Recently, several parents have mentioned they don’t believe in consequences for young children who disobey. Evidently, everyone under the age of thirty took a vote and decided consequences were old fashioned and made children angry. Unfortunately, they forgot to check the ultimate book of godly wisdom – Proverbs, before voting. I am not referring to the infamous “spare the rod, spoil the child” verse (which by the way is a misquote – see Proverbs 13:24). Even if you ignore that particular verse, Proverbs is filled with admonitions for young people to embrace correction and reproof as a way to grow and become wise and godly.
These young parents are absolutely correct though. Punishment, correction and reproof tends to make people angry. In a very few cases, some people do go overboard, become abusive and encourage rage in their children. I do not think God in any way condones that sort of behavior. There are too many other verses pointing out the amazing love parents have for their children to assume God approves of parents abusing them.
There is a healthy anger though, one should be encouraged a child feels when corrected. At first your child may be angry because he is not getting his way. This anger begins to alert your child to the idea of the selfish “flesh” as the Apostle Paul called it. There is a part in all of us that is unbelievably selfish. We first have to become aware of this part of us that leads us to sin. If we don’t, we will have no reason to seek God, confess our sins and become Christians. Using consequences to teach your child she is not allowed to live in that selfish place (and wallow in the sin that will eventually come from it) is a crucial part of your job as a parent.
Hopefully as your children mature physically, intellectually and spiritually, you may see another kind of anger from them when given consequences for misbehavior. This anger is directed at themselves for knowing to obey but choosing to disobey instead. Consequences can be a little lighter for a child who exhibits this sort of anger when punished. He is beginning to understand disobedience is rebellion and is upset with himself for choosing to rebel against your rules. Use the opportunity to take the time and help your child develop strategies for avoiding temptation the next time.
Ultimately, consequences are a quick, impactful way to reinforce desired behaviors and extinguish undesirable ones. Spiritually, they are a way to teach your children the selfish part of them will always want to rebel against your rules and more importantly God’s rules. They need to be aware of this tendency and develop strategies for avoiding temptation, sin and rebellion. By giving your children meaningful consequences when they disobey, you are not just training them to be responsible future adults. You are teaching your children how to obey God. Learning that can change your child’s life for eternity. (Check out past Parenting Like Hannah posts for specific tips on discipline.)