Discipline is often seen as harsh and negative. But it doesn’t have to be. When discipline is administered to a child, according to Biblical principles, it should accompany teaching and instruction. This teaching should be offered with sound reason, and mercy. It should model what God’s love looks like to us.

God the Father is indeed strict and righteous with His judgements and precepts and we are to willingly obey His Words, because we know that He understands what’s best for us, and we trust in His goodness. We know He is good and His will is good, and His ways are righteous. We also understand that He has boundaries in place of what is acceptable and what isn’t. He has already told us what we can expect if we disobey. It’s not arbitrary, and it does not catch us off guard. It’s plain and clear. He gives us warnings and opportunities to correct our wrongdoing. And He also will willingly forgive us if we sincerely humble ourselves and repent, and receive His grace and pardon. God the Father is both mighty and merciful.

In our parenting, we must model what the Heavenly Father demonstrates to us. We must set guidelines and have firm principles, but also understand the merciful nature of God who is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Timothy 3:9). He is not impatient with us, but rather longsuffering, waiting for us to turn to Him. When our child has a repentant heart, we should recognize it and respond with kindness, and determine that we will not crush their spirit by disregarding their plea for mercy and forgiveness.

There is a way that we can give a spanking, in love and in truth, if needed, without harming the child or injuring them. Harming a child would be cruel and unlawful. However, we also should not withhold correction from the child, because it would not be good for the growth of their morality and character; to withhold correction would harm them in a different way. The Bible speaks of this.

Proverbs 23:12-14 (NKJV) says, “Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge. Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.”

This does not mean harmful cruelty, or debase treatment, but it does mean that discipline with instruction with a heart of good for the child will result in their learning what is right and what is wrong, and ultimately how to treat others well in the process.

This is similar to drivers getting stopped by a police officer and given a speeding ticket with a fine and court fees to pay. They may have to show up at court or they may be able to send in their payment, but either way there is a penalty that is appropriate for their breaking the law.

They are not however, flogged or beaten to bleeding for have driven their car at an excessive speed.

The penalty is appropriate, and thus the discipline of children should be as well. The correction of a child should be out of love for the law of God, love for the present and future good of the child, and love for the overall civility and good manners and behavior that we should all adhere to. If a child goes undisciplined, it would be similar to what would happen in a lawless society.

May we all be proponents of love that patiently and consistently instructs.

Prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to be a parent of the child/children that you have given me to raise. Thank you that will give me wisdom to know how to guide them well with love and instruction. Father I ask that you help me know how to give good and necessary correction, not too harsh, or too lax in my correction of their misbehavior. Help me to listen and to hear what it is their hearts are saying, and help me to respond in love to guide them well. Father, forgive me if I haven’t done this well. Forgive me if I have been too afraid to try. Help me to instruct them well, and be the firm and kind parent that I need to be, the way you are to me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Article Written by: Debbie Harper, Ph.D.