Biblical Principles of Loving Child Discipline


Gerry Benn



The Scriptures have much to say about discipline and the disciplined life. Our purpose is to present some biblical principles of discipline to guide parents in the successful rearing of their children for the glory of God.

God gives us a pattern of procedure and some definite guidelines. In Proverbs 22:6 we read "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Wrong Application

Parents claim the verse because they have a Christian home and attend church. They may even send their child to a Christian school. That is not enough! They put on an outward show of spirituality but they do not live Christ in the home. The child watches the lives of his parents. He sees inconsistencies and realizes that in many ways they are hypocrites. He tends to rebel against the things of God. because he has not seen the right example lived before him. A child's concept of his father is usually transferred to his concept and his relationship toward God.

Right Application

Parents are faithful in teaching and practicing the Christian life daily. It is not just do as I say but watch how I live. They are faithful at church and support the activities of the church. They send their child to a Christian school but do not expect the church and school to provide the total spiritual training. They have a plan for the spiritual instruction of their children in the home. This child has received constant instruction in his home. He has watched the lives of his parents, they have lived the Christian life before him. He tends to go in the direction that he has been guided toward.

Keep in mind that this verse does not teach that God makes provision for a person to be reared in a Christian home, then sow his wild oats and then return to right living. God expects the person who has been trained in the right way to continue in that same way and not depart from that right way.

I. Two Extremes in Discipline

A. Permissive Approach (Under-disciplining)

This is a psychological approach to discipline. The child is basically good and does not need too much control. If he is placed in the right environment and is allowed to do what he wants he will eventually do the right thing and turn out right.

We have had the opportunity to look at the results of a generation reared this way. The result has been rebellion. Why does a child if heft to himself follow a course of rebelliousness?

God tells us in His Word:

Proverbs 22:15 "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."

Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

God also told what would result if individuals turned from the teachings of the Word of God:

Rom. 1:30,31 ". . . disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful."

II Tim. 3:2 "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy." 

B. Authoritative Approach without Love (Over-disciplining)

This is an approach which excuses a parent for venting his anger and giving him an apparent biblical reason for doing it. There are many examples of child abuse today. The newspapers reported recently that child abuse is getting worse. In Atlanta child abuse is up 140% from last year.[1975]

One authority has stated, "The economic stress that out society is now going through is creating a real stress on the family. If you are under stress, you are more liable to strike a child or lose your cool than you would under a normal condition." This does not excuse a parent for abusing his child.

Parents tend to discipline:

1. According to their whims and feelings at that moment.
2. According to how they were disciplined.
3. Without a set pattern.

This authoritative approach which is usually practiced without love and in anger results in rebellion.

II. Biblical Approach to Discipline

God uses such terms as "train up a child," "provoke not your children to wrath," and "withhold not correction from the child." God has some definite ideas about rearing children. Upon investigation of God's Word we have arrived at some principles of discipline. The main thing that needs to be stressed is "have a definite plan for discipline."

Here is a plan that. we practice in our Christian Day School at. Independent Baptist Church and which many of us practice in our homes.

A. Establish Guilt

Never discipline until the child knows what he has done wrong. This principle is set forth in the Word of God. God informed Israel of their sin before He chastised them.

Get your child to admit his guilt, this establishes a relationship in his thinking between the wrong deed and the need for punishment. This also reinforces the fact that to do the wrong act again will bring correction.

This prevents you from disciplining the wrong child and from disciplining in a mood of anger.

B. Establish Authority

Let your child know why you as a parent or teacher must discipline.

Proverbs 29:15-17 tells us:

1. The rod and reproof give wisdom.
2. A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
3. Correct thy son and he shall give thee rest.
4. Correct thy son and he shall give delight to thy soul.

I tell my children when I discipline them that God tells me to correct them. If I don't do it then, God holds me responsible and he will deal with me as He dealt with Eli. (I Sam. 3:12,13)

C. Establish Love

Discipline is never to be done apart from a spirit of love. What we term child abuse would never occur if parents practiced discipline in love.

Proverbs 3:11,12 "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: for whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth."

I tell my children before I discipline them that I am doing this because I love them. They in turn have identified correction as an act of love on my part. I remember asking one of my sons how he knew I loved him, he replied, "because you spank me."

D. Exercise Discipline

Keep in mind the steps that have preceded discipline. Your temper has cooled and you are in control of yourself. This allows discipline to be done purposefully and deliberately yet not with malice and anger.

Some verses in Proverbs can guide us:

Prov. 13:24 "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."

Prov. 19:18 "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."

Prov. 22:15 "Foolishness is bound in the heart or a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."

Prov. 23:13 "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell."

The Bible indicates on every occasion that a neutral object is used in discipline. The hand should never be used, since the child will associate the correction with the hand. The parent should use the hand to express affection.

Discipline until the will is broken. The least amount of correction should be used––to over correct could cause the child to grow up feeling inferior and frustrated. Tears are not always an indication of a broken will––be sensitive to the spirit of your child. To keep your word and to discipline well the first time an offense occurs will mean less discipline. The child must learn that you mean what you say and say what you mean.

E. Encourage Fellowship

The act of disobedience brakes fellowship between the parent and the child. Now that discipline has been exercised and the child has paid for his disobedience you as a parent need to reestablish fellowship. There are several things that can be done:

1. Have prayer.
2. Tell your child you love him.
3. Provide comfort by giving him a hug or other expression. of affection.

A warning––do not give double punishment by sending him to his room. This could also indicate to him that you have rejected him. This could also be a time to encourage restitution if this is necessary.

F. Expect the Right Response

The way a child responds after discipline should indicate to you whether you have successfully exercised the discipline. If he has a bitter or rebellious spirit you know that you need to repeat the procedure again. If he has a spirit of repentance and sorrow toward his disobedience, then you have succeeded.

Another good sign is the affection shown on the part of the child toward you as a parent. He has a desire to reestablish fellowship. This is a beautiful picture of God!s relationship to us as believers.

III. Biblical Principles To Guide In Discipline

A. God commands parents to discipline their children. The Bible is full of examples of parents who failed to rear their children to the glory of God.

B. Ephesians 6:4 gives us some guidelines for right discipline.

1. To be spirit-filled is a requirement for correct discipline (Eph. 5;18).
2. Fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath. This is done by either over-disciplining or under-disciplining.
3. Parents tend to be either tyrants (they discipline in anger and not in love), or tenants (they tend to be permissive with no correction), or tutors (they discipline in love following scriptural guidelines).
4. This passage (Eph. 6:4) does not teach that the father is to do all the disciplining, but he is responsible for all that is done.
5. God's correct way for discipline is based on a beautiful balance between nurture (discipline) and admonition (instruction).

C. Some guidelines for success in discipline;

1. Lay down clear rules. - Susannah Wesley said that rules should be few.
2. Make only rules that you intend to keep and that are practical.
3. Enforce the rules rigidly.
4. Always keep your word.
5. Insist on prompt obedience.
6. Make the punishment greater than the pleasure of disobedience
7. Always tell them what the offense is.
8. Always be consistent in your discipline.

The GOAL of discipline is to establish a SELF-DISCIPLINED life.


Biblical Principles of Child Discipline. Gerry Benn. Church Handout. Independent Baptist Church. Red Bank, TN. 1975