6 Keys: Teaching children discipline

Kids protest, “Why are you punishing me?” Children only see that correction results in a rebuke, spanking, or loss of privileges. They cannot yet appreciate the long-term value of godly discipline that molds, strengthens, and perfects their character.

“An effective, Biblically sound children’s training process must be comprehensive and ultimately help kids know God intimately, love Him passionately, and serve Him selflessly.”


Children are predisposed to make foolish or short-sighted choices. Discipline, though painful at the time, leads to righteous living. Let’s consider ways to teach and encourage children so they view discipline as an essential good rather than an unwarranted pain.

In The Strong Willed Child, Dr. James Dobson wrote, “Ultimately, the key to competent parenthood is in being able to get behind the eyes of your child, seeing what he sees and feeling what he feels. When he is lonely, he needs your company. When he is defiant, he needs your help in controlling his impulses. When he is afraid, he needs the security of your embrace. When he is curious, he needs your patient instruction. When he is happy, he needs to share his laughter and joy with those he loves. Thus, the parent who intuitively comprehends his child’s feelings is in a position to respond appropriately and meet the needs that are apparent. And at this point, raising healthy children becomes a highly developed art, requiring the greatest wisdom, patience, devotion and love that God has given to us.”1

An effective, Biblically sound children’s training process must be comprehensive and ultimately help kids know God intimately, love Him passionately, and serve Him selflessly. To follow Biblical principles as we correct children, we must be familiar with what God says about discipline.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV). The transliterated word for “train” used here is the Greek word paideia —the whole training and education of children (cultivation of body, soul and spirit).2

The following well-known Scriptures all use the same Greek word paideia. Each one conveys the idea of whole-life training and education:

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

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training (paideia) in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16).

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline (paideia), and do not lose heart when he rebukes you…’” (Hebrews 12:5).

“No discipline (paideia) seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

The Bible exhorts us to “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Raising and training a child within the context of this proverb begins with the Bible. Teaching children the truths of Scripture will:

  • Make them wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15);
  • Thoroughly equip them to do good works (2 Timothy 3:17);
  • Prepare them to answer those who ask about their hope (1 Peter 3:15);
  • Prepare them for the onslaught of secular values.3

6 Keys to Discipline

  1. Begin teaching respect for authority while children are very young.
  2. Define the boundaries before they need to be enforced.
  3. Distinguish between willful defiance and childish irresponsibility.
  4. Reassure and teach after the confrontation is over.
  5. Avoid impossible demands.
  6. Let love be your guide!4

God has given us the opportunity and great privilege of being stewards of our children’s lives for a very short time. The teaching and training (paideia) we provide, however, is eternal. According to God’s promise, a child who is diligently trained in the “way he should go” will remain true to that way and will reap everlasting rewards!

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1 – Dobson, James. The Strong-Willed Child. Living Books. 1992.
2 – The New Testament Greek Lexicon. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.
3 – GotQuestions.org. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.
4 – Parent Book Summaries. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

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