"Discipline Your Child"...

"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 Biblegateway.com 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.


Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

Jess, I am imagining you taking the time to rest, nest, and prepare for baby, too big to do a lot of running around, which is why you have time to converse with us via the web a bit more of late.

We'll enjoy you while we have you!

As for the post, there is some great stuff here, but as you might imagine, it is #4 that resonates with me the most. As a mother of many teens, who are great kids but sometimes don't understand the rationale behind the boundaries, I have learned to let my husband take the lead no matter what any other parents are letting their kids do and what they think about it.

It is very easy for my kids to evoke sympathy (actually empathy) from me because my dad didn't let his girls roam and wander either! As they have gotten older (all 3 are 15 at the moment but one will be 16 on Monday), they have seen what becomes of a child left to his or her self and appreciate that their daddy cares enough to protect them.

I like number 3, too, but some parents are rested because they don't do much parenting. But I know what you mean with regards to younger children, though.

Best point of all:
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.

Great post, Jess! Hope you're feeling well.

Jess said...

You hit the nail on the head, Terry. The weather has (until this week) been very hot, we're done with school (for all practical purposes) for this year, and I'm quite pregnant (about 10 days left!). :) Plus, all the "nesting" is pretty much done. So I've had time to sit and think and write in a way that I haven't in recent months.

I'm feeling good, thanks. Ready to have this little man, but also trying to just be patient and wait for his arrival.

Catherine R. said...

I'm agreeing with Terry. Nothings speaks louder than a real-life example of a family who is doing things the biblical way or a family who is filled with excuses about why the bible didn't really *mean* what it says about all that. That's where you really get to see how well something works or doesn't work.

You know reading this made me think. Foolishness will result in very painful stings throughout life. My adult life has been filled with those stings, sometimes creating lifelong consequences. I think if I had a parent who was willing to provide some of those "stings" in a loving, controlled and wise manner (not selfish angry beatings, extreme permissiveness or just plain neglect), how many unecessary life-altering mistakes I could have avoided. And I mean truly tragic results of foolishness, not just the normal valleys and struggles of life.

Not that any one system if perfect. I think I am a good example of imperfection - to say the least - in parenting. I know what I need to be doing but I am often lazy, inconsistent, selfish etc.

Anonymous said...

Is it ok to be joyful? Is it ok to be rested? Half my Mennonite family seems so. The other half rules with shaming, blaming and intimidation. If we express enthusiasm, it is quickly shamed and extinguished. If we express fear or sadness, we are quickly punished. Best not to show any emotion at all. Painful, yet I get confused; we are not to be "happy," as I've seen so many times on your site.... but joyful?


Janel said...

I completely agree. I love the way you flesh it out!

In addition to Scripture, I've read a lot of parenting books. (Dozens!) Nobody, and I mean nobody, has a method that will work with every child every time. Some children need a firmer hand and others a more warm and fuzzy one. I've taken bits and pieces of wisdom from each source and applied it when needed. I've found that each child thrives when biblical discipline is tempered and tailored for them. And I wish I had known that 15 years ago! {groan}

Praying all is well! {hugs}

Jess said...

I'm sorry things are so confusing for you.... it sounds like your family (at least part of it) has twisted what Scripture says. As Christians, we are to be joyful - that's one of the fruit of the Spirit that is to grow in our lives as we grow in Christ. Enthusiasm and passion for life are gifts from God... He is the giver of all good things and models these things for us as our Father-- He loves to delight His children.

My goal in life is not "happiness", although honestly, I do find a great deal of emotional happiness the more I try to follow Jesus and as I find my peace in Him. But joy is to be a constant in our lives as believers... we're told to "rejoice in the Lord always", to "count it as joy" when we face trials, to "delight ourselves in the Lord", and so much more.

Honestly, the more fully I allow myself to be used by God as a wife & as a mom, the more fully I yield to Him, the more joy I find growing inside of me. Not because things are perfect... not because mine is a stress-less life (it's not!), or because I have somehow achieved the perfect marriage (it's not!), or because my children never disobey or struggle with attitudes, the same as any other human being (they do!)... it's because the little things bring more delight. When we are hurt, we forgive. As we know each other more, each experience together is more treasured. As the relationships in our home grow in kindness and love (a constant process of following Jesus), it yields a harvest of peace. We can laugh together, the relationships are rich and will be lifelong, and just average daily moments hold more value... which I'm calling JOY. It is joyful... it brings a peace to the soul to have right relationships and to be at peace with one another in a family setting. To learn more about loving and living as God would have us do, within a family, brings greater joy to each of us.

I'm so sorry that you have experienced shame and punishment for expressing emotion or passion. I do think emotions themselves can be quite deceiving, and we are wise to control ourselves and test our emotions against truth. But enthusiasm, joy, delight, passion for life... I think these things are hand-in-hand with serving and loving and delighting in the God Who made us.


Abbi said...

Great post! It is always encouraging to hear from others that are also trying to raise their children using biblical principles.

As my older kids have gone off to camp this week (it is not normal for us to be apart) I have been thinking a lot about how their counselors and leaders might be seeing them. It has challanged me to be extra careful in my training of them so that they are a joy for others to be around.

I did hear some reports on my kids so far and they were all positive but I still want to keep working!

thelowreysfour said...

A very encouraging post. Thank you.

Jenna said...

This was just what I needed to read... thank you for sharing! Our baby is just 6 mos old but we have been talking about this lately, we want to begin as we mean to go and have a plan for discipline, etc. Not sure when this will come into play (I hardly think my 6 mos old is being defiant! ) but definitely want to have an idea based on Biblical principles about how to go about it when the need arises.

There is a family in our church with 7 kids and they are just the MOST pleasant bunch to be around. The kids are JOYFULLY obedient and get along so well- you see the way they interact and it makes you want to know what the parents do! We have been in their home and its the same picture... joyful obedience and joyful service. They do their chores without questioning their parents and will serve you with a smile if they have you over for dinner. I appreciate what you shared about observing a family who does follow the advice we are considering. I read a criticism about the discipline philosophy we were looking into (Growing Kids God's Way) on the web (there are criticisms for EVERYTHING) but that criticism doesn't hold the same ground that the living testimony of this family does.

Thanks again!

Denise said...

Thanks so much for sharing. Very encouraging. I hope all goes well with the bebe!

Herding Grasshoppers said...


Your suggestions are excellent. Such a good reminder to look at the fruit.

My husband and I were raised about as differently as you can imagine, (conservative Christians on one side, partying hippies on the other), so we had a lot of talking/praying/studying to do, to find common ground!

While we were expecting our first we were frequently around two families with children the same ages. The difference in the fruit couldn't have been more plain. And believe me, I pursued one of the moms... "Tell me what you're doing!" Her kids were welcome in my home any time (!) while I dreaded visits from the others.

Good words, Jess,


Heather Rodriguez said...