By: Chad Flanigan
A few years ago my wife and I agreed to babysit our neighbors’ three-year-old son, at their request, while they went out and celebrated their wedding anniversary. When they dropped off their son at our home, the mother told us that they did not tell their son the word “no” and proceeded to explain that when he was disobedient they preferred to give him “options” in effort to let him make right choices on his own. I was speechless! Needless to say, that night at our house, there were many occasions to use that little two-lettered word – “NO!”
Parenting is demanding; however, my wife and I do enjoy parenting. And we consider ourselves blessed of God to have children who profess to love God and us. They typically (not perfectly!) are able to follow our instruction and behave reasonably in mixed company. As slightly older parents in a church full of young parents, conversations about kiddos arise. Therefore, we feel a certain stewardship for these things. My wife and I have been asked, by young parents, about parenting practices we’ve found helpful. Usually, the conversations work their way around to the subject of discipline. I find myself giving similar responses to those who ask about parenting. I often replay the line: “Loving your child includes discipline.” I cannot imagine how any parent is able to love and raise a child with godly instruction without proper discipline. Parenting takes a lot of heart work. Sometimes tough love is warranted. Corporal punishment at home is part of ‘tough love.’ My wife and I have made our share of parenting miscues! But, I share in hopes that you can learn from our mistakes. We’ve found that shepherding a child’s heart well requires appropriate discipline.
In Ephesians 6, we see that Paul instructs children to obey their parents. While that appears easy enough to say, Paul continues by expressing the full burden on parents to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (6:4). No doubt Paul knew proverbs like “a child left to himself brings shame” (Prov. 29:15) or “whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Prov. 13:24). Of course, God does not want heavy-handed abusive parents! But neither does he want parents to remove the category of discipline from their standard operating procedures for parenting! The bottom line is that all children are created equal in sin, but not all children bear the same personalities in life. For some parents, words alone may be effective enough for proper discipline and instruction, but for many parents, words alone are not enough to ensure the proper discipline and instruction of the Lord is carried out like Paul is describing. Not only will the child need to hear NO but also be shown NO through the vehicle of loving discipline.
I’ll conclude by encouraging you to read an article titled “Corporal Punishment”. It was written by Matt Watson (MDiv, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). Matt is the senior pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, Indiana. The article was recently included in their church newsletter. To access the article please click here.