Types of Discipline
Since the goal of discipline is to bring about change in our children, the type or degree of punishment varies from situation to situation. As parents, we must know our kids, take time to understand the specific conflict or misbehavior, and act in wisdom.
Our children will learn from experience. If we show them by consistent and appropriate discipline that sin does not pay, they will begin to choose righteousness on their own. However, if they discover that they can manipulate us into not disciplining them or if the punishment is so light that they conclude the sin was worth it, they will continue their incorrect behavior.
In evaluating behavior and appropriate discipline, we must avoid:
- Excusing their misbehavior out of misguided compassion or unwillingness to confront.
- Expecting too much from them for their age.
- Disciplining for accidents or mistakes made in ignorance.
- Disciplining too quickly when they are tired, hungry, sick, or under stress.
- Disciplining or humiliating our children in front of others.
- Threatening to punish in ways we cannot or do not intend to follow through on.
- Punishment that doesn’t fit the offense: either too lenient or too harsh.
- Restricting things they need, such as church, physical exercise, or meals.
- Physical abuse, which is often the result of disciplining in uncontrolled anger.
- Emotional or verbal abuse, which is often the result of not disciplining soon enough.
- What are the negative consequences of each of the above wrong approaches to discipline?
Appropriate Means of Discipline
Choose to use appropriate means of discipline, depending on the situation and the age of our kids. These include:
“Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool.” (Proverbs 17:10)
“He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue.” (Proverbs 28:23)
This could also be called a lecture, rebuke, or admonition, and will resolve many issues before they get out of hand. This is not yelling or nagging at our children, but rather talking to them seriously and with biblical authority.
For very small children, this may mean just a firm “no!” As they grow, we can appeal to their conscience, logic, and knowledge of consequences. Verbal confrontation is often all we need to correct older children. We must be aware that this is not always quick: we made need to take several hours to help our children understand what we are asking and why it is important.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Proverbs 32:8)
While not discipline in a strict sense of the word, children who have been raised with proper discipline can often be corrected and reprimanded with just a warning look. This is very helpful in public situations.
“The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)
Since sin is a spiritual issue, it often cannot be dealt with by just talking with our children. We need to reach their will and their spirit, and a little bit of pain is one of the best ways to do that. Spanking will primarily be used with younger children, and will gradually give way to less physical discipline. Spanking should be carried out with a neutral object such as a paddle, not with the hands. It should be administered on the bottom, and the number of swats should be limited to 3-5, depending on the offense. We should never spank in anger.
- What are your thoughts on spanking?
- How do they fit with what the Bible teaches?
Timeouts give kids time to calm down and gain control of themselves. They are effective with young children, and are a good substitute for spanking if we are in a public situation.
Loss of privileges
Restricting our children’s access to things like television and video games can be helpful, especially with older children for whom spanking is no longer an option. We must be careful not to limit things they need, such as church and physical activity; for this reason, grounding should be used sparingly.
– Pastor Gini