I have two of my grandchildren living with my wife & I. Two young boys aged eight and eleven. Full of beans and a real handful at times.
There are times when they need a severe hand for discipline as I’m sure their middle names are “Trouble” and “Mischief.” Some days they seem to have a penchant for finding trouble and they become walking, talking wrecking balls.
And it drives this old guy crazy!
But as a Christian I try to learn something from every situation I face.
Recently I realised the Lord was showing me that discipline is not about punishment.
After learning this incredibly valuable lesson it completely changed my approach to discipline with the two boys.
The first thing I had to understand was what punishment is meant to be all about.
Punishment is about consequences. Punishment is about reaping what you sow. If you do bad things, you get punished and reap the consequences of whatever it is you have done.
So when my two grandsons got into trouble this week, they were punished in an appropriate manner.
But what I realised is that punishment by itself is not enough. If they don’t learn and grow from the punishment, they will continue to do wrong and repeatedly offend.
And this is where I learned the truth about discipline.
Discipline is not about punishment.
Discipline is about training. It is about the learning experience that should come after being punished so that the boys do not repeat what they have done.
Discipline should drive the message home concerning what is right and wrong, and train them to choose to do what is right.
This is what I realised this week, and I wish I had learned it years ago, both with respect to my children as they grew up, and for my own education and benefit.
So what we do with the boys now if they play up is punish them, and then we make them write lines. They have to write 50 or 100 lines detailing what they did wrong or what they should have done instead.
The lines helps drive the message home by repeating what is right or wrong. While doing the lines they get the chance to “cool down” and it’s better than just sending them to their room. And as a side benefit it doesn’t hurt with their writing skills.
This is discipline we now use to train our boys.
The discipline of men
The Bible tells us that there is a difference between the discipline of men and the discipline of the Lord.
“For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews chapter 12, verses 10-11)
We are all familiar with the first section where it talks about the way man disciplines. They do it “at their pleasure” and sometimes they are wrong or excessive in their discipline.
I grew up in an age where if you caused trouble at school, you were “disciplined” (read that as punished), with the cane or the strap. And I copped my fair share of punishment at the hands of different teachers (Hey! I was no altar boy!)
But there were at least two occasions where I got the strap for things I did not do. The teachers in question thought I had done something wrong and gave me the strap when in fact I had not done what they thought.
And this is the problem with the discipline of men. They get it wrong sometimes and what was meted out was a punishment, not to train between right and wrong.
The discipline of the Lord
However in the second half of the first verse above we see that the Lord disciplines His people for our good, so that we may share in His holiness.
In the discipline of the Lord, He is training His people to distinguish good from evil, right from wrong. And we see that His discipline is all about training, as shown at the end of the last verse above. The purpose of the discipline of the Lord is to train His people so that they yield, “…the peaceful fruit of righteousness…”
So it is important that we understand the discipline of the Lord from this perspective. When He disciplines us, let us learn the lesson that He is teaching us. And let us not think of it as punishment, even if we are suffering for some wrong we have done. But instead recognise the Lord disciplines us for our good so that we learn and grow.
And…I just hope I remember this the next time one of my two grandsons mucks up so I discipline them in righteousness rather than in anger!
Since retiring from work, John Lemmon now spends his time teaching, preaching and writing about the word of God, online and offline, answering God's call on him to “Speak to my people.” You can connect with John on Twitter (@JohnBLemmon) or on his website: freegiftfromgod.com/ or listen to his podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/the-free-gift-from-god-podcast/id1440682375