Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to his death.
This verse really brings out the difficulties of Bible translation! The Japanese renders it as, “Discipline your child while there is hope, but don’t arouse murderous feelings.” I’m not sure, reading that, whether it is talking about murderous feelings in the child or in the parent! However, it would certainly seem to be a caution against excessive or inappropriate discipline. That said, I like the Japanese picking up the idea that discipline needs to be timely. Just yesterday I was watching an interview with Mel Gibson, who has nine kids. His self-discipline has been spotty at times, and he essentially acknowledged that, but he said that he has found that you can go back and correct some of your mistakes in parenting. That was a very hopeful statement! No merely human parent is perfect. Both parents and children are at times painfully aware of that. Humility is called for, but we must also recognize that parents indeed have authority over their children, and not draw back from that. It is well recognized that a child’s relationship to their physical father has a huge impact on their relationship to God. If children aren’t raised to respect their parents, as it says even in the 10 Commandments, then they are scarred not merely for life but for eternity. That’s a pretty heavy responsibility! Parenting should drive us to seek God and His wisdom, but we must remember that God is a God of grace, and He can use even our mistakes for good in the long run. It’s easy to see, looking at society today, the damage that failure to discipline causes. It is certainly true that excessive discipline is damaging, but we see the lack of discipline far more often. We need to remember that proper discipline is an expression of love, and a child who doesn’t receive it won’t be assured of their parents’ love.
Of course, as a parent myself this is very close to home. Several years ago in a phone call, one of our daughters told us that becoming a parent herself had showed her that we had done our best with her, and she wanted to thank us. There were plenty of tears on all sides of that phone call! I regularly do pre-marital counseling for all the couples I marry, and I touch on parenting in that. I don’t do it from the standpoint of having all the answers, but from my experience at this point of over 51 years of being a parent, as well as of both academic study in psychology and many years of observing the people and families around me. And of course, all of that is on the foundation of the Bible and what it says about families, which is a lot! I am grateful for the parents I had, but more than that I am to be grateful and obedient toward my heavenly Father, accepting His training and discipline and seeking to be pleasing to Him.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I do ask Your mercy on mankind, as we so often make a mess of parenting. I ask You to reveal Your Father-nature to us all, so that we may be transformed into the children You desire and deserve, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!