Biblical discipline can be defined as “training that develops self-discipline and godly character” (Hebrews 12:7-11). Discipline is not punishment. The purpose of punishment is to inflict a penalty for an offense; the purpose of discipline is to train for correction and maturity. Punishment focuses on past misdeeds; discipline on future correct deeds. Punishment involves hostility and frustration on the part of the parent; discipline imparts a parent’s love and concern. Punishment instills fear and guilt in the child; discipline instills a sense of security. Choosing discipline over punishment requires the proper mental and emotional mindset (Galatians 5:22-23). When your child does something that upsets you, ask God to help you deal with your anger and regain control. Only when you are calm, do you take action to correct your child. There are three levels of Biblical discipline:
Level 1—Instruction. The goal of instruction is to impart knowledge, information, or direction by modeling, teaching, and/or commanding. This includes modeling by the parent, informal instruction, and formal instruction. Level 2—Training. The goal of training is to help the child form habits and develop proficiency in areas in which he has been instructed. This can include doing this with the child and instructing him along the way, teaching a complex task/concept step by step, or talking about a specific to increase knowledge and correct misconceptions. Level 3—Correction. The goal of correction is to alter or adjust a child’s behavior by taking action to cause him to follow previous training and instruction. This may be achieved by direct assertive communication, natural consequences, or logical consequences. Are you actively engaged in levels 1 and 2? Great! But to be successful parents, we have to go a step further. We must demand compliance with agreed-upon family rules. This can be done through:
Direct Assertive Communication. This method should always be our first choice of discipline, and includes eye contact, a firm tone of voice, and a command. Describe in detail what you want, and don’t beg or plead. Do not use rhetorical questions. Make your request once, expecting a change in your child’s behavior. If the child does not respond to direct assertive communication, state the action you will take, if necessary. Don’t make empty threats—take the actions you say you will. Do what you say you will do. If you don’t, you will lose leverage and believability with your child.
Natural Consequences. For this method of discipline, parents stay out of the way and allow nature to take its course. Example: Megan, age eight, is forgetful. She forgets to take her lunch to school once or twice per week. Usually mom brings her lunch to school when she forgets. Natural consequence: Megan goes without lunch one day and gets hungry. She is more likely to remember the next time.
Logical Consequences. In this scenario, the parent plans a negative consequence for the child that is logically related to the misbehavior. Example: Bradley leaves his action figures all over the room even though he has been instructed to put them away after playing with them. Logical consequence: If Bradley doesn’t pick up his toys he won’t be allowed to play with them for two days. This is negative because he loves to play with them. It is logical because he has been given space to store all of his toys. Likely outcome: He will learn to keep toys in their proper place if he wants to play with them.
Imparting Biblical discipline involves prayer, preparation, and practice. We owe it to our children to make a concerted effort to discipline with the fruit of the spirit instead of punishing with a spirit of anger and frustration. The rewards will last a lifetime.
Application / Challenge
In order to effectively use logical consequences…
- First, tell your child what logical consequences will take place if the misbehavior continues.
- The consequence must be negative to the child.
- The consequence must be logically related to the misbehavior.
- The child must have the freedom to make his own choice.
- Stay out of the way and let the consequence do the correcting.
- Be sure the task involved is within the child’s capabilities, and the consequences are reasonable.