The problem of discipline

Mar 17, 2021

When I mention the word 'discipline' what is your gut reaction as a parent?

If you are like me, you have a love/hate relationship with disciplining your children.

Growing up in a non-Christian family I was raised in a family that undoubtedly loved me but were very slow to pull me up if I had done something wrong. To save conflict wrong behaviour on my part would often go unaddressed. I think there were two reasons for this:

  • Love in my family was seen as non-confrontational

  • Peacekeeping was seen as more important than peacemaking

This dysfunctional habit in my family meant issues and problems were left unaddressed and the consequence was compounding problems. As a child I was obedient. As a teenager I was a rebel. My rebellious behaviour left unaddressed gained compounding interest and the effects were explosive in my life and in my family’s life.

This problem of non-confrontation is not a modern problem. In fact, we see it played out in King David’s parenting way back in the early days of Israelite history. The story goes like this.

King David is described in the Bible as ‘A man after God’s own heart’. He’s the guy folktales are made of. As a boy he defeated a giant with a slingshot and stone and chopped off his head. Called to serve the King Saul, David becomes renowned for his leadership prowess. His success has negative repercussions when King Saul becomes possessed by a spirit of jealousy

David becomes King, is a mighty warrior, a poet, a musician, a mighty leader and commits adultery in his peak of leadership. Clearly King David loved God and was brilliant, but was also a flawed human being. We see this playing out in his parenting.

King David loved his children, but when it came to confronting bad behaviour in their lives, he was left wanting. These unaddressed problems compounded. David’s son Amnon had a crush on his brother’s sister, Tamar. This appeared to be common knowledge, or at least was well known by Absalom. Amnon conspires to be alone with his sister Tamar and rapes her. King David hears about the rape and is furious but appears to leave it unaddressed.

Absalom, invites his sister Tamar to live with him. The rape has left her broken and in tatters, a shade of the women she once was. Absalom holds hatred and un-forgiveness in his heart towards his brother Amnon and decides that he will murder him when he gets the opportunity. King David is aware of Absalom’s hatred but leaves it unaddressed.

Years pass by until Absalom gets his wish and kills Amnon. King David is distraught and distressed. He grieves for his son. But the scripture makes no reference to David addressing the murder with Absalom. Again David chooses to ignore the issue, and ignore his son. The climax of the story comes when Absalom assumes his Dad’s Kingship and revolts against his Dad. The result of this revolt is Absalom’s death.

So what can we learn from this story?

  1. Addressing problems is important
  2. Knowing ourselves is imperative
  3. Unaddressed problems compound
  4. Address the heart

Addressing problems is important

Though addressing problems with our children can be awkward and difficult, as parents we need to do it. Depending on the age of our children the response will differ. We need to be aware of the developmental age of our kids so that we can address problems wisely and appropriately. We should also be acutely aware of the personalities and sensitivities of our children. Highly sensitively children will need a more sensitive approach to discipline, while strong-willed children may need a stronger approach. By knowing our children, we can wisely address problems that arise.


Knowing ourselves is imperative

What is your natural tendency as a parent? If your child does something wrong do you go in untamed like an ox, or do you retreat like a rabbit? If you know your natural inclination, then you can adjust your approach to benefit for your child. Remember the purpose of addressing a problem is to help your child grow, develop and mature into a healthy, happy, young person


Unaddressed problems compound

As we see from Kind David’s life, avoiding problems didn’t make them go away. Amnon’s and Absalom’s heart issues were left to grow like weeds and caused untold damage in their families and in their spheres of influence. If as parents’ we have a tendency to avoid conflict, we need God’s help to change us from the inside out. Conversely if we have a tendency toward harsh, overbearing discipline we likewise need God’s grace to change our hearts, so that we don’t cause more damage to our children. Which pendulum do you swing toward?

Address the heart

As human beings we can be drawn to fix the behaviour in our children, but here’s the thing: the behaviour is rooted in the heart. Absalom’s heart was left unaddressed and his behaviour compounded negatively. When we address behavioural problems in our children we must wisely address the issues of the heart, because if we don’t the problem will continue. As Christians we have an advantage, we have God’s wisdom accessed through prayer. Prayerfully consider how to address the heart issues in your children and you will see that the fruit of their behaviour will follow.

To conclude, we can see from King David’s life the importance of discipline. If discipline is avoided and heart issues are left to grow in our children’s hearts the consequences will affect our children, our family, and society. We owe it to our children to put them first and to have the difficult conversations with them, empowered by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. If we do this, we will bear good fruit in the lives of our children. Let’s pray:


Dear Lord Jesus,
We are flawed human beings and our children are likewise flawed. Please give us your grace and wisdom to address the hearts of our children when problems arise. Give us wisdom and power as we partner with you, so that our children grow up to be healthy and mature people. Amen


Childrens' Pastor

Being His Presence In Every Place