Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Discipline Your Child"...

... and he will give you peace ("rest", in some translations). He will bring delight to your soul." ~Prov 29:17

Does your child (or do your children) give you peace?
Does your child give you rest?
Delight in your soul?

As parents, especially first-time parents, look into parenting books, methods, advice, and try to make decisions about how to raise up their children, there are many opportunities to encounter really lousy advice. It can be difficult, in this age of TV psychologists and celebrity moms and PhD-toting "experts", to know what is right.

Rather than try to lay out specifics, if you are a first-time mom, or just beginning to make some of these life-impacting decisions about parenting and discipline, I just want to encourage you to ask yourself a few questions, about whatever advice you are contemplating.

(1) Does the advice you are following line up with what the Bible says about discipline?

Spend an afternoon at and do a word search on "discipline", for example. Read about various parents in the Bible-- Eli and his sons, how Solomon talks to his son as he gives advice in Proverbs, how Samson's parents interacted with him and what those results were. Take to heart the commands given to parents (Deut 6, throughout Proverbs, to church leaders in the epistles about what their kids should be like, in each of the Pauline letters-- how children should act, how parents should train/teach).

Look at the whole counsel of the Word of God as you consider these things.

(2) Do you know anyone in real life who follows the advice you are considering?

Are their kids pleasant to be around? Depending on the ages of their kids, are their young children generally joyful and obedient? Are their teenagers respectful, or rebellious? Are their adult children following God? Whether they have one or many children, would it be pleasant and encouraging to be around a large group of people like their children? This is not to say that there is some perfect parenting formula that will turn out perfect human beings-- of course not!

But on the whole, we should consider the "fruit" of those that we are considering following. If we want to do well in our marriage, we ask advice from people who have made wise choices and persevered and have a strong marriage. If I want to learn to bake or cook well, I strive to learn from those who do so, not from the person who cooks primarily out of cans and boxes, or who doesn't enjoy cooking.

Another point on this score is that internet advice, or book advice, can be good (in fact, I've been spurred on and encouraged by many godly mamas in online form)... but the proof is in the pudding, and it is much more helpful to have solid advice from a person you know and trust, than to have extensive advice from someone "out there" whose life you really don't know anything about.

(3) In general, do the people who follow this advice have families that are joyful? Peaceful? Rested? A blessing to the people around them?

It's not at all that I'm saying everything has to be roses and sunshine, or that godly families won't have struggles or moments of complete and utter humanity and failure. Medical situations come up, seasons of extra pressure or difficulty arise, and of course, we're dealing with sinful human beings (parents and children alike) and no one is perfect! But in general, what is the likely fruit of the advice you're following? Does it match up with what you desire for your family? Does it match up with what the Bible says you should desire for your family?

(4) Does following this advice put you at odds with, or strengthen your oneness with, your spouse?

Unless there is a situation of abuse or neglect (which is an entirely different matter and should be dealt with legally), we should seek to find a place of peace and agreement in how we parent our children, but in the end, we are to respect and submit to the leadership of our husbands. God made men and women different for a reason... and we may not see eye-to-eye on every single detail. Still, though they (and we) are imperfect, He gives husbands & fathers ultimate headship and responsibility for leading their families.

Many times, I have encountered young mothers who put themselves at odds with their husbands over this issue of discipline by taking a hard stance against the very methods their husbands would use. It is not difficult to find young wives online-- especially on message forums or blogs-- husband-bashing because their husbands, ultimately, desire the very thing Proverbs says that discipline will bring-- peace, rest, and delight-- to the home.

There may be other considerations that are important to you, but these are the ones that came to my mind as common "sticking points" for young parents as they consider how to raise their kiddos. I pray God's blessings and His wisdom (He promises to give it-- James 1:5) on you as you seek His guidance in these matters.


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