What does the Bible say about disciplining kids? Here's a tip...
One day while walking through the mall with my family, we heard a noise from the distance.
That scream echoed over everything. It didn’t stop.
“NOOOOO! STOP! NOOOOO! AHHHHHHH!”
Everyone around us had the same look. We were all trying to figure out what was going on, and where the screaming was coming from. Our concern grew because the screaming didn’t stop. Within a few more steps, we could see the issue. Not far ahead, a child was laying on the floor. She was around 4-5 years old. Her mom was upright, holding her arm, dragging her. She tried to keep walking, but the kid was in all-out tantrum mode. The mom was maybe twenty years old.
As people passed, they tried not to look; but it was awkward and inappropriate across the board. It was inappropriate that this child was screaming like they were, while lying on the floor. It was inappropriate that the mom was just trying to brush it off, literally dragging her child by the arm. It was in awkward that no one seemed to know how to properly address this inappropriate situation. People just looked on with disgust, pity, concern, arrogance…
As we got closer, the kid finally got up and started to walk with her mom – still crying and screaming. Turns out, this was all because she wanted a shirt from another store. Her mom tried to explain to her that they were going to buy another shirt from another store. This girl wasn’t having it. I remember originally feeling bad for this poor mom, wondering what the circumstances would have been like if she had help. You know, like a dad that was up to the task of doing some “dad-stuff.” Then I realized, there was a dad. Just as we passed, I saw a young dude that had been on his phone the whole time, about 10 steps ahead. He turned around and started to complain about how long the mom and daughter were taking. I then realized how desperate many men were to learn, not only how to be men, but how to be accountable and responsible dads.
The truth is, we live in a world where family units are being formed in less-than-ideal circumstances. We all wonder if the work we're doing to discipline our kids, is actually right. We could all use some good tips right? This couple at the mall didn’t seem to be married. Both of them were no older than 22 years old and had a kid that could have been 5 years old. Do the math on that. That sort of situation is common though. How do you equip situations like that? Even if these parents had saving faith, they were clearly in a situation that was unbiblical, and they were in way over their heads. We’re not supposed to condemn people like that. We patiently train them up in the ways of the LORD as best we can. We make disciples of all nations, which would include people like this, that had obviously made some mistakes. How do we help people recover Biblically, in Jesus’ name?
In this particular instance, the issue was discipline. That child had absolutely NO fear of consequences. That child had learned that they could act however they wanted, whenever they wanted, and do whatever they wanted until they got their way. Notice how, kids don’t have to be trained to act this way; but they DO have to be trained OUT OF these natural habits. That’s why we need to correct kids and discipline them. Since the Bible teaches that the dad should be the head of the household, there is a certain quality of leadership that, we as “dads” need to accept. This means that there is a certain set of principles and standards that we need to understand.
The details of disciplining children are difficult – especially these days. In this article, we’ll just look at one general principle that will give us a good foundation concerning our attitudes and motives as dads. This one thing is crucial for us to understand, and it will apply to EVERY other set of more-specific circumstances we’ll ever encounter. So, before we get to the “discipline” situation, we have to ask this question:
What are we raising our kids to be, and for what reason?
Let’s take a look at how God established things in the beginning. In Genesis 1:28, the Bible says:
“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
In Genesis 2:15-17, the Bible adds these details:
“Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”
In Genesis Chapter 1, God established a certain set of standards for the purpose of human life, the definition of marriage, and the function of the family unit. First, notice how the text says that it’s a “blessing” to be able to live, and build a family. Lots of people these days consider kids to be a burden. That’s not how God sees it. How can we as dads, do the job right, if our attitudes are in conflict with God’s perspective? Think about it:
Can we discipline kids properly, if we don’t see kids as the blessing that God does?
If deep down, we consider kids to be an annoying burden, is our approach with them, going to be productive? I’d be willing to bet that, the dad I saw at the mall, in that moment, saw his daughter’s life as an interruption to his personal objectives. At that moment, she was not God’s blessing in his mind.
