8. Discipline


To begin with, it would be well for us to understand what discipline is. Too many parents’ discipline means punishment, chastisement, and corporal punishment.

This is a misconception, discipline includes the whole process of training a child. It involves guidance toward right thought and action, Proverbs 22:6.

Discipline is training a child in mind and character so as to enable him to become a self-controlled, constructive member of society. Self-control is one of the eight characteristics given in 2 Peter 1:5-7 that all Christians must develop in their daily lives.

It is absolutely essential for one to be successful in life. The more one can work through guidance the better the discipline will be. Training by guidance is superior to corporal punishment. This will have to be used at times but it should be used as a last resort.

This can be illustrated by the way we exercise church discipline. Withdrawal of fellowship is the last resort effort after we have tried every other means to discipline a person. We must keep in mind that love and discipline cannot, must not, be separated.

Making a child feel they are loved is the most important part of discipline. Discipline is always easier when a child feels loved. They will more readily accept the training and guidance of their parents if they feel loved. Without love, a child usually reacts to parental guidance with anger, hostility and resentment.

Paul admonishes in Ephesians 6:4 ‘And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.’

If I want my child to accept my values then I must be worthy of the respect of my child. If I raise them in anger, they can never learn to respect me.

We might sum discipline up by saying a child can be trained well only if they are happy, feels safe, content, confident, secure accepted and loved unconditionally by their parents.

Causes Of Misbehaviour

There are several causes for misbehaviour but the primary cause often is the child does not feel loved. This may sound strange at first.

Keep in mind what we have said previously about keeping the emotional tank full. If that tank gets low or empty, they will cry out in a behavioural way, ‘do you love me?’ They will test our love.

To understand this principle, keep in mind that children are very irrational in seeking love. They do not try to win or deserve it. Instead, they test our love by their behaviour. ‘Do you love me even if I do this?’ Often they merely want to know where the boundaries are and who will enforce them.

When they have done wrong, they expect their parents to respond appropriately. They are the symbol of authority, which all children love and need. An undisciplined child feels like they don’t belong in the family despite the posed love of the parents.

Likely, they will feel the rules were not enforced simply because no one cared enough to get involved. So when a child misbehaves we need to ask ourselves ‘what does this child need?’

Do they need more eye contact, physical contact or focused attention? Is their emotional tank needing refilling? How shall I correct them? What is the appropriate correction at this moment?

This, in no way, means they shouldn’t assume responsibility for their actions. We should make it clear, that we do not like the misbehaviour. Some kind of restitution may be in order.

It is amazing what a little firm loving attention will do. Some misbehaviour is caused by a physical problem. A child can be tired, sick, or coming down with something. Certainly, punishment is unwarranted in these circumstances. Also, mistakes, accidents, acts of immaturity, and forgetfulness is not misbehaviour.

Parents are often guilty of punishing a child for these things, this is wrong. Don’t spank a child for being a child. Often it is hard to control our emotions at the time, but uncontrolled feelings on the part of a parent can only draw disrespect from a child. Stop and think.

How do you feel toward someone you know who throws a temper tantrum? You usually lose respect for anyone who does this. How do you suppose a child feels toward a parent who constantly loses control of themself? Wilful defiance calls for some appropriate punishment.

Defiance challenges the authority of the parent. ‘No’, ‘shut up’, ‘stupid’, etc. calls for punishment. Such things as kicking, throwing things, shoving, etc. should be punished. The punishment should fit the offence.

A little pain goes a long way. Pain is a marvellous purifier and teacher. Explain to the child how they can escape this in the future.

Some Don’ts In Discipline

Do not yell, scream, nag, or scold, this often becomes a habit. A child will eventually begin to scream back. Back up your threats. A child soon learns if you do not intend to keep your threats. Don’t take your frustrations out on a child and don’t use anger to get action.

For example, a teen may upset a parent to the extent the parent overreacts emotionally. Excessive anger makes it impossible for the teen to return to their parent for an emotional refill of their emotional tank.

This is why so many teens turn to peers for emotional nurturance. Don’t give excessive punishment. This can cause feelings of pain, anger and resentment toward parents, which are never forgotten or forgiven.

Some Things To Do In Discipline

Always give attention to what a child is trying to communicate. Nothing is more frustrating to a child than to be told to do something when they feel their parents do not understand their position. In their mind, they may have a legitimate reason for what they have done.

Learn to forgive a child. A child must learn how to feel forgiven during childhood or they will have problems handling guilt later on in life. Making requests sometimes is better than giving commandments. However, requests will not always work.

Be firm, but this does not mean being unpleasant. This way a child understands you mean what you say. A child should always understand why they are being punished.

Identify the rules in advance so there is no doubt what is acceptable. Thus if they break the rules, they will then understand why they are being punished.

Also, parents need to be in agreement on the behavioural limits of the child. If they see a conflict, they will play one against the other. After any punishment, and the crying subsides, children should be held and loved. Tell them it was their behaviour, not the child themselves, the parent rejected.

A child should be free to say things that express their feelings and emotions provided they are said in a respectful way. For example, anger can be expressed in an appropriate controlled way. Teens striving for independence will run out of emotional gasoline and will return for a refill. This is what you want.

In getting around to the real issue they want to discuss they may ask unrelated questions or they may shock us to see our reactions. Don’t overreact. The secret is to make yourself available. Do not force yourself on a teen. Do not make fun of or ridicule their questions. If you do you will drive them away so they will not return for a refill.

Learn to maintain self-control when they have mood swings where it is difficult for them to communicate with you. We often make the mistake of only correcting teens, but we must also give our approval and praise.

Let them know their thoughts and opinions are worthy and valuable. Respect them by giving your opinion without criticizing them or denouncing their thinking.

Go To Lesson 9


"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."