Discipline is for everyone
My oldest is only ten, but parenting has worn on me. You see, I’m knee-deep in my seventh toddlerhood. If we’re all honest though, parenting gets old real quick.
She is still waking up at night. They spilled the milk again. He’s still not getting the point of using the toilet. I have to make dinner again? If he speaks to me like that one more time… For the love of everything even sort of good, sit down!
For a while I had Hebrews 12:11 framed and hanging in my kitchen.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
All discipline is painful. Yes!
Discipline is never pleasant. You know that’s right.
That’s what we believe even after memorizing that verse and having it in our kitchen for many years. Even if it’s on cute yellow and white polka dotted paper.
All discipline seems painful rather than pleasant. But should it actually be painful?
Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law. Psalm 94:12
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Proverbs 12:1
My temptation is to entirely convince myself that discipline should be pleasant from the get-go. I want to believe that, bottom line, discipline is not sorrowful. If I can name it and claim it for myself like some sort of Christian parenting mantra then I will have mind-over-mattered a big struggle in my life as a parent.
But is discipline pleasant?
O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath! For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me. Psalm 38:1-2
There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way. Proverbs 15:10
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5
As if I needed to point it out, the evidence is not limited to Bible verses. Ask any parent if they ever want to discipline their child and every time they’ll say no. When I hear somebody squalling in the other room and I know what kind of attention is required, my heart is hardly leaping at the opportunity.
Discipline, no matter how you hand it down, is meant to cause pain. If it hurts, hopefully you’ll stop it! It is intended to hurt the child in some way, but it hurts the parent also. I don’t mean, “this is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you.” Discipline feels like failure.
Think about how it feels when someone else sees your child in need of some disciplinary action. Failure. When you’re in the midst of the disciplinary action and your child can’t get himself together, refuses to apologize, and you feel the urge to lecture until you’re blue in the face. Failure. When your child acts out in the same way for the 80th time this week. Failure.
But here’s the tension–discipline is not pleasant, but the fruit it bears in our lives and the lives of our children is.
Hebrews 12:11 isn’t just for the one on the receiving end of the discipline, but the giver also. Submitting to the training as the discipline-giver is a discipline in itself.
Several years ago we had a parenting conference at our church and when it was concluded someone remarked that they almost felt excited to discipline their children. Weird, right? Not really. We just had the truth of the above verses and many others laid out for us! And we were starting to believe it!
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. Proverbs 29:17
Scripture turns on its head what we are inclined to believe by nature. We think that bringing the pain of discipline to bear on our fit-throwing child will incite them to further anger. But Proverbs tells a different story.
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. Proverbs 23:13
Proverbs 3 tells us that the instruction of a parent brings long life and peace, refreshment and healing. And one of the classic verses on parenting:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
The discipline and instruction of the Lord is presented in Ephesians as the opposite of exasperating your children. Disrupting your children with discipline that is painful yet appropriate, is acting like God our Father.
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. Hebrews 12:7-8
When we fully press in to believing biblical discipline, that we and our children desperately need the endurance and character and hope that discipline brings, we won’t do all we can to avoid it. We’ll stop cajoling our children to obey, counting to three, shouting “knock it off!” from the armchair or the kitchen. We’ll stop welcoming distraction to avoid conviction in our own hearts, giving in to our chosen comforts to quiet the conscience.
When we refuse to face our guilt over our personal sin, as well as our guilt from failing to faithfully discipline our children, we fail to discipline faithfully. It’s a feedback loop of guilt. Guilt that demands reconciliation.
On the other hand, a clean conscience frees us to deal rightly with the muckiness of whining, strife, and foolishness, all that bubbles up in our homes with little (or not-so-little) people. Dealing rightly, executing justice, disciplining and bringing about reconciliation is always an act of love.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:12-14