How Should Christians Discipline Their Children?

Discipline is a Matter of Love

In modern child rearing textbooks there seems to be a concept of equating the disciplining of children with child abuse and an abnormal “hatred” of children by those parents who exercise discipline upon their children. This concept is certainly not supported by the Bible.

As in the words of Jesus: “Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?” (Mark 12:24). The Bible clearly teaches that disciplining of children brings about profit of that child and not rebellion:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou are rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? . . .Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Hebrews 12:5-11

As the passage in Hebrews refers, ‘whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth’, thus God’s principle of disciplining His own people is completely congruous with human parenting practices. God’s practices in disciplining Christians correspond to the commands God gave in Proverbs to fathers. He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (promptly) (Proverbs 13:24; cf. 22:15; 23:13).

Love and corporal punishment are not incongruous; they are two complementary and necessary aspects of child training. Every human father who loves his son disciplines him; and, likewise, it is true that the father does not discipline the boys of the neighborhood, for they are not his sons. If ye be without chastisement, wherefore all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons (Hebrews 8).

Condemnation of Excessive Discipline

The Bible gives instructions to the fathers (parents) not to use excessive or abusive forms of discipline:

And, ye father, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

A close examination of this passage reveals that the word “provoke” means to irritate, exasperate, rub the wrong way, incite. This provoking is done by a wrong spirit and by wrong methods of discipline, i.e., severity, unreasonableness, oversternness, harshness, cruel demands, needless restrictions, and selfish insistence upon authority. Such provocation would produce adverse reactions, deaden his affection, check his desire for holiness, and make him feel that he can’t possibly please his parents.

A wise parent, therefore, seeks to make obedience desirable and obtainable by love and firm discipline. Parents must not be godless tyrants. Martin Luther said, “Keep an apple beside the rod to give the child when he does well.” The passage exhorts parents to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Discipline, general education and culture must be exercised with watchful care and constant training. Chastening, disciplining, and counsel by the Word of God, giving both reproof and encouragement whenever needed, is the proper balance for child rearing. True Christian discipline is needed to prevent children from growing up without a true reverence for God, a respect for parental authority, a knowledge of Christian standards, and habits of self control. (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. 2, pp. 559, 560)

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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