Alright, I’m struggling as a dad. I have some big questions. So I thought I’d just throw out what I’m thinking and get some discussion going. Hopefully, we can come up with an answer together.
I understand that my job is to discipline my children. I am to train them up so they can be productive parts of God’s kingdom and man’s society. Part of that means using the rod. At the same time, I’ve learned that the mere threat of the rod doesn’t necessarily produce great behavior in my children. In some cases, it simply helps them get really good at being secretive and avoiding detection.
There have been some times where something has happened, we have no idea which child did it. We threaten and cajole and don’t get any closer. I know some suggest simply punishing them all, but I keep going back to treating others the way I want to be treated. I don’t want to be punished for something I didn’t do just because the one who did it won’t fess up. On some occasions, we finally got to a point of saying, “Look, somebody here has lied. We know what lying can do to your heart. We know the guilt and shame it can produce and we don’t want you to live with that for the rest of your life. When whoever the guilty party is has had enough of the guilt and shame, come talk to us. We won’t punish you, we just want to help you overcome this sin.”
In most cases, the guilty party eventually comes clean with us in a private setting. We have a good talk. I think the child was helped.
For a time, I wondered, “Hmm, does punishment not really work? Is that hindering my kids from being honest with me? Should I remove the threat of punishment?” But I can’t square that with the Bible. Obviously the Bible talks about parents disciplining and punishing their children.
Then I got to thinking about how God deals with me. I saw four things and I’m trying to figure out how to bring them into my parenting with consistency and wondering if I’m even on the right track. Here is what I saw.
- When I’m caught in impenitent rebellion and dishonesty, God punishes.
- When I come to God to penitently confess my sins, God forgives and shows mercy. He doesn’t punish.
- Whether I’m in impenitent rebellion or penitently confessing, God lets me face the natural consequences of my action.
- When I penitently confess my sins, God teaches and provides boundaries to overcome the sin in the future, pruning and disciplining me.
So, here are my questions for you.
- Are the above four points accurate? Is that how God really deals with us?
- If they are accurate, how do we implement the same strategy in our parenting?
- When should we punish? When should we show mercy?
In other words, if my child confesses before getting caught, is there never any punishment? How do you distinguish between punishment, discipline, and natural consequences? You tell me.
Thanks ahead of time for letting me know what you think.
And remember, God’s way really does work for our families.