The primary duty of Christian parents is to take a natural-born fool and cause him or her to be filled with the wisdom of God. Perhaps this statement startles you, but let me explain what I mean by it. Unselfishness in parenting means that we must lay aside our self-interest and love of convenience in order to do what is in the long-term best interests of our children—we must discipline them toward respectful obedience. This discipline is not an option for parents who are committed to raising their children to follow the Lord and become responsible members of society. If we choose to neglect the correction of our children, it may reveal two painful realities concerning our own hearts as parents.
- We do not love our child, but rather we hate him or her. “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24). Neglect of discipline reveals that we love ourselves more than we love our children.
- We esteem ourselves more than we esteem our child. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others [“others” includes our children]” (Philippians 2:3–4). Faithfulness in the parenting task is one of the obvious ways in which we look out for the long- term interests of our children above our own.
What May Happen to Our Child if We Withhold Correction
- Our child may choose a sinful lifestyle or become settled into evil habits. “Discipline your son while there is hope” (Proverbs 19:18). The phrase “while there is hope” implies that if we wait too long, discipline becomes more difficult and we may lose our opportunity to mold our children’s characters and direct them to God.
- Our child may remain enslaved to foolishness. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
- Our child may grow up to despise us. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
- Our child may grow to be self-righteous and arrogant. “There is a kind of man who curses his father and does not bless his mother. There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, yet is not washed from his filthiness. There is a kind—oh how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised in arrogance” (Proverbs 30:11–13).
- Our child may suffer an early death or we may unintentionally steer him toward hell. “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol” (Proverbs 23:13–14).
Parents, let us take heed to these biblical warnings. Let us seek God’s help to discipline our children as Scripture directs. Let us love our children, but let us be careful not to worship them and, consequently, refuse to correct them when it is needed.
[This post is excerpted from a mini-book written by my wife and me, entitled HELP! My Toddler Rules the House.]