difficult times trying to find that healthy balance.  Learn from parents, culture, experiences, and peers.  Repeat their successes and reject their failures, but in your parenting, don’t be disgusted by one evil, that you overcompensate and commit another evil.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.