SaCH DVD Series

Shepherding a Child’s Heart #9

     The physical discipline part of Biblical parenting is the source of much controversy in the current cultural climate.  Criticism from outside the body of Christ as well as from inside has made many parents confused, unsure, or fully against the use of physical discipline.  However the Bible is exceptionally clear on this issue and attempts to spiritualize or get around the pertinent Scriptures involves either misreading the text and misunderstanding the ancient context in which they were written, or both.  The Biblical basis for physical discipline is clearly revealed in proverbs verses 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13-14, and 29:15-17.  Even in the New Testament the author of Hebrews in chapter 12:5-11 uses the physical discipline of our earthly fathers as an example to encourage us that just as our fathers disciplined us for our benefit so too does our Heavenly Father.  The example makes no sense if our earthly father’s simply gave us “time outs.”  That physical discipline is an important part of Biblical parenting is clear but what is less clear is the practical how to actually go about it.

    First, physical discipline should only be for open defiance of your parental authority or for grievous sins.  Different parents will come to different conclusions as what constitutes both and there is no end to the types of situations that parents encounter.  Parents must humbly seek the Lord in prayer for wisdom to discern what types of behavior require physical discipline.  Second, the Scripture does indicate that physical discipline means the use of the “rod.” The rod should be something that stings but not bruises which means using your hand is not recommended.  Third, physical discipline should be private, never in public or in front of friends or family.  Fourth, you should calmly explain to your child what is going to happen (how many swats) and why, so they understand the process.  Here your child should understand how they sinned and that they have sinned against God not just a particular individual.  Fifth, after the spanking, restoration is essential and involves prayer, forgiveness, love and acceptance.  The key is to make sure you are not just going through the motions but that your child truly understands all five steps.

    This, of course, hardly covers all the details but is a brief practical outline of the general process.  Parents need to work together to implement Biblical discipline in their families, seek wisdom, direction from God, and humbly trust and rely on Him through prayer and obedience to His Word.   Parents should pray that the words of Proverbs 29:15, 17 would be true of their children, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Correct your son and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul."

Shepherding a Child’s Heart #8

     The conscience is a part of our God-given mechanism for discerning between good and evil and reasoning concerning right and wrong behavior.  Everybody has a conscience however consciences can be warped, seared, inflated, as well as trained, nurtured, and healthy.  Part of our job as parents is to train the conscience of our children according to the scripture by teaching them what the scripture says is right and wrong and then appealing to the conscience in matters of discipline.

     Appealing to a child’s conscience does several things.   It gives our discipline a God-ward orientation by exposing sin and going beyond just dealing with outward behavior to dealing with issues of the heart.  When you appeal to the conscience you help your child see that they are unable to love God and obey Him because they are sinners in need of the mercy of God and they need to seek His grace.  

    Biblical discipline helps children understand themselves, how sin works, and how God works in their lives.  They understand who they are Biblically.  All life must be viewed from the lens of scripture and from the perspective of God’s redemption and restoration of mankind.  This kind of instruction realizes the relevance of Jesus in every situation of life instead of just worship on Sundays.  It brings Jesus near in the trenches of everyday life revealing His redemptive work in us day by day.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart #7

     In Proverbs chapter 23, we see both physical discipline and real communication from the heart as both part of fostering wisdom in children.  We have a tendency to think of discipline as only physical, but communication from the heart is an essential part of the Biblical discipline process.

    Being skilled at communication takes practice and there are many aspects to being a good communicator.  Asking good questions, being a good listener, being able to discern half truths or evasion, eye contact, etc., are some of the skills one can master in being a good communicator.  However, there are at least three goals to keep in mind whatever skill set you use:  communication means the ability to understand your child’s motivations not just outward behavior, communication means helping your child articulate their thoughts in a meaningful way, and communication means learning to look at the world through your child’s eyes.

    The incarnation of Jesus Christ is our model for parenting.  He lived in our world, He understands our struggles, and He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses.  When we can truly understand what’s going on with our children, we can better lead them to the cross of Jesus Christ.  Heartfelt communication is key.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart #6

     We need to have thoroughly biblical understanding of the goal of parenting otherwise we will resort to relying upon unbiblical methods to try to “produce” a child that meets our standards.  Dr. Tripp lays out five common unbiblical methods of parenting.  

     The first is simply doing whatever your parents did without evaluating whether it was Biblical or not.  This parent figures, “We’ll I turned out OK.” The second is relying of pop psychology.  This is a broad subject but most pop psychology has boosting self esteem of the child as the goal of parenting.  Thirdly is behavior modification.  This one is a fine line because God certainly rewards good behavior and punishes bad but you can train your children like Pavlov’s dogs without ever addressing the heart.  Related to this is the fourth unbiblical method, punitive correction.  This differs from behavior modification in that it primarily focuses on punishment and behavior modification often has a complex program for increasing rewards for good behavior.  Punitive correction is a way of “scaring” children into obedience.  Certainly biblical parenting involves punishment but relying of punitive correction again may produce outward obedience out of fear and never address the heart.  The fifth is emotional manipulation which tries to address the heart in an unbiblical way.  

     All of these “methods” are shallow in and of themselves and work to produce outward behavior with varying degrees of success.  Children need transformation from the inside out, it doesn’t work the other way around. Only by helping our children see their need for Jesus Christ and relying on the methods the bible gives us can we hope to engage their hearts.  Children who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength is the goal of Biblical parenting.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart #5

     As parents, we can have all kinds of goals for our children.  We want them to be well educated, well behaved, able to succeed, etc.  Some goals might be very good, such as being well behaved or church attendance.  Some goals might be shallower such as excelling in sports or something else that's not bad in and of itself.  But all of the goals we may have for our children must be secondary to them loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  It’s possible to have well behaved children who have no desire to love God and don’t know Jesus at all.

    Westminster Catechism question one sums up the main goal every parent should have for their children: the chief goal of all mankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  In order to achieve this end parents, of course, need to train their children according to the Scripture and model love for God in their own lives. But no matter what we do as parents we must face the reality that we can’t save our children.  

    No pedigree is automatic to produce children who love God.     Reformed, Christian educated or homeschooled, catechized, verse memorizing, (the list can go on and on) children can still grow up not knowing Jesus and having no love for God.  This sobering reality means that we as parents are totally dependent on the grace of God for the salvation of our children.  So, as important as the previous list is, the most important thing we can do for our kids is pray, approaching the throne of grace on behalf of our children. In the grace of God is the absolute best place to be.