by Michelle Anthony
The following story is provided by our INCM/CPC Partner David C. Cook.
Disciplining children is probably one of the most time and energy-intensive aspects of a parent’s daily life. Yet, how we discipline our children, and how that discipline reflects who God is, is supremely important. The answers to these questions make the role of parenting something we can’t take lightly!
The author of Hebrews explains how course correction works:
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. (Heb. 12:11-13)
As we seek God’s design for discipline in this passage, it’s imperative that we don’t stop at verse 11. While we might agree that “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful,” we might be tempted to believe that discipline is merely a painful and negative experience if we simply stop there. So what is the goal of course correction? It is found in the last word of verse 13: healing. The end goal for parents is to conduct God’s discipline in such a way that our children experience healing from their sin.
Few people will acknowledge feeling just as loved in their sin as they do in their success. But this is a biblical concept for those who are in Christ. Our standing with God is not shaken when we need correction; rather it is our heart that needs healing. What better time to receive love than when you are wounded? What would it look like for our children to experience such grace?
We need to ask our children the kinds of questions that get to the heart of the matter in order to bring healing. If our questions hover at the ground level of the actual behavior, we erroneously focus on the outcome rather than on the source. It’s tempting to do this in our busy schedules; to settle for a discipline model that demands, “Just stop that ugly behavior â€¦ NOW!”
Step One: It Must be Painful
Hebrews 12 outlines a three-step process for course correction. In verse 11, it says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” True healing starts with pain. So the first step is to determine what is “pain” for each child because each child is wired differently. Pain for one child is different from pain for another. But, what often happens in our homes is that we adopt a parenting model, and we say that in our home we don’t spank, or in our home we only spank, or in our home we do time-outs, and so on. But, Proverbs 22:6 urges us to “train up a child in the way he should go.” As you take into account the personality and inner makeup of your child and how she responds to you and to circumstances, then you can identify what is pain for her. With God’s help you can adopt a child-specific discipline model.
Step Two: Build Them Up in Love
If the first stage of biblical course correction is pain, but we know the harvest comes when we move past mere punishment, then we must read on to see what redemptive pieces are available in the Hebrews 12 passage. The second stage comes from verse 12: “Strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” Think about this for a minute. This is a word picture of arms and knees that have broken down. The parts of the body that allow us to move forward productively have gone limp.
That first step of pain has broken down the child’s will, bringing him to a place of submission. This step is necessary, but it’s destructive if the child stays in a broken state. Therefore, step two is strengthening what you broke down. So in course correction, immediately after we bring the pain we also bring restitution to that child in love, in reassurance, and in encouragement. It’s important to note that the one who brings the pain must be the one who brings the love and encouragement.
This takes effort and practice. We need to learn the art of speaking to our children and notat them. This includes having a dialogue, not just a monologue where we dominate the conversation. They also need affection. We can hug our children, even if they don’t hug back in the moment. We can touch their shoulders or their legs-something physical to tell them they are loved.
Finally, we need to offer words of encouragement. We know that next time they are going to be able to make this decision better, with God’s help.
Encouragement says, “I believe in you. I believe you can do this differently.”
Step Three: Make a Straight and Level Path
The third step in God’s plan for course correction is stated in Hebrews 12:13: “‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” Making a level path for our children’s feet is simply plotting out the new course for them. Here we teach them what it means to change and acknowledge that they will need God’s help to do this. Making a level path is telling them you have an idea of how they can navigate differently should the experience arise again, and then walking through those steps. This is where God can use our wisdom gained from having lived and made our own mistakes. We share ourselves with our children candidly.
So these are the three things: We break them down in pain, we build them up in love, and then we show them a straight path. We need to be firm in this, because children have a way of making us weary. They wear us down. We’re tired. They even team up on us! But parents need to keep their eyes on the goal of healed hearts and a promised harvest!
The final piece of this discipline journey is that later on, this corrective path produces aharvest of righteousness and peace. This is part of the beautiful outcome. If I want anything for my children, it’s righteousness and peace! What could be better? Imagine yourself lying in bed at night and saying, “My child walks a righteous life before God, and he is at peace.” What more would you want?
So don’t give up. It’s a training process. Any sport you train in takes time, effort, and energy-you do it again and again and again. Eventually, you build that muscle. Today as you listen to God about the issues deep in your children’s hearts, make yourself available to the wisdom in Hebrews 12:11-13. Seek a child-specific pain, build your child up in love and affirmation, and then set forth a straight path for her to walk in. When you do these things, watch for the fruit of righteousness and peace. It doesn’t happen overnight, but as you train your children in this environment, God will be faithful to bring healing to their souls.
Dr. Michelle Anthony earned her B.A. from Biola University in Christian Education and her M.A. in Christian Education with an emphasis in Theology from Talbot Theological Seminary, and her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Southern Seminary. She has written over a dozen resources in Children’s/Youth ministries and Christian education, and enjoys teaching, speaking, and serving in missions abroad. She has over 20 years of practical church ministry/leadership experience as a Children’s/Family Pastor and is currently serving as the Pastor of Family Ministries at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, CA. Michelle is a native Californian and has lived in Southern Orange County for the past 20 years along with her husband, Michael, and her two children Chantel and Brendon.