Discipline has at its core a very common biblical term: Disciple. The word “disciple” in the language of the Bible is “learner.” A disciple is one who learns. In the days when Jesus was on earth He was considered by most not as the “Son of God” but as a rabbi. Even on the morning of the resurrection, His most devoted female follower named Mary… the first to see Him alive after the crucifixion… referred to Jesus as “Rabboni.”
As we read the Bible on the subject of discipline, then, we must “read into” this word the concept of discipline as teaching… of making disciples of our children. They first become YOUR disciples but the ultimate goal is that you lead them to the TRUE rabbi… The Lord Jesus Christ. To fail in that is to stop short of the intended goal and outcome of discipline.
We misunderstand the role of discipline when we believe it means to control behavior. Your child is not your pet. Don’t be confused. Animals are less complex than people (yes, even YOURS). They respond pretty much across the board to stimulus and response. Their behavior can be controlled and modified by adding reward or adding punishment.
But children are not animals. They are human souls with their own wills and, no matter how young, their own agenda. If you have two children, one may respond instantly to your cross look or to an increase in volume in your voice. The other child raised by the same parents, eating the same food and sharing the same room with his sibling will not even turn around to acknowledge you. What works on one may or may not work on the other. Human beings are complex. Their needs vary; their sense of what is needed varies; the ability to be influenced by pleasing or displeasing you varies. And there is no way to predict it.
That being true, the outcome of discipline must still be the same. We are to create a follower… first of our direction… and ultimately of the Lord’s You will be challenged to be creative on the way to that goal. In other words, you may have one child who will make this journey easy and pleasurable while the other will not under any circumstance make your life easier in the discipline they need.
The challenge of discipline I think, is not how to I make my child behave but what am I teaching them to do by how I live? If they are your followers while they are growing up (and they are… for better or worse) then the path I am taking had better be the right one… the one I would want them to be walking. They won’t walk a path you never showed them. They will walk in your footsteps though.
In the early days of Israel, the rabbi always had students who lived with him, ate with him, slept where he slept. Teaching was not something that was compartmentalized for a few hours a day. It WAS the day. Every day. And at the end of the “course” of study, the disciples knew how their master/rabbi lived, talked, thought and walked. And they lived, talked, thought and walked just like him.
And so will your children.
FOR MEMORIZATION: Fathers do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
FOR REFLECTION: A leader is one who has others following him or her. If you are a parent, like it or not, you always have someone looking at you, learning from you and following you. Make sure you examine your steps to see that where they are going is the path you want to see your children repeat. Because they certainly will.