I don’t think I ever would have admitted it to myself, but before I became a parent, I had the idea that nice parents have nice, easy children, and bad, lazy parents have stubborn, rebellious children. Of course, I thought I fell into the “nice” category; therefore, I figured my children would be easy to parent.
I wasn’t naive enough to believe that I didn’t need to discipline my children. I knew that all of us are naturally selfish and are inclined to sin. Plus, my parents disciplined me, and although I didn’t enjoy it, I know that it helped me and I’m thankful that they did.
Thus, when we started having our own children, I thought I was ready to discipline. But I was surprised to find how difficult it was to actually discipline righteously. I didn’t realize how strongly my emotions could affect things. I could discipline out of anger or embarrassment, but that wasn’t right. James 1:20 tells us, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” More often than not, I didn’t discipline enough. I got afraid of upsetting my child. I got afraid that he wouldn’t understand or would be emotionally scarred. I wanted a happy family, and it seemed like bringing discipline into the midst of it was only making things worse. There were more tears instead of fewer.
One passage of scripture that God used to speak to me was Proverbs 19:18: “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” The New Living Translation says, “Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.”
It is interesting that this verse cut directly against my emotions. Even though I believed in discipline in my mind, my emotions told me that discipline would destroy or hurt my child. But the Bible teaches the opposite. Not disciplining leads to destruction. In the long run, discipline will produce good fruit. It was counterintuitive.
To get back to the title of this post, having my own children has given me much more compassion for those parents with children crying on the airplane or screaming in the grocery store because that parent is now me. I was one of those people looking at the situation from the outside and thinking, “Those parents don’t know what they are doing. They need to follow better parenting principles and be stronger disciplinarians. ” What I’ve been learning is that discipline is not a quick fix but a continual process that will produce good fruit in my children’s lives in the long term. In the meantime, there is still plenty of crying in the grocery store.
To be continued.