PART 2: Does the Gospel change the way I parent? How should it?

Last Wednesday, we posted way 1 of 3 as to how the gospel should define and determine and shape the way we parent. In order to catch the intro, as well as read a short yet inadequate summary of the gospel, you can read last week’s post by clicking here. Meanwhile, here’s reason # 2.

The second way the gospel should change our parenting relates to WHY WE DISCIPLINE. To be blunt, most parents don’t even process WHY they do discipline or do not discipline. It is normally a default reason for parents who do – to correct a behavior. For those who don’t discipline, that thinking can be considered in another blog post. Anyway, to correct a behavior is not a gospel-influenced motivation for discipline, since the notion that a behavior can be corrected is not a gospel-centered thought.

“…for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died for nothing.”
-Galatians 2:21

SIDE NOTE: know before you read on that I am NOT advocating that anyone quit disciplining their children. Not at all. Jen and I do. But we are praying that Jesus will continue to wreck the default reason for discipline and reshape our motivation to be His. 

“…for the Lord disciplines the one He loves.”
-Hebrews 12:6

So, what should our motivation be? I would suggest:

  1. in order to demonstrate how destructive and hurtful selfishness (sinfulness) is. 
  2. in order to confront selfishness and have a moment for a prayer of confession and a recognition of forgiveness.
  3. in order to graciously restore relationship among those hurt by the selfish act. 

A behavioral choice that requires discipline also requires more than behavioral modification. It requires an exposure to the need for the help of a Savior who can save us from the destructive consequences of our selfishness. And that is a gospel-centered thought that leads to what I would suggest may be God’s favorite prayer that we pray – HELP. 

Discipline in a parental context is to most people synonymous with a spanking or a grounding. While those two forms of consequences may be used, “discipline” is not about a consequence as much as it is about learning. The word itself is a derivative of “disciple,” which means “learner.” So, discipline is more about a moment for learning to occur. Once again, however, it is not learning a new behavior, but rather learning Whom someone needs to call on for help because we cannot help ourselves and change what is causing us to behave in such a selfish way. 

Parents who discipline for behavioral correction will get just that – corrected behavior for a temporary modification without a contrite heart that is gratefully forgiven. Kids who are disciplined only for behavioral correction unfortunately too often do not learn the significance of repentance and confession and contriteness and gratefulness. They often end up treasuring being seen as “good” or struggle being seen as “bad.” This does not highlight the goodness of the God who came near to help us in our badness. Furthermore, the ultimate product of behavioral correction is a focus on more behavioral correction, in other words, a response to sin that involves trying harder resulting in shameful weariness rather than a response to sin that involves humble confession resulting in grateful restoration. 

Remember – we want to send our kids off to college one day knowing Who is good rather than thinking of themselves as good, knowing Who loves them no matter what rather than wondering if they are good enough to be loved. 


May we discipline for kids who are growing in grace and being sent with gospel. 

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