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Children and Discipline

October 1999 | by Alun McNabb

There are few things more lovely than disciplined children who know genuine happiness. There is a feeling abroad that discipline spells gloom and is inconsistent with love. Some Christian parents, who believe the Bible on the Incarnation, the cross, the resurrection and the Second Coming, seem to find it difficult to believe the Bible on discipline. Their views are dictated far more by the latest thinking from the unbelieving world, than by God’s Word. They ‘love’ their children far too much to smack them, despite Scripture’s clear teaching and the truth that ‘Whom the Lord loves he disciplines’.

Counsel to parents

We sometimes speak of children being ‘spoiled’. The tragedy is that, if they are, it is usually their own parents who have spoiled them. Think of it. A child spoiled, and his own parents are the guilty ones! And it is all done in the name of love.

If the devil cannot get us to spoil our children by hating them, he will get us to do it by loving them. We spoil them by making them the centre of the world. We have no need to do this because they will do it themselves anyway, their fallen natures giving them every assistance.

Archibald Alexander, in Thoughts on Religious Experience, has a chapter entitled Counsel to Christian Mothers. Most of it is equally applicable and useful to fathers. He writes, ‘I would also caution mothers against the foolish ambition of trying to make prodigies of their children, and against the vanity of so exaggerating their smart speeches and exploits as to make them appear to be prodigies.

I would not be so rigid as to prohibit mothers from speaking of their own dear offspring, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak, but I may advise you not to make your children the everlasting theme of your conversation morning, noon and night. Rest assured that other people do not take as much interest in the subject as you do’.

This is what it means to spoil a child, to be ever giving him prominence, and such an exalted position as is not suitable for a sinner. To make our children the centre of the universe is idolatry. And God, remember, is a jealous God.

The need for reverence

Public worship can be ruined by the behaviour of undisciplined children. There is a view abroad that it doesn’t matter if mayhem rules. The big thing is that the children are there and, if they are, everybody else is supposed to feel grateful.

But every week there are poor souls trying to worship God amidst a cacophony of noise that would not be tolerated in many other places. If discipline is the responsibility of the parents in the home, it is the responsibility of the elders in the church. Their ministry of overseeing surely extends to providing an atmosphere where the almighty God can be approached in reverence and awe, without bawling, laughing and fighting children dominating the scene.

We need men with courage who will act. It is not sufficient for the elder to complain about it to his wife at home. His wife could minister to him by saying, ‘And when are you going to do something about it?’ It is not the fault of the children. They only do what the adults allow. ‘Ye fearful (elders) fresh courage take!’

No serious worship

In some congregations such a situation is considered amusing, and all part of the morning’s entertainment. Even a well-behaved baby can be made the object of ‘gooing and cooing’ that is totally distracting. That is hardly the baby’s fault.

In some churches all idea of serious worship has virtually disappeared. And is there no sympathy for those who do not want all this unseemly disorder? Some of them live all week in quiet homes, or maybe live alone. Perhaps they are elderly and are not used to excessive noise. They cannot cope with explosive Adrian who disrupts the service with his behaviour, while his parents look on and smile admiringly.

The day school also has to cope with Adrian, or rather with his parents’ mishandling of his discipline. These days, longsuffering teachers look forward to Friday afternoons far more than the children ever do.

Precepts

But, praise God, it is not all gloom. The Bible still stands. Its precepts are given to us all, and there are those who heed them. Children brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord are a delight. Congregations with children evidently taught that God is God are a joy to behold.

The task of parenting is heaven-sent. Mothers who are asked, ‘Do you have a job?’ should never, no never, say ‘No’. If you stay at home to look after your children you have the biggest job on earth. Do not be intimidated by those who think otherwise. While some mothers, perhaps out of necessity, go out to ‘find’ a job, you can know that your job was ‘given’ to you by God.

The responsibility to discipline our children was also given to us by God. In an age of extremes, there is either no discipline or there is abuse. God’s middle way is best.

‘Children are a heritage of the Lord’ (Psalm 127:3). If you find parenting difficult, don’t be discouraged. We all found it difficult. But what rewards there are in a home of grace! Some of us have known a little of heaven-on-earth in our homes; may you know it too. May God help us to raise a new generation that will reflect some of his glory.