Biblical parenting is proactive, not reactive.

Posted on · Posted in Parenting

Hebrews 12:11 has important implications for parental discipline. Here is the passage:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant,        

but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness                                  

to those who have been trained by it.

There are three important parts to this verse.

First, discipline is painful rather than pleasant. Discipline is meant to highlight the unpleasantness of sin.  A child ought to be motivated to avoid this discipline. But, even when discipline is preventative, there is still a painful element needed for the discipline to be effective. Think of how hard a successful gymnastic must work to win the prize. This kind of training is demanding and often painful! It is important that parents use pleasant, even words in discipline, because it is pleasant words, and not anger, that promotes instruction (Proverbs 16:20-24).

Second, the fruit of discipline is not always seen immediately. As the second part of this verse indicates, it is later on that the fruit of righteousness is yielded. This is where the parents’ faith comes into play. As with any faith-based action, the assurance comes from things that are not seen (Hebrews 11:1). So, there may not be immediate confirmation that the discipline “worked.” Parents should not discipline simply to manipulate kids into better immediate behavior. Christian parents are to discipline in faith, out of love for God, as God has directed.

Third, the peaceful fruit of righteousness comes to those who have been trained by it. The word for training here is the word used for gymnastics training. Thus, the training is detailed and rigorous. This concept removes the element of retribution from discipline. Biblical discipline is not aimed at achieving retribution for sin, but at pointing children to Christ and their need of him. Children need the transforming power of Christ. 

Proactive, biblical discipline leads to much more than better behavior. It leads to a better understanding of what brings honor to God in a child’s life.  

Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
    but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

Proverbs 15:32

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.