Discipline with dignity, then, involves not only structure that is set up to see to it that goals are reached. That is necessary, but it also considers the personal conviction of the child to do what God says to be even more vital. He was made in the image of God, and he must be reached in his heart with God’s Word. It is this message that speaks of a loving Lord who came and gave Himself for His people which first must touch our children’s hearts, bringing them to repentance and faith. Parents must lead them to repentance, lead them to conviction of sin, and bring them to the Savior. And then they must continue to show them what He wants and continue to motivate them, not just with the rod, but also by the cross.
There must be a breaking of the child’s self-will. When that occurs, the child will no longer be angry with you, has taken responsibility for his or her action, has sincerely confessed the wrongdoing, and is repentant.
Gospel-centered parents use discipline to help their children see sin through God’s eyes, to help them see that heart-sins are the real issue, that sin has consequences, that God forgives us on the basis of His Son’s cross, not our performance, and that God disciplines us because He loves us.
There is a true sense in which you must teach your children to fear God, and especially to fear His displeasure. You have not satisfied the responsibilities of parenthood when you have made your child submit to you. If you are consistent and firm in your discipline, your child may obey you because he or she fears violating your standards. That is a fairly easy thing to achieve. But it is not the proper goal of biblical parenting. Your child should fear violating God’s standard, not merely yours. You are only an intermediary with the responsibility of teaching your child to fear God. If your children grow up fearing only your displeasure but not God’s, what will they do when you are not there?
Kids…need to learn that the root issue is their sin, and they need to be taught the remedy for their sin. Chastisement is not for the benefit of frustrated parents. It’s supposed to be for the benefit of the child. And in order to get the full benefit, they need to understand that the real problem is their sin – sin that offends God.
Pharisaical discipline often happens with the child inconveniences or embarrasses the parent. It’s then inconsistent and enacted as retribution in a form of revenge. That’s not discipline, but punishment. Christian parenting rather sees disobedience as an affront to the lordship of Christ and thus a danger for the child. Discipline then is an opportunity to correct a child, have them associate pain with sin and bring him or her closer to Christ for grace. Discipline when done this way is not a form of revenge, but rather a form of love.
Your focus can be sharpened by the realization that discipline is not you working on your agenda, venting your wrath toward your children; it is you coming as God’s representative, bringing the reproofs of life to your son or your daughter. You only muddy the waters when the bottom line in discipline is your displeasure over their behavior, rather than God’s displeasure with rebellion against His ordained authority.
Biblical discipline addresses behavior through addressing the heart. Remember, the heart determines behavior. If you address the heart biblically, the behavior will be impacted. The expediency of dealing with behavior rather than the heart means that deep needs within the child are ignored.
Remember, the issue is never, “You have failed to obey ME.” The only reason for a child to obey mom and dad is that God commands it. Failure to obey mom or dad is, therefore, failure to obey God. This is the issue. The child has failed to obey God. The child has failed to do what God has mandated. To persist places the child at great risk.
The focal point of your discipline and correction must be your children seeing their utter inability to do the things which God requires unless they know the help and strength of God. Your correction must hold the standard of righteousness as high as God holds it… The alternative is to reduce the standard to what may be fairly expected of your children without the grace of God. The alternative is to give them a law they can keep. The alternative is a lesser standard that does not require grace and does not cast them on Christ, but rather on their own resources. Dependence on their own resources moves them away from the cross. It moves them away from any self-assessment that would force them to conclude that they desperately need Jesus’ forgiveness and power.