Wednesday, 31 July 2013 13:37

Discipline For The Contemporary Child

Written by  Rev. Wesley Lim
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Parents, teachers and child workers need to re-evaluate the present procedure for disciplining children and adolescents.  The discipline procedures used yesterday may not be appropriate for today’s contemporary living.  Times have changed; children and teens react very differently to authority figures and models of discipline.  A new effective strategy for discipline is needed so that good character, ethics, integrity, influence, values and even that good character, ethics, integrity, influence, values and even spiritual hunger are developed in the personalities of the young people.

The Bible and Discipline

The crucial question at this point is what is discipline? Some people see it as punishment.  Some understand it as a bunch of rules and regulations; some consider being a means for a parent to relieve his anxiety; others referred to it as an act of love.  Even after defining what discipline is, one has to deal with the nature of discipline.  Does it really help to correct, instruct and train to obey?  Is discipline a matter of control?  Many people because of past experience have images of discipline that are not pleasant.  These negative misconceptions of discipline need to be corrected by looking at the truth found in God’s Word.


My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in (Proverbs 3:11, 12)


Discipline should not be seen as an act of despair, but rather as a basis for encouragement and perseverance.  In general, discipline seems very unpleasant at the time, but when carried out properly, it brings effective results that are beneficial to the one who is being disciplined.  God’s discipline comes out of an act of love; He rebukes and disciplines those whom He loves (Heb. 12:10, Rev. 3:19).

We can see four images of discipline described in the Bible.  The first is the image of disciplining with cords of compassion (Hos. 11:4).  Just as God felt the pain of rejection when Israel went after false gods, out parents are hurt when we the children disregard their advice or spurn their love.  Parents then should be motivated to discipline their children out of love for them so they learn appropriate behaviour and protect them from the consequences of bad behaviour.

The second image is mutual accountability.  Both parents and children are ultimately responsible to God.  As parents, child care workers, or teachers we must test the discipline approaches used against the standard of God’s discipline method.  In Amos 7:8, this standard of God or “plumb line” is introduced.  God built His people according to the standards that He set up.  God’s people are measured against God’s standards of justice and fairness.

As parents, we need to place limits on what we can do to our children, by letting them know that we are likely to make mistakes and that we are accountable.  We need to subject ourselves to the standards of God within the home.

The third image described in the Bible is the rod and the staff.  The famous Psalm 23rd describes the rod and the staff to be our comfort in our midst of trials.  In the Old Testament instances like the ones in Ex. 21:20, II Sam. 7:14, Job. 9:34, the rod is seen as an instrument of authority.  In Ex. 21:19, Jud. 6:21, II Ki. 429, the staff is an instrument of support.  Both rod and staff symbolize authority and support which are the foundation of discipline.

The last biblical image is one found in the context of Christ’s body.  The key here is unity, but it also means diversity.  Parents who have this in mind understand that, if their children are going to develop individual character, then they will need the freedom and responsibility to make their own decisions.

Basic Components of Child Discipline

Dr. James Dobson outlines five basic components that are necessary for parents to understand regarding the control of children.

1. The child must develop a respect for the parent.  This respect provides the basis for the child’s attitude toward all people – school authority, the law, and the people the child will eventually live and work with.  I believe that the relationship the young child has with the parents is the most important social relationship he will have.  If the parents want their children to accept their values, they must be worthy of the children to accept their values, they must be worthy of the children’s respect during the younger years.  Respect is a two way street.  Also, I believe that a child would be more apt to respect parental authority if the discipline is carries out in a non-intimidating fashion. Parents should discipline their children in private and not in front of an audience, so that the child would not be put on the spot.  This way the child’s self-esteem is safe-guard and respect can be better express by the child.

2. Comfort the child after discipline.  Parents should welcome the child with open, warm, loving arms.  Communication with the child after discipline is a very important time to take with him heart to heart.  It is a personal moment where a parent can express the reasons why the discipline took place and how he can avoid it next time.

3. Control the child without nagging.  Sometimes parents do not understand, put yelling and nagging children work against them.  Children know quickly that there is no threat behind the nagging and thus the child stops listening.  The only results nagging bring are nerves, frustration, the possibility of a fight, and a strained parent/child relationship.  The parent should seek to provide a freedom for open communication and a real friendship.  Give the child responsibilities and an understanding that if they are not carried out there will not be any privileges.  Develop an understanding in the child so that he knows that responsibilities are the first priority.

4. Do not spoil the child.  Television and the thousands of commercials that children are bombarded with foster a sense of greed.  For instance, the parent automatically provides the money to the child to purchase his desired item.  If parents continue to give their children all the requested luxuries, the child is going to become very unappreciative and he will think that he is entitled to whatever he wants.  Children need to experience temporary deprivation so they are not conditioned to take things for granted and to understand the value of things.

5. Avoid extremity in discipline and in love.  There are consequences of discipline with harshness and disciplinary permissiveness.  Harshness brings fear and the child lives under the pressure of heavy discipline.  Permissiveness can teach a child to think that he is the center of attention and that everything revolves around him.  On the other hand, the extreme degrees of love can be harmful as well.  If the child is rejected and receives no love, he can suffer severe emotional problems.  Excessive love towards a child can result in overprotection.

Having learned and worked in many daycares as part of my early childhood training, I came to realize that children react much like a string.  They tend to resist when they feel pulled or forced into something.  There is tension on both ends of the string.  When the child resists, the tendency is for parents to push even more. As a result of this is a rebellious child.  The same is when the child is pushed into something he does not want, he will not react, much like pushing a string it will not move the way you want.

Here are some practical suggestions that will help parents and children workers to lead the child the way you would like him to go.

1) Children, like adults, do not like being interrupted when they are involved in an activity that they enjoy.  Do not interrupt them with requests at the time.  If possible, wait till the child is ready to listen.

2) Give the child ample time to make transitions from one activity to another i.e.: playing then brush-up for bedtime.

3) Let the child know that you encourage and accept their cooperation.  Invite them to help in tasks like shopping, setting the table, doing the dishes, or cutting the grass.  Communicate to the child the opportunity and need that the child can fulfil in helping with tasks.  If children understand the need to help, they will.  Children enjoy doing what their parents are doing and it can be fun and enjoyable for them.

4) Give the children the opportunity to have choice.  This gives them some freedom and it helps to learn how to think things through on their own.

5) Try to involve humor when facing potential conflicts.  Usually humor lessens the potential tension in a conflict and leaves room for correction.

6) Encourage your children.  There can never be too much encouragement.  Encouragement helps to eliminate discouragement and defiance can be turned into compliance.  It also builds their self-worth and self-esteem.

It is very important to establish values and model appropriate behaviour early in a child’s life.  The values should reflect those of the parent. i.e.: grace before meals, watch proper TV programs or listen to the night kind of music.  Parents need to express their values to the children without forcing it on them.  Do not dictate your values.  The values need to be communicated with gentleness verbally and role-modeling.  Consistency is the whole key to the parent’s role.  Then the children will grow to live and respect the values taught.


(Pastor Wesley Lim is the pastor of children ministry, TCCC)

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 April 2020 11:32

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