“You can’t punish kids for having a bad attitude because they’re just human and sometimes you have a bad attitude too.”
I saw this recently and unfortunately it’s just one of many such statements I have seen spread across social media. This trend is growing. As a swing to the extreme left after being too far right, we are told that we aren’t to say a negative word to our children, that we are to only reinforce positive behaviors, and that any seemingly deviant behaviors are part of being “human.” In fact, don’t you sometimes have bad days too? Surely if we have bad attitudes then we can’t expect our children to act differently?
If we, with our Christian worldview, really look deep into the implications of this trend, it’s rather disturbing.
This all wouldn’t alarm me so much if such advice wasn’t being spread by Christian women. The world has been in the business of giving bad advice since that snake twisted God’s words in the very beginning. But we – we as women of God – we ought to know better. We need to wake up. A thought spread by popular psychology should have no place in our home if that particular thought is contrary to what is taught in the Bible.
For the Christian woman, God trumps pop psychology. Every time.
Here’s the thing. I may have days where I have bad moods, but I can see and understand the consequences. I can see the pain it gives my husband. I can feel the negative impact it has on my home and actions. I can reason through a situation. If I have a tantrum, I feel the consequences and repent or face worse consequences (relationship breakdown, lack of intimacy, spouse leaving me, etc) by refusing to acknowledge the impact my behaviour has on others.
But a toddler? A small child? Hmm. Not so much.
When I think about how I want to parent I consider the example of Israel during the time when she was ruled by God. I believe that this is one of the best examples we have of what is to be included in our parenting. We see that God provided for His children, guided them, lead them, reasoned with them, pleaded with them, and punished them. At times He even punished them very harshly.
We need to remember that while we can be so thankful we are no longer under the Old Testament as a law, it was written for our learning (Romans 15:4). God realises something about children that we need to also realise: children need guidance and discipline.
Why Children Need Discipline
Consider these verses:
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15).
“Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death” (Proverbs 19:18).
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24).
“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (Proverbs 29:17).
This is God’s recipe for raising children that will give you peace and happiness (aka – children that aren’t brats). Does this sound like what pop psychology has to say? Not at all. Does it sound harsh? Perhaps. Is it easy to carry out? Definitely not.
In putting those verses out there in writing, I know there are going to be many who think me radical. But If you are of one those people realise that this isn’t me you are arguing with – these are God’s inspired words from wisdom literature. And while I realise that these are pieces of advice and not commands – how wise are we if we neglect to seek and apply the advice that God Himself has given us?
Probably not very.
If we claim to be following His Word, we cannot be among those who say that children require no discipline for bad attitudes. If we had good parents, they disciplined us lovingly and we respected them (Hebrews 12:9-10).
“Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:9, 10).
Notice how the Bible writes about parents assuming that they have disciplined their children? For those of us who have been disciplined correctly, becoming conformed to Christ’s image has been easier for us as adults because of the training of our parents when we were young. It has ended now, but the fruit of those efforts remains.
And don’t be mistaken, you are still subject to discipline when you have a bad attitude. God is our Father and – just like any loving parent – He doesn’t want us to suffer the eternal consequences of undisciplined behaviour (Hebrews 12:5, 6).
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:5, 6)
God is grace and love. Yet, while we need to remind ourselves of this, we desperately need reminding that God is also holiness, righteousness, and justice.
“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).
Grace and love are not found exclusive to discipline and expectations. Grace teaches (Titus 2:11, 12). Love instructs (Ephesians 4:15, 16; Romans 15:14). Where grace and love are present, loving correction is absolutely vital. If we are to become more like God and love as He loves, we will show love to our children with affection, fairness, discipline, and grace to the end that they will be holy and righteous.
If children do not receive the proper discipline and guidance from you now then they are going to have a much harder time figuring it all out on their own later. That’s why a lack of discipline is unloving – it leaves the immature to try to work things out on their own. God doesn’t leave us to figure everything out on our own, so why are we intent on doing that to our children?
Let’s start parenting the way that God parents. People have been wrong before – but God’s way has always been proven to be right.
Let’s give the next generation a head start. Stop listening to what pop psychology has to say about raising your child, and start digging in His book for wisdom on how to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
I personally would choose God’s wisdom and foresight over the fleeting opinions of popular psychology any day.
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“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:5-11).