I learned gardening from my grandmother. She taught me how to prepare the soil, place the plants in the ground, and pack the right amount of dirt around the plant’s baby roots. She taught me what a weed was and the importance of keeping the garden well pruned. She showed me how to tell if the vegetables were ripe enough to be picked. She taught me to care for the garden, so we had a good harvest.
Because of what my grandmother taught me, I have had some successful gardens. On the other hand, there was this one bush I planted that never did well. I thought the little shrub was a lemon. So, I went back to get another one, I did the same thing, planted it, and it died. I did this several times, only to kill seven bushes! You’d think I’d learn! Poor plants!
Come to find out; it wasn’t the plant, it was the gardener (me). I was planting this bush too close to the house; therefore, the roots did not have room enough to expand. Context matters!
God’s Big Picture in Discipline
One way I have seen discipline misapplied in parenting is neglecting the context of Proverbs 13:24 and 22:6. Some parents correct their children misunderstanding the bigger picture God has in their life.
I have heard these scriptures quoted in the following fashion, “spare the rod spoil the child” or “train up a child in the way he should go.” Not looking more closely at these passages, some have justified abuse in hopes they are not spoiling their child. They interpret “train up a child” with using scripture to condemn their kids, hoping to change behavior, but all they do is kill their little spirit and love for God’s word. Faith does not grow in this context. Let’s look at God’s bigger picture.
Proverbs 13:24 states, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Indeed, lack of discipline in a child’s life is like hating them. But give attention to the latter part of this verse, “the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Some keywords need to be defined here so that the whole picture of discipline is understood and appropriately applied.
‘Love’ is having great concern for the well being of the child.
‘Careful’ indicates a strategy in how best to meet the need of the child.
‘Discipline’ is to ‘teach’ not punish.
Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Again, we have some words to define.
‘Train’ is to equip and develop the child.
‘The way’ indicates a child was created for a special purpose.
‘Depart from it’ is the harvest parents encourage (in their child) when they understand their child’s bent and cultivate it.
There is no question, children sin, and they need discipline; to neglect it is not the answer. But when correcting the sin in your child’s life, the context of the previous two verses must be considered if you want it to grow their faith. Proverbs 13:24 and 22:6 include coaching terms, which in turn produces good fruit. Think about discipline from this perspective: You, the parent, are equipping your child to become mature blessings in society. If your focus is on developing your child, you won’t give into your anger, you will tap into your role as teacher-parent.
How Discipline Grows Faith
When your child is in the wrong, try this strategy:
Calm down. Do not discipline in anger! To do so is to plant weeds that choke your child’s trust. You need time to cool off. Tell your child you will discuss the issue with them when you have had the chance to process it. But I caution you: process it quickly through prayer and the word of God. Don’t wait days to deal with the situation. An hour or two is plenty of time to cool off. Waiting too long leaves room to dismiss it and causes your child anxiety.
Talk to your child. Ask what happened; seek to understand. Too many times parents (me included) can jump to conclusions and make assumptions and then discipline from that. I have learned that talking with my children helped me gain the context of the situation.
Taking time to explore what could have been done differently gives your child a moment to own her sin. It opens the door for you to share that Jesus loves her, and so do you; this means that He and you want what is best for her. It’s amazing how this one piece in the strategy of discipline calms your anger and opens up your child’s heart to wisdom.
Having a conversation with your kids helps them process the sin they committed and it gives you a chance to understand their perspective vs. immediately passing judgment. Talking with your kids gives you the opportunity to speak God’s word into their situation “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Administer the consequence. Again, discipline is not punishment. It means “to teach.” Whatever consequence you have chosen to administer should be done in this light. Punishment never teaches obedience, it does teach compliance, but not from the heart, instead, from fear. Fear eventually drives your kids away from you and from God. On the other hand, if a child’s heart yearns to obey, they will submit from a deeper place of commitment and true change.
Immediately follow up. Hug your child and tell them, “No matter what you do wrong, I will always love you. I will always forgive you.” Follow-up like this gives your child confidence; they believe it’s possible to turn from what’s wrong and do what’s right. This approach is called grace. It fosters your child’s trust in you and faith in Jesus. Interestingly, the difficulty you both just endured will bring you closer together!
This last part of the strategy is often neglected. But I want you to know how crucial it is to not forfeit follow-up. For if you do, you leave your child wondering if your love for them is performance based. Follow-up like this gives children the proper context of your love; we love our kids for who they are, not what they do. Their obedience will ebb and flow, but our love for them must be unchanging.
Context matters! It matters in gardening. Without it, plants do not thrive.
Context matters in studying scripture. It reveals God’s plan; it draws out the real truth and sets a person free from falsehood.
Finally context matters in the discipline of children. It puts kids on a path for authentic faith, God’s purpose for them, and safe loving relationships with their parents.