By Sarah Evans

‘My (child), do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a (parent) the child (they) delight in’ Proverbs 3:11 (NIV)

I find it interesting that the first part of the word discipline is ‘disciple’ which means in Latin ‘learner’ or also refers to the disciples in the Bible, who were ‘followers of Jesus’ teaching’.

Jesus (God in the flesh) loved His disciples and cared for their well-being while He was on the earth; He taught them right from wrong, provided them with a good example by living in accordance with His teachings, and then as His disciples stepped out to practice what they had been taught, He let them know where they were doing well, and where there was still room for improvement. Jesus closely taught His disciples for three years because He recognized that they were just ‘babies’ spiritually, and so needed His protection and guidance in order for them to fully mature.

In essence, Jesus drew the line for His disciples in the sand. He told them ‘do not go there or you will get hurt’. In the same way we as parents need to draw a line in the sand for our children, to help them to learn and grow in a ‘safe’ place where they will not get unnecessarily hurt while maturing.

Our young children are not designed to draw their own lines in the sand: put in their own boundaries. If that were so, God would not have needed to create the concept of a parent. This is our job! It is our job to keep our children safe until they are able to take care of themselves. And so, this means that sometimes we as parents need to tell our children “NO”.

Love and Discipline:

‘In order to be a God-fearing and godly parent, you cannot have one without the other’

disciplining-childrenRecently when working with a grade one student ‘Molly’, who was refusing to listen to the teacher, I took her outside of class and we began to have an interesting conversation:

Me: What is getting in the way of you going back to class?

Molly: I don’t want to go back to class because I want to do what I want!

Me: OK…What happens at home when your mum tells you ‘NO’?

Molly: My mum never says ‘NO’ to me, I can do whatever I want.

At this point, I begin to tell Molly a story. I ask her to pretend that she has a puppy. I explain that her puppy is her very own special pet whom she loves. I ask her to think about what would happen if her puppy would run out of the house and into the street; it might get hit by a passing car and get badly hurt. And then I ask her the following question:

Me: What would you do to stop your puppy from running out of the house and into the street?

Molly: I would shut the door!

Me: OK – so you would say ‘NO’ to your puppy, to keep her safe.

Me: What if your puppy needs to go out for a walk, and tries to run away from you?

Molly: I would put a leash on her.

Me: OK – so you would say ‘NO’ to your puppy, to keep her safe…..interesting.

What is interesting about Molly’s story is that even though she wanted to do things her way (without any boundaries), she was able to recognize (on a subconscious level) that boundaries are important. She was not able to verbalize her need for these boundaries, but in every other way (through her dysfunctional behavior in class) she was crying out for help “please help me to stay safe….if you love me, stop me from doing things my way….I do not know how to stay safe on my own. I am just a ‘baby’! I need an adult to guide me.”

In the same way God trains and disciplines us in love, let us also lovingly discipline our children. As discipline without love leads to rebellion and love without discipline leads to anarchy. Let us then ask our own Heavenly Father to help us be the best parents that we can be!

‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.’ Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)