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Discipline vs. Punishment

One of my greatest fears as a young father was not getting it right! There was no manual for how to be a great dad. After raising three of my own, another I call my own, and spending a lot of time helping to raise ten foster children, I have had a lot of time to try to “get it right.” Thank God for His help, guidance and inspiration as an amazing heavenly Father! One of the toughest jobs dads and moms have, is the difficult task and responsibility of discipline.

This past Sunday at Watermark, we spent some time talking about discipline - what it is and, what it isn’t. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking about discipline and punishment synonymously; but they aren’t. It is really important to distinguish between the two.

Chip Ingram and Focus on the Family helped me develop my thinking on the two:

What’s wrong with punishment?

  • Punishment produces some very negative characteristics in your children.

  • Punishment is focused on the past, so children feel helpless.

  • Punishment doesn't give them a means to right their wrongs.

What’s right with discipline?

  • Discipline is future-focused, always pointing toward future acts.

  • Discipline is training for correction and maturity.

  • Discipline is motivated by the welfare of the child, whereas punishment is to inflict a penalty/pain for an offense.

  • Discipline is always about the child's best interests, not the parent's anger. To be clear, it is never out of control. It does not cause physical injury in any way.

So what message are you sending your children about discipline and punishment? Did you know that the word discipline comes from the root word disciple? Jesus called us, in His Great Commission, to “make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19). Making disciples is a responsibility of all Christ-Followers and it starts in our very own homes! Discipline is a key tool that God has given us for making disciples. In fact, God disciplines you and me throughout our lives to conform us into the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29).

No doubt, appropriate, Godly discipline pays off! 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11


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