Honor and Discipline
Before you begin to study, will you ask the Lord to soften your heart to Himself so that you can hear Him speak, and to help you to put your trust in His Word?
“A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.” Proverbs 10:1
Motherhood! Whose idea is it anyway? What should a mother do with her time? How important is she, really? Some of us have had wonderful, loving mothers, and some of us have had no good example of mothering to follow. But if you are a mother, and you are looking into God’s Word for counsel, you will find help. In Exodus 20:12 we find the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines ‘honor’ as: “To revere; to respect; to treat with deference and submission, and perform relative duties to. “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Exodus xx.”
As part of God’s law of love He has said that children should respect their parents. I wonder if sometimes we feel that honor is due us, yet we have not honored our own parents. It is something to ask God about! He knows what is in our hearts. There will be times that we need to do what is right and let God deal with our motive later. Honor is love in action!
So how do we handle this as mothers with children? You cannot make someone love you. Is it right to require the actions of honor from our children?
First, let’s lay some ground work:
The commandments of God are not our rulebook to accomplish. The problem is not with the commands. They are right and beautiful! They are God’s character of love written out in words! The problem is with us and our inability, sometimes our downright rebellion, toward them. This is what the cross is all about. God so loved us that He made a way for us to avoid His punishment for our willfulness. If we will only confess our lack to God with a heart of agreement with Him, and believe that He suffered our punishment for us upon the cross, He forgives our sin. That is what the cross is all about, God making a way for us to be in fellowship with Him! Once we are forgiven, we are cleared by God, past, present, and future, from our sin. However, we will not be able to live perfect lives in practice, but we continue to look to the Perfect One and, in confidence in what He did for us, live free from blame before God. From here on, our efforts to do right are out of love and thankfulness to God, not out of fear of judgment. We are accepted by God! We see something of His holiness and our great need, and we learn to worship Him instead of ourselves or other people.
That being our foundation, is it right to require honor from our children? We need to see this from God’s viewpoint: it is no longer that our children must perform ‘honor’ for them to be good, but to receive Jesus’ sacrifice and that He is good that makes them acceptable before God. They should be accepted by us unconditionally because of the mercy we have found at the cross of Jesus! So to honor their parents now becomes the way of safety and love for them. To tell them they must honor their parents is now done on their behalf, for their good, not to establish our reputation!
The lack of honor we may see in our children now becomes our area of prayer for them, and a warning for us to love the child by correction – and God does mean love. Discipline dished out in human anger will never work love and faith in the child’s heart. “For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires,” James 1:20.
When we demand that our children perform obedience without error, they will respond in anger. “The law brings about wrath,” Romans 4:15.
And it is no wonder! To demand their perfection brings them to a hopeless condition of guilt and heaviness! How should we deal with our children in their imperfection?
How did Jesus deal with you? He met you with love and a way for you to be forgiven: His own mercy brought Him to the cross.
You bring your children to the cross of Jesus where you come together on equal footing. You all have equal access to God there; no one is more valuable or less.
There God becomes the focus. There is God’s heart of grace: His exchange for our sin.
Any correction you give your child should be given with a heart to see them connected with God and in love with Him. And because you are a picture of God to your child, they should have reason to trust that you are for them, not against them. Never should children be corrected to demean them, to discourage or harm them, or to prove that you are right and they are wrong. Discipline serves to love someone back to the love of God in Jesus.
Love is sometimes different than we think. God is love. Look at Him. He was gentle to the hurting, extended healing and understanding to the weak and those burdened by guilt or sickness. To those who insisted on their own goodness and their right to judge God, to those who responded to Him in resistance and anger and lived lives of prospering themselves while demeaning others, He did not whitewash them, even to their faces. He dealt with them with clear vision. No longer was He the tender Shepherd, but the warrior King who fights for His people with a determination that they see their own dangerous condition and return to Him. We have an enemy who prowls around, seeking to devour us. But God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. If we will change our mind to agree with Him, we will see that we were following one who is bent on our destruction, and it will be with thanksgiving that we respond, and we will be better able to identify the smooth flattery of the adversary next time. That is what love sees and demonstrates: a willingness to put our own pleasure on the line for the saving of the one in need. Love is self-sacrificing, focused on the character of our great God, doing everything we can to train up those whom the Lord has given us to know Him and follow Him.
When is discipline needed?
Someone wisely collected behavior that should not be tolerated into three categories: danger, direct disobedience, and disrespect.
For a child to be behaving in a dangerous manner would mean exposing himself or others to loss or injury. There is a reckless lack of care involved.
