When I wrote about Discipline vs Punishment a few weeks ago, I was surprised by the animated discussion that followed. In the comments and in a post update I added, we talked more specifically about what discipline and punishment look like in the home and what constitutes biblical discipline.
About the same time, I discovered an article entitled Training Children for Their Good, by Andy Naselli. I found this very relevant to our discussion, and I want to share it with you. The full article is 13 pages long (plus footnotes), but it’s worth your time. It brings Scripture to bear on some important questions, and it will make you think!
The author begins the article by examining Hebrews 12:4-11, which describes how God disciplines us as his children, and he extracts seven propositions about discipline.
He then surveys the primary verses from Proverbs that relate to discipline, noting that godly discipline begins with teaching, followed by warning. Physical discipline is the final step a parent should take, only after a child chooses to disregard instruction and warning. The fourth level of discipline (severe punishment) is not the job of parents, but of the state. Hopefully, children who are disciplined by godly parents will never reach that level.
Next he addresses some good questions raised by writers who are opposed to spanking, including “Is spanking antithetical to the gospel?”
Finally, he draws some of his own conclusions about parenting, based on the Scriptural observations already laid out. These include the necessity of multiple levels of discipline, avoiding extremes, and emphasizing love for our children.
Overall, this article reminded me of some important things:
- First of all, training children takes dedicated effort on our part!
- Loving discipline, including instruction, mercy, and sometimes pain, does indeed reflect the character of our Heavenly Father, as He deals with us, and as He’s dealt with His people throughout history.
- Spanking should not be our first or our only tool for discipline. In fact, it’s something of a “last resort” to be used only if our careful instruction, warning, and confronting has been disregarded.
- Godly discipline is a big part of pointing our children to the gospel. If we don’t explain God’s law, our sin, and the punishment we all deserve, our children won’t have a framework for understanding God’s grace and mercy or for valuing what Jesus has done for them.
- Finally, when we’re studying what the Bible says about a topic like this, it’s important to practice real exegesis. We must seek to draw out the intended meaning of relevant Scripture passages and interpret these passages in light of the rest of the Bible.
If you read Training Children for Their Good, please leave a comment and let me know what you think!