“There, I told them that was the last time! I finally got fed up and did something about their disrespect and disobedience. Maybe this will change their attitude. Yes, I was angry, but something needed to be done!”
Mom might feel good for the moment, but she has actually made things worse. Human anger and biblical discipline do not mix. Your anger will not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:20) God did not give you your children so that you could teach them to follow your desires and wishes. When you make parenting about your rules, even if they are helpful, then, in your child’s mind, God exists to serve you, to support your agenda. When this role reversal occurs, even if unintentional, you attempt to make God subordinate to your will. This will produce anger and frustration, first in you and then in your children.
Your anger is an indication that your desires have become the most important thing. God has not called you to implement your agenda, but his. When children sin, that sin is primarily against God. God has placed children in your home so that they would be confronted and disciplined in a way that leads them to the gospel. In this light, being able to recognize your children’s sin is a great blessing. Yes, you read correctly—a great blessing.
If you view your children’s sin primarily as a failure to obey you, then their behavior becomes an interruption, an irritation, a continuing exercise in frustration. You will be given to anger and miss opportunities to display the beauty of the gospel. Reality is that your children’s sin is primarily against God!
When addressing sin in your children, the theme of gospel grace must not be excluded! If all you are doing in discipline is correcting behavior, then the core component of biblical discipline, the gospel, will be missing. The gospel is not necessary if your aim is only to have a child who will obey quickly and have a clean room. However, the gospel is essential if you are to lead your children towards Christ and to find redemption for their rebellious hearts.
A discipline that is based on the gospel is motivated by love for God and not by irritation at bad behavior. Gospel-based discipline is implemented by a combination of pleasant words (Proverbs 16:20-24) and loving discipline. Harsh, stern words, hurt feelings, isolation, and frustration will provoke you and your children to anger.
Your children’s disobedience is not a reason for human anger. Their sin is a call to you to bring the power of the gospel to your kids. Their sin is a call for grace. Yes, you must discipline and train them. But your discipline must not flow from anger but from a love for God that calls your children to the grace and wonder of following God’s commands.
Anger and discipline are a toxic mix. But the combination of the grace of the gospel and consistent, loving discipline that honors God is a fountain of life for your children.
This post originally appeared on Shepherd Press and was republished with permission.
Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, and he is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is a ruling elder at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.