A disobedient child will refuse to do what her parents have commanded her to do, or will do what they have said not to. It is referred to as ‘direct disobedience’ here because the motive will need to be discovered; there are times when a child disobeys out of mistake, and that is not cause for corrective discipline.
Disrespect doesn’t regard another person with honor, does not esteem them with consideration. It causes discredit, disgrace, and often leads one to treat another with “neglect or a degree of contempt,” (Webster’s 1828).
These are good to remember and you will need to exercise discernment to recognize them in your child. Just ask Jesus: “Lord, what do you think of this? Is this action/attitude harmful for my child?”
It is noteworthy that our enemy is named “the father of lies” by Jesus in John 8:44. Jesus said, “When he lies, he speaks his native language.” If our children have embraced the habit of lying, they will easily be lied to by the enemy. We must be in prayer, asking God for wisdom and discernment. He is the only One who can tell us if what we are hearing is of Him or not. He will answer! Trusting that our children are telling us the truth is essential for a good relationship with them, and will remain so for all of our lives. So be faithful to correct them when they lie! And explain to them God’s heart on this matter, and give them hope of His love which they do not earn, but He gives to them freely. Tell them that Jesus defends us when we sin (“...if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One,” 1 John 2:1.) and that our response should be of love for Him!
What should I do to correct our children?
“The punishment should fit the crime.” Have you heard this saying? It is fitting here in raising up our children. Children know the difference between authentic love and feigned love in discipline. The trouble is that while God is at work in us, changing us, we still need to be faithful to do the work He’s given us to do. That means we will do it wrong at times. We will become angry inside and still need to talk with our children, and to discipline them. You may have felt that because you are angry you cannot do anything, so you let the situation pass and the child go uncorrected. But God has something to say about this: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death,” Proverbs 23:13,14.
Precious Mother, understand that God is calling us to lovingly swat the bum of our children when it is necessary to save them from spiritual death. Yes, it will be uncomfortable for you and yes, the child may cry and even be angry. There will be times when you have given 2 or 3 swats to the seat to correct your child, but know you have acted out of anger rather than love. Then confess it before God and hug that child and do not apologize for the spanking, but for the anger! Jesus will so change you that you will be able to discipline (vocally or physically) in such a way that healing and restoration is brought to the family. Pray, pray and ask God to help you to know how to discipline your child as unto Him. Give yourself a swat to see how it feels. Remember that true love does not come naturally to any of us. Our “love” is self-serving, even though it may look good. But God’s love sacrifices itself on our behalf, and that is the heart of discipline!
You will also want to ask before disciplining your child, what really happened. “It is not good to punish an innocent man,” Proverbs 17:26. Sure, it takes time. That’s all right with God. In fact, He’s pleased when you do what you can to love one another. If your child understands why he is being corrected there won’t be confusion and much less anger about the issue. It is vital that a child feel valued and loved, even at times of correction. To be upheld, treasured, and invested in – that is how Jesus wants us to understand His thoughts toward us as He chastises us. That is how our children should consider our actions as well. That is what our actions should say.
Rejection through silence and separation should not be part of a remedy (the “cold-shoulder” treatment). Your hope is to draw the child close, not to push him away. To send a child, with this attitude of rejection, to his/her bedroom for an extended amount of time to ‘think about it’ can be an invitation for sexual sin. You may have heard the saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Even while there may be times you or your child need a few minutes to ‘cool down’ first, be prompt, though not hasty, to remedy the situation or attitude.
“The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother,” Proverbs 29:15. In God’s Word He counsels us to give several swats to the bum (the rod) and to give correction by speech (rebuke) in order to raise up a child in wisdom. The heart motive of the parent to love and win the child’s heart is what makes this correction what it is intended to be. He has also given mankind good minds and creativity because a spanking is not always called for.
But He would have a parent to be effective in training up her children, not just a clanging cymbal. Badgering with words is not love, and it can only bring heaviness to all those involved. It is a mistake to think that a mere reminder will change the will of a child. God knows this, and so He tells us over and again in the book of Proverbs to be diligent, and that He endorses a spanking to bring about a heart of obedient love. He does not approve or condone harsh treatment, physical or verbal abuse, or the flaunting of parental authority, but He desires for parents to love their offspring and Him enough to do their utmost to raise up their children! We must go to Him for the insight to do this His way! Ask the Lord for ideas! He is glad to give you what you need through a variety of ways, but most of all, He will speak through His Word. He speaks clearly about discipline in the book of Proverbs, and He tells us to not neglect the rod in dealing with rebellion.
