“Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:20, 21
Last week, as I was getting a haircut, the subject came up about discipline—or the lack of it. My barber shared with us that she had a grandfather who was very hard and harsh with his children. He had come from Germany and was of the “old school,” when it came to discipline. Every Saturday he would line up all his kids and give them a “whopping”—whether they deserved or not. When they asked for a reason, he would say that it was for all the things they had done that he had not seen, and to make sure they behaved next week.
I hope you are shocked at the above—but most of us have been guilty of violating some aspect of good discipline, and have “provoked our children to wrath”. I have found that most children do not resent and will benefit from discipline that is the following:
Good discipline is balanced between love and constraints.
First of all, children need to be restrained from self-destructive behavior. Due to the fall of mankind, we all are self-willed and rebellious. Children do not come into this world with a lot of self-control. Children must be taught that since we do not live by ourselves and must live with others in a community we must have rules as to how we will relate to others. Children need ‘fences’.
All children must have love and affection in order for them to be healthy emotionally. We all need to feel we belong, are important and appreciated by parents, family and teachers. If, however, a parent gives a child unconditional love without holding them responsible for their actions, they will develop a spoiled child.
If parents or teachers, on the other hand, enforce rules without love, these necessary rules will breed resentment, anger and rebellion. Love tempers restraints and rules.
At the balancing point is consistency. A rule that is not consistently enforced ceases to be a rule.
Lack of consistency in the way we interpret and enforce discipline will “provoke a child to anger”. Many in authority enforce rules, or show affection depending upon the circumstances or upon the way they feel at the moment. If they are having a good day and feel happy—they tend to overlook many infractions. If, on the other hand, thy have a headache or are feeling ‘down’ they will notice every violation and will react harshly. Children are continually given double messages. Lack of consistency brings uncertainty and resentment. When this happens no training takes place.
A rule that is not communicated, before an infraction, is not a rule and cannot be enforced. It is only fair that a child know what the rules are and the consequences when they break the rule.
I have found that most teenagers and children will receive discipline without resentment if the consequences are ‘fair’ and fit the infraction. It is better to not inflict discipline if there is any doubt as to what happened or to who is at fault. To be disciplined for something you did not do brings anger, hurt and resentment. If you as a parent discipline and then find out you were wrong in doing so—do not be afraid to apologize and ask your child for forgiveness. Your child will love and respect you and will realize that you too are not perfect.
If a child knows that their parents love them and has their best interest in mind—and if the rules are fair and have been communicated your child will not be “provoked to anger”. Treat your child the way Jesus treats you.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus does not treat you that way?
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