Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Biblical Relationships for Effective Discipline

Written by Richard Naves
The purpose of this article is to challenge us to assess if we are applying biblical principles to our parent-child relationships. A healthy parent-child relationship is fundamental if we are going to exercise effective discipline. Without a good relationship with our children our discipline will cause them to become confused, bitter, resentful or even angry. Although these are not acceptable reactions to discipline, this article is not addressing the shortcomings of children, but rather the role of parents. We need to continually look to GodÕs Word to learn and relearn the guiding principles for discipline.

As parents we continue to sin and fall short of the glory of God, but this does not exempt us from applying biblical principles to our lives. God has given us a lot of instruction, in both the Old and New Testaments, about raising and disciplining children. We can be thankful He has not left us to our own devices to figure this out. One verse in Scripture that most succinctly instructs us as parents is Ephesians 6:4, ÒAnd, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.Ó

In ÒThe Fulfilled Family,Ó one of John MacArthurÕs Bible Studies, he gives several suggestions of how children are provoked.

1) Overprotection: this takes place when they are smothered, fenced in and never trusted.

2) Favouritism: if one child is favoured over another the results can be devastating. Take for example JacobÕs favouritism of Joseph, or Isaac favouring Esau, and Rebekah favouring Jacob.

3) Pushing achievement: if you shove your child so hard to fulfill the goals you never accomplished you can destroy them.

4) Discouragement: this occurs if they are never given approval, reward, or honour; and if all you ever do is tell them what is bad, not what is good.

5) Failure to make sacrifices: if you make them feel unwanted and let them know that there are many things that you would like to do but cannot because they are around, they will soon resent you.

6) Failure to allow for childishness: make sure you donÕt put your children down if they do anything that isnÕt adult, mature, and intellectual.

7) Neglect: MacArthur writes about a friend of his, whose ministry was travelling across the country speaking to youth groups. He overheard his young son talking across the fence to the boy next door. ÒHey, can you play catch?Ó his son asked. His playmate replied, ÒNaw, IÕm going to play catch with my dad.Ó Then the preacher heard his son say. ÒOh, my dad doesnÕt have time to play with me. HeÕs too busy playing with other peopleÕs kids.Ó Needless to say, he changed his perspective on his ministry. DonÕt ever be too busy.

8) Withdrawing love: God never stops loving His children. Your child needs to know that you will never stop loving him.

9) Bitter words and cruel physical punishment: Fathers, donÕt shove your weight around and use your superior strength. That will provoke your children to wrath. Not only can children be battered physically, but they also can be devastated verbally.

These nine suggestions summarize the negative side of this text.

However, there is a positive side as well. We are to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Nurturing speaks of training and instruction. There must be rules and regulations that lead to reward or punishment. Children want boundaries. Without them they feel like a ship without a rudder. Although they may not always express their need for boundaries, deep down they know they are good for them and that these boundaries are true expressions of love. Admonition is the verbal instruction and counsel that children receive which has a view to correction. Throughout Proverbs we read that a wise son hears the counsel or admonition of his father and mother.

Both nurturing and admonishing take time and we often fail to give the time required to build relationships with our children. One study shows that the average father spends more time at red stoplights each day than he does in meaningful discussion with his children. (ÒPass the potatoesÓ is not meaningful.) As parents we need to take inventory of the time we spend with our families. We can become too busy with good (Reformed) activities such as church and school functions, committees, or work. We need to be careful that we donÕt neglect our families.

When we realize how we fail in our relationships with our children we are not to despair, but rather go to God and confess our sins. We also need to admit our shortcomings to our children and ask for their forgiveness. As parents we are often reluctant to apologize to our children because we imagine they will think less of us. Our children are well aware of our weaknesses, and when we admit our failures they are drawn closer to us.

In all these things God is gracious and is willing to give us wisdom, but He wants us to ask for it. ÒIf any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not: and it shall be given himÓ (James 1:5). When our relationship is right with God and we follow biblical principles for our family relations we will be able to nurture and admonish our children in the Lord.

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