What does the Bible say about disciplining children?

The Bible provides two important principles for parents concerning the discipline of their children. First, parents are responsible for the discipline of their children. Second, Scripture offers some information regarding certain ways to discipline that can help.

The first area, parent responsibility for child discipline, is crucial. While teachers or other influencers can help in the discipline of children, the Bible is clear that child discipline is the parent's responsibility. Proverbs 19:18 teaches, "Discipline your son, for there is hope." In the New Testament, Ephesians 6:4 adds, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Discipline is how a parent helps teach a child right and wrong, preparing them for success in adult life.

Discipline is also a sign of love. Proverbs 13:24 states, "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." While many focus on the way discipline is given in this verse, the focus is on giving discipline. Though discipline is not enjoyable at the time for the parent or the child (Hebrews 12:11), it is an important part of helping nurture a child to know right from wrong (Revelation 3:19).

The result of appropriate disciplining is found in Proverbs 29:17: "Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart." A well-trained child who knows how to live a life of integrity brings joy to parents.

The result of appropriate discipline will be a child who later respects his or her parents. As Hebrews 12:9 shares, "Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?" Proverbs 12:1 adds, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." Proverbs 13:1 shares, "A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke."

Second, Scripture discusses ways to discipline a child. Proverbs 13:24 speaks of using a rod, an issue that has caused great concern to many people today. However, the principle has nothing to do with child abuse. Instead, the use of a stick that was used for spanking offered an immediate, clear form of punishment that helped children know right from wrong. If applied appropriately, this will not physically harm or "exasperate" children (Ephesians 6:4, NIV) but instead offer clear boundaries for child behavior.

That said, this does not mean a parent must spank a child or that other forms of punishment cannot also be used. Each family must determine the best way to discipline their own children in ways that show love and nurture the development of children toward appropriate behavior. Christian parents are called to be responsible for the discipline of their children and to use appropriate, caring methods to help children grow into young men and women of integrity.

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