It's also important to note that, the way we receive God’s blessing, is by obeying His command. God didn’t say, “If you want to, be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” God created Adam in a particular way so that he was perfectly equipped to obey the command that God gave. God’s command was representative of Adam’s purpose for life. His purpose was to use the ability God gave – even the basic human ability to reproduce – and do what God said with that ability, in submission to God’s purposes, by faith. Adam had to trust that God’s command, was supremely good, so that if Adam obeyed this simple command, he would be fulfilled and “blessed.”
The next detail shows that, Adam was supposed to function as a steward. He did not have the right to do things according to his personal desire, because the things that Adam had, weren’t his. Adam had life, but his life was the result of God breathing into him. Adam had function, but only because of the body that God fashioned for him. Adam had health, but only because of the food that God produced for him. Adam had purpose, but only because of the command God gave him. Adam would soon have a wife, but only because of God’s mercy, wisdom, and power to provide. The common thread here, is that God gave all these things to Adam, by grace, for a purpose; but it was all God’s stuff, because He’s the Creator.
The Bible says that God wanted Adam to “be fruitful and multiply.” This means that Adam had to maintain the condition of God’s creation; preserve its integrity with the tools and instruction that God gave, and then use God’s provision to make more of what God made, in that same condition. Since God created all things, and then declared those things to be “good,” Adam’s job was to be a steward of God’s stuff; preserving the “good” quality of God’s creation.
This is where Genesis Chapter 2 comes into play. God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, specifically to “tend and keep it.” Adam was supposed to preserve the “good” condition of God’s creation. There was only one thing that Adam had to do, in order to complete that job. He had to keep from sin. He had to trust in the supremacy of God’s truth and goodness, by NOT eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
How does all of this apply to parenting and discipline? Think about it. Our fundamental job as men is to “multiply.” BUT, we are supposed to multiply God’s quality of goodness. When we’re dealing with our kids, we better know what God’s standards of “goodness” are.
We can’t understand the proper way to discipline, if we don’t understand the results we’re hoping to produce.
When God established the standard for what is “good,” the Bible shows that “goodness” was the byproduct of God’s Word. If we’re going to discipline our children, to multiply His goodness in the next generation, our attitudes and actions need to be governed by the true and full counsel of His Word – period.
Secondly, God’s purposes show that He considers us stewards, not owners. We’re just watching over His stuff, trying to preserve the integrity of it. We consider kids to be “our kids.” They’re really not. They’re the LORD’s creation. Our job is to take care of them as God’s own possession. We can’t just make up our own minds about who they are, who they will be, or how we will treat them.
Remember also that Adam was commanded to “tend and keep,” the Garden WITHOUT SIN. If we’re going to discipline our kids the right way, we need to start by focusing on the sin issue. If we’re going to raise “good” kids by God’s standards, and lead them properly in the Word, we as dads need to be repentant daily, making sure our own hearts are right with God. Then, as the LORD deals with us, we’ll learn the LORD’s patterns of discipline in our own lives. We’ll learn about God’s righteousness, mercy, compassion, pity, anger, patience, grace, justice, and so forth. Most importantly, we’ll learn about God’s focus on the soul.
Now we know what the Bible says about disciplining our kids. What's the tip? Our motivation to raise and discipline our kids, should be with the aim to prepare their souls to be pleasing to the LORD, the way the Bible says. Our focus shouldn’t be selfish; so that our consideration of our kids, is motivated by a desire for people to be impressed with us. Since our focus should be spiritual, we need to lean on the wisdom of God’s Word and Jesus’ example, the power of His Spirit, and the promises of The Father. We can’t use natural instincts, habits, or worldly wisdom and philosophies, because worldly tools don’t produce spiritual results. If we’re going to understand ANY detail about the specific issues that require discipline for our kids, this is the first truth we need to understand.