Ten Biblical Truths on Disciplining Children

7. Parents are to discipline disobedient children with proportionate and loving measures of punishment.

God teaches us this through direct commands in Scripture.

Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. (Proverbs 19:18)

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol. (Proverbs 23:13–14)

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (Proverbs 29:15)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

God also teaches us to discipline our children by examples where fathers failed to do it.

“I declare to [Eli] that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.” (1 Samuel 3:13)

Adonijah [David’s son] exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” (1 Kings 1.5–6″>1 Kings 1:5–6)

And, thirdly, God teaches us to discipline our children by setting us an example in the discipline of his own children. This is especially relevant for Christian parents, because God has already covered the sins of his children by the blood of Christ, yet he believes they need discipline in the shaping of their faith and character.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11–12)

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7–11)

No one loves his children more than God does. And no one is more attentive to discipline us for our good. Every Christian parent should consider seriously that when our children are under our care, we are God’s representatives to prepare them for their heavenly Father’s discipline when they are no longer under ours. If they find God’s discipline surprising, we may have left something undone.

8. Parents are to encourage their children.

We receive this instruction through direct commands in the Bible to encourage our children rather than discourage them. The commands come in the negative form of warning, perhaps because we are so prone to dishearten our children with criticism, and so inept at authentic, spontaneous, non-manipulative praise.

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger. (Ephesians 6:4)

God gives us his own fatherly example of the encouragement of his own children.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities… As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:10, Psalm 103.13″>13)

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)

And the apostle Paul gave himself as an example of this kind of encouraging treatment of children.

You know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11–12)

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John Piper
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. © Desiring God.