This morning after discussing our morning devotional together as a family, my wife shared with me that my daughter Mia decided (totally unprompted and on her own) that she is going to begin writing her own book of devotionals:

She wrote:

Kids don’t listen and when you discipline them, they cry and say, “You yelled at me!” And you still totally live them, but at that time, they think you ate telling a lie.

What do you do?

A) Talk it out and make them feel better

B) Because they think you ate mean, say “well fine!”

C) Don’t cook for them until they hug you

D) Spank them

For God so loved the world that He gave His only son for whoever believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

(Answer: A)

What a beautiful thing to see my young daughter eager to share the Word and the Way in such a way this morning. It really blessed me this morning so much!

My first thought when reading her devotional as a parent was to recognize that something the parent has done has provoked their child to the point of not trusting them anymore in that moment.

As a parent, it is good to understand both sides of this complex topic of discipline.

Discipline is absolutely necessary and is good. Our children desperately need discipline to teach them how to avoid dangerous consequences in this life and how to choose the right way:

A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away.
Proverbs 22:15 NLT

By nature, children start out with neither experience nor instruction to lead them through this life, and they will make foolish and uninformed decisions without our help and guidance. If a child tries to pull a pot of hot water down from the stovetop because they know no better, it is good to correct them with a physical pop on their bottoms when they are young to teach them “No” and about danger and consequences. Physical discipline along more verbal explanations/discussions and physical punishment/restrictions as they grow older is not mean, but is loving.

Don’t fail to discipline your children. The rod of punishment won’t kill them. Physical discipline may well save them from death. My child, if your heart is wise, my own heart will rejoice!
Proverbs 23:13‭-‬15 NLT

So in the devotional Mia provided, she acknowledged that discipline is not enjoyable when it happens. Children do not like to be corrected in the moment that or is happening (nor do adults):

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
Hebrews 12:11 NLT

And Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” while Colossians 3:21 echoes “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

As parents, we need to value and protect our ability to speak into our children’s lives. We need to understand that they will react to the necessary discipline that we provide, and that we need not avoid discipline or we will coddle them while not protecting them from farmer or teach them about consequences — and end up with the terror of a toddler’s “mine, mine, mine” mindset running around in an adult’s body eventually.

But we also need to avoid provoking or children to the point that we lose their trust. This necessary moment of discipline where it is not enjoyable to them opens the door for the enemy to step in and tell them they can’t trust us, saying things like, “If they loved you, they wouldn’t hurt you.” So we must be watchful and prayerfully prepared and ready to explain why discipline is necessary — we must use this opportunity to strengthen their trust by sharing the Truth behind why discipline was necessary.

A great way to do this is to know the applicable Word of God or know how to look it up and share with them what God has to say on the subject.

Now, adults, how many times have you recently been feeling the pain, the discipline, the consequences of your own decisions that resulted in the discipline of the Lord — and because it was difficult, you too listened to the lies of the enemy telling you that you couldn’t trust the Lord. The trick is the same for you as well — so don’t be surprised that your own children don’t always understand and trust when you yourself don’t either.

So let’s be willing to receive discipline when necessary, willing to apply discipline when necessary, and always seeking to keep the lines of communication open.

Lord, help us in these things to see and understand and choose your way. Amen.