Children are self-centered little monsters who will either bend you to their will or, failing that, scream their heads off in revenge for their failure to make you their slaves. Or so says Augustine in his Confessions. Sam Crabtree would agree, and to help parents who are ready to pull their hair out he has written his short book Parenting with Loving Correction.
Like all of Gaul, this book is divided into three parts. [I assume that joke–well, “joke”–is primarily for the homeschoolers, given the state of modern American education.] The first part explains “What’s at Stake” when it comes to discipline. The second part outlines the “Essentials of Corrective Discipline;” and the third talks about how to get “practical.”
Throughout, Crabtree is clear that discipline is something we do for the good of our children, and for the purposes of raising decent human beings, even as it does not save their souls. Only Christ can save the souls of our children, but in using Godly discipline we can clear the ground for them to hear the Gospel while helping them learn how to restrain their selfish impulses.
Crabtree argues that discipline should be regular, strict, and focused on instructing our children in the right way to live. Specifically, he argues that
“Corrective discipline means: 1) Identifying actions or attitudes of your child that are unacceptable when weighed against clear and explicit standards–then 2) acting promptly and decisively to move your child in the direction of compliance with those standards.” (46)
This doesn’t mean that the parent is always right, or that we always instantly discipline our children at the drop of a hat. There of course must be room for compassion and listening to the child’s version of events. After all, not every action is intentional disobedience, even if that is what it appears is happening in the moment. And when we make mistakes, we are to repent to our children, confess our mistake, and ask for their forgiveness.
Still, in general our pattern must be one of consistently disciplining disobedience, rewarding obedience, and holding ourselves and our children to the standard laid out in Scripture. Love ought to govern our corrective actions with the goal of blessing our children with the gift of being decent human beings when they are grown and, Lord willing, believers in Christ.
I am happy to recommend this quick read on discipline.
Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO