As discussed in the previous article Beyond Behavior: Dealing with the Heart, parenting is no easy task because we are not just dealing with our children that sin. We are also dealing with our own sinful hearts. In order to discipline our children biblically, we must be aware of the ways in which our sinful pride manifests itself in our parenting. At the end of the day, our sin is pride and can be rightly described as very much man-centered rather than Christ-centered. Here are what seem to be the primary manifestations of prideful discipline in parenting.
1. Anger: Unrighteous anger is probably the greatest obstacle to godly parenting. I would also include the use of threats in this category because of their close relationship. In just one outburst of sinful anger, we can destroy days or weeks of godly parenting. Anger is a man-centered method of parenting because it puts the focus on fear of the parent rather than fear of God. Using anger as a parenting method usually only leads to bitterness in the hearts of both child and parent. Sinful anger is very critical, demanding, harsh, and the child will struggle to see any real love in dad or mom. There is such a thing as righteous anger, but parents must be prudent.
2. Humiliation: Humiliation in parenting is when the parent plays on the child’s emotions in order to induce “feelings” of repentance in the child. The problem with the use of humiliation is that it produces only a worldly sorrow rather than a godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10). Further, it only serves to debase the child and produce bitterness in them. Remembering the Golden Rule is crucial for avoiding the humiliation of our children in the process of disciplining (Matt. 7:12).
2 Corinthians 7:10—For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Matthew 7:12—“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
3. Delayed Obedience: Another common mistake that Christian parents make is in substituting the requirement of biblical obedience for a lesser form of obedience that is delayed. We would never want our children to be delayed in their obedience about crossing a street, touching a hot stove, or snorting cocaine because the damage will already have been done. The same is true with all issues of obedience. While grace should abound toward the child, parents must insist that their children do what they say, when they say it, with an attitude of respect. Delayed obedience is really just a more subtle form of making threats.
4. Bribery: The use of bribery in parenting is the attempt of the parent to change a child’s behavior through the use of enticement. The problem with this man-centered method is that the parent is appealing to the child’s sin-nature. In effect, the child’s selfishness is being fertilized. They are being taught to obey for the sake of getting something they want and not simply for the joy of knowing that they have done what is right. Here we must make a difference between bribery and reward. Bribery is always negative because of its aim to entice. Rewards, however, can be a good way of showing grace and appreciation to a child. Normally, rewards should not be pre-announced to the child but should be a kind of surprising-grace.
Undoubtedly, there are other man-centered methods of discipline in parenting, but these should help Christians recognize the more prominent ones. By God’s grace, may we discipline our children in a Christ-like way.
Soli Deo Gloria,