There may be times of outright rebellion, when privileges can be revoked from your teenaged child while you seek the Lord (along with your husband, if he so desires). Ask God to soften your child’s heart, and for wisdom from Him in dealing with the situation. There are not cookie cutter answers, but there is a way that seems right to a man that leads to death, and that way is rebellion. You seek the Lord, and He will answer you and give you the strength to see your child through the difficulty until times of refreshing come from the Lord!
What about creativity in discipline? There are times when we face frustration, though we are not sure that our child is rebelling. Maybe children who are old enough to pick up their rooms easily leave their areas a disaster. They may not have strong organization skills and tend to feel overwhelmed. A way to help your able child who has no desire to keep things tidy may be through their allowance. Instead of cleaning up the room for the child, Mother may put the items in a basket where they may be purchased out with some of the child’s allowance money. This can be done with a positive attitude on both of their parts as you look at the situation as an opportunity for your child to gain a view of Jesus in this correction in his or her life, and the child learns that he is not condemned for being disorganized or even for laziness, but will not be allowed to continue in it because of love. Encouraging words of correction go a long way.
Another idea may be to have an “ice cream jar.” It can be a tool even for teenagers when reminding them of good manners. If your teenager chews with his mouth open, or habitually forgets to sit with good posture, or doesn’t rise at the appointed time in the morning, you may want them to put (i.e.) fifty cents (with an additional fifty cents for each following occurrence) in the ice cream jar, not out of spite, but as a helpful reminder to do these things on their own. Some evening when there is enough money for each person in the family to have an ice cream cone, you can enjoy a treat together, and remember to thank them! It is a picture of good things coming from the training they receive. Money can’t buy good manners, but it can be used to help us remember to love others in common ways. (Nic's Note: Lisa Welchel has a great book out about Creative Discipline that you can pick up at any Christian Bookstore or order online)
And so discipline is not only correction for negative behavior, but is also positive, training up a child in the way he should go. To disciple someone is to take them along with you in life, passing along the things you value, teaching your child the tasks you want them to help you with in the home, communicating life to him/her. It requires spending time together doing ordinary things; washing dishes, getting the mail, picking up, folding laundry, preparing and eating meals, going to the market, as well as times of rest; making popcorn and watching a movie, taking a drive, walking together, playing a board game or stopping at a friend’s or Grandparent’s house. All the way along from infant days through teenage years, children need time together with their parents. There is a saying: “More is caught than taught.”
Let’s look at the dictionary again: “Discipline: education; instruction; cultivation and improvement, comprehending instruction in arts, sciences, correct sentiments, morals and manners, and due subordination to authority,” (Webster’s 1828).
Have you been disobedient to the Lord in this area of life? Are there disciplines that you need to cultivate in your own life before you can pass them on? You can’t give something to your children that you don’t have. This is not about performing to a certain level and teaching them to do this, too. No, it is crying out to God for forgiveness and trusting in what He accomplished on the cross on your behalf. It is then trusting Him to work in you what you cannot do! You cannot obey His law of love! So you tell Him so, and ask Him to do it in and through you, and then you do whatever He tells you, step by step. But make no mistake, it will be His power to accomplish this change, not yours. You can rest, trusting Him, and if He nudges you to speak kindly when you do not feel like it, or to count someone else better than yourself when you want to be about your own interests, or to take your child’s hand and help him pick up the toys, you can do that, and He will be working love in your heart as you obey Him.
You have a measure of faith given to you by God Himself. You can place that faith in whatever or whomever you choose. Genuine faith in the Living God cries out to Him instead of trying to do better (promoting self) or buying the next secular book on raising children (promoting others).
Do you want to hear from God? Read His Word! Start at the beginning of any of the 66 books of the Bible (ask Him where) and read each day until you finish that book and can begin another. When you’ve read the whole Bible, start again!
Pray as you read. Ask God questions or thank Him as you read. Write things down. Study to know Him. Morning, evening, whatever works best for you. Just be sure to meet with Him – do it. He will meet you and bless you in it!
“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death,” (Proverbs 19:18).
“He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly,” (Proverbs 13:24).
“He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray,” (Proverbs 10:17).
Will you pray together with me?
Dear Father, Thank You for the way you love me, tenderly and with loving interest and concern, but with great fervor to see that I am kept safe from my own destructive tendencies. Help me to love my children this way. Cause me to hunger for Your precious Word! Keep me close to You so I will stay in Your Word and prayer each day. You are my life! In Jesus’ name, A-men.