As we read through the Proverbs, it’s important to remember that these sayings aren’t promises. God is not necessarily bound to these things, but they are truisms, things that typically come true. I really hope today’s verse comes true. It’s a good one.
Our verse for today is Proverbs 29:17. It says, “Discipline your son and he will give you rest; he will give the light to your heart.” I hope this is true for both my son and my daughter. Let’s talk about how to apply it the right way.
When most people think of discipline, they tend to only think of one aspect of discipline: correction. But I think discipline has at least two different elements to it: correction and instruction. Discipline is not just about getting kids back for their wrongs. Sometimes we expect our kids to know things that we know, but we haven’t yet trained them to know these things. We need to learn to be patient with them and to instruct them as we correct their behavior. These are the teachable moments of which we should take advantage.
My wife and I are trying many different techniques as we’re raising our kids. My son is about to turn 3, and sometimes it’s so frustrating to discipline him. It takes a lot of energy, and sometimes I’m just worn out and I don’t want to do it. But it’s worth it in the end, and I can already see some of the benefits and the fruit of our labor. For example, in our house we’ve been working on the idea that when my kids don’t get something they want, it’s okay for them to be disappointed and sad, but it’s not okay for them to blow up in anger. It’s been great to see them often times, when they hear me say no, to respond back with, “Okay.” These moments remind me that we need to be diligent in disciplining our children well because 1) God commands us to, 2) it’s good for them, and 3) it’s good for us.
So it’s hard work, but it’s worth it. The other night my son woke up in the middle of the night and started yelling, “I need to go pee!” So we got up, I took him to the bathroom, and when we got there, he started telling me he hadn’t been calling for me, but that he wanted my wife instead. My first thought was, “I don’t want to be up either, boy! I want to be in bed, but Mama didn’t get up!” But instead I patiently chose to say, “Well, when you need help, you get help from whoever is available to help you.” And I got him to get up and use the bathroom, and as I picked him up to carry him back to his bed, he hugged me and said, “I love you.” A minute ago he didn’t want me, but being faithful in discipline that includes instruction pays off.
It’s important, as parents, to know both aspects of discipline. It’s important to have ideas both for how to correct and for how to instruct, so our children grow. I did a series called “Consequences that Work,” and in that series I talk about how consequences that work well need to be explained and they need to be customized. Children need to know what consequences to expect before they get themselves into situations. That way, when our kids make a bad choice, the responsibility is on them. They knew what would happen, so they can’t be mad at anyone but themselves, and it teaches them responsibility for their own actions. And in doing this, we don’t have to lose any unnecessary sleep over it. They knew the consequences, and it was their choice to earn the consequence, not ours to put it on them. And that gives us rest.
Let’s read our verse one more time: “Discipline your son and he will give you rest; he will give the light to your heart,” Proverbs 29:17.
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