“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. When the wicked increase, transgression increases, but the righteous will look upon their downfall. Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (Proverbs 29:15-17 ESV).
How Kids Think
Kids protest, “Why are you punishing me?“ Children can see only that correction results in a rebuke, spanking, or loss of privileges. They cannot yet appreciate the long-term value of learning an important lesson that molds, strengthens, and perfects their character.
A seasoned preacher observed, “About the time folks stopped training horses and started driving cars, parents lost their child raising skills.” He knew that both horses and children have individual needs and personalities. Both learn through correction. Both must be led.
Children are predisposed to make foolish choices. Correction saves kids from being ruled by their emotions or flesh—an unruly and unholy master. Discipline, though painful at the time, leads to righteous living and a teachable heart. The Lord is both kind and patient as He corrects His children again and again. Parents can model God’s patient correction—giving appropriate consequences in a heart of love. The prophet Jeremiah grasped this truth: “I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course. So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle. Do not correct me in anger, for I would die” (Jeremiah 10:23-25).
Eight-year-old Tyler was an only child—and he ruled the roost at home. Coming from a broken household, and having two sets of parents invest all their efforts on him—Tyler was the center of attention. He was adored and valued—and in many ways he called the shots.
Tyler’s elementary school teacher was unaware of this dynamic, but she quickly noticed a negative pattern of behavior. Anytime she said “no” to Tyler’s unreasonable or poorly timed request—a meltdown occurred. The intense wailing and angry crying baffled her. It finally dawned on her that Tyler did not hear the word “no” very often; and when he did—he was quite adept at changing the answer to “yes.” This brilliant child had loving parents—but his parents were inconsistent or negligent with correction.
With the enabling power of the Holy Spirit and a view of the long-term goal, the teacher held her ground. During Tyler’s 3rd or 4th meltdown, she finally saw a breakthrough. She cared too much to say “yes.” Tyler realized that dramatic responses were not getting a “yes” response, and slowly but surely changed his approach. Over time—Tyler’s response to the word “no” improved drastically!
Keep the Goal in Mind
Imagine the day when your correction and re-direction occur consistently. Imagine that wisdom and self-control replace your child’s sinful or foolish behavior. Imagine that he/she rejects the path towards impulsiveness, entitlement, and irresponsible behavior. This wonderful picture helps parents and children’s ministers keep running the race even when a child is melting down dramatically and publicly.
Your child must learn to say “no” to selfishness. Purposeful correction prunes self-destructive behaviors and wrong thinking. Consequences administered in love show a child what God the Father is like. He disciplines because He loves…unconditionally. Even after your child’s worst mistake, the Lord welcomes him/her into His arms. Correction and discipline teach your child’s heart to submit to authority—trusting God’s judgment over his/her own. “A wise child accepts a parent’s discipline; a mocker refuses to listen to correction” Proverbs 13:1.
What You Can Do
Encourage your child to view correction as an essential good rather than an unwarranted evil. The Lord identifies Himself as a loving Father who always shows concern for the welfare of His children. God knows what each person truly needs, and He disciplines us accordingly.
- Never discipline in anger (Psalm 145:8-9). Work through your frustration with the Lord before disciplining your child. God is gracious and merciful with us; seek to discipline with this same attitude. God’s Spirit can fill you with a heart of compassion, even when your child repeats the same mistake again and again.
- Cultivate obedience (Proverbs 22:15, Ephesians 6:1-3). Your child can learn to obey quickly, completely, and cheerfully. As you invest dedication, time, and consistency, your child can cultivate this skill.
- Provide appropriate consequences (Hebrews 12:5-11). When your child steps outside established boundaries, provide a consequence that is measured according to the decree of his/her wrong choice.
- Follow discipline with repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). After your child has received appropriate consequences, show how he/she can repent (change of mind and actions) to the Lord. It is important for children to acknowledge their wrong and apologize for it.
- Follow discipline with reconciliation and affirmation (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). Demonstrate your affection and affirmation until your child’s body language indicates that he/she is receiving the love and not harboring anger. This teaches your child that discipline comes from a heart of love; it also prevents cracks in your relationship.
Discover the Right Curriculum
Evaluating and selecting the right curriculum for your ministry can be a challenge. To discover the best curriculum for your ministry, answer the questions in this flowchart. Your choices will lead to a set of options tailored to accomplish your mission, vision, and goals.
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