Parent is a verb.

A message in our series How You Always Meant to Parent. We are becoming the parents we always intended to be!
Find the rest of the messages in this series here.

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Because discipline is the toughest aspect, it’s often not talked about. It’s a subject that is often not broached, but God’s Word does not shy away from subject just because they are difficult or might be divisive. God’s word has a lot to say about discipline, and before some of you write me off because you assume you know where I’m headed, please hear me. We come to God’s Word for wisdom in all areas of life because we literally believe this is the Word of God.

This is ancient truth that has been studied and applied in the lives of individuals, relationships, and families for millennia and it has proved to be extremely beneficial. The weight and authority of God’s Word is well established,  but also from a merely pragmatic perspective, it works.

If you find yourself disagreeing with what God’s Word says about discipline and raising children, I’d invite you to challenge your firmly held philosophy on discipline, ask yourself where it came from, what is it’s source?

I saw a graphic with a quote just a couple weeks ago that said flatly, strict parent teach their kids to lie because the child learns to avoid getting in trouble. That might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard on parenting. There was no citation, no study listed, underpinning argument…

The truth is that most of us spend our lives mimicking the culture, doing what is culturally normal, what is culturally expected, what is commonly accepted… I don’t think I need to build much of a case to show you that culture is not headed in a direction that we wish for our children to go….

Let me also say in introduction, I’m no expert. I’m a fellow parent in the trenches right next to you. The reason that I’m before you speaking this morning is not because I have raised perfect little angles. My children are 7 and 4, so I am very much in the thick of it.

So, I’m no expert , but I’m committed to studying the truth of God’s Word, and my commitment to ancient truth and my desire to lead us toward a future where we hand this church off to a new generation of capable, passionate, and well equipped leaders…

My desire to lead us to be good stewards of the amazing blessing God has given us here at Faith Church…

(You do understand it’s not normal to have so many kids at a church)

I have worked hard to set myself up as a good guide- not an expert. A guide walks along with you on a journey. That’s what I am.

I still regularly find myself perplexed by the challenges of parenting, so please know that I’m not unacquainted with the struggle you find yourself in…

How You Always Meant TO PARENT.

The end of that phrase makes it clear that “Parent” is not just a noun, it’s a verb.

Parent is a verb.

“Parent” is often used a noun or a title, but it’s also a verb.

Our society most often thinks of “parent” as a title for a person you has custody of a child, but the original meaning of the word parent was the active verb meaning to bring up, to rear, to foster (see to the development of), or raise.

I’m afraid that we’ve lost sight of the fact that

Parent is not just what you are, Parent is what you do.

It’s an active verb.

Let me give you a hypothetical situation that I think will help demonstrate what I mean by active parenting.

You go to the playground with your kids and there’s another group already there. It’s an adult and a few kids. It seems that the adult is the parent of the children, however, while the adult remains close to the children while they play, repositioning to be near the kids on whichever portion of the playground equipment they are on, the adult never does anything but watch.

One of the children picks up mulch from the playground and begins to dump it upon other children.

Another one of the kids, a sibling perhaps, cuts your kids off to go down the slide, never waiting in line.

Meanwhile, the adult who is watching closely, still hovering, never intervenes.

This adult may have custody of these kids and be legally responsible for them, but they are no parent anymore than a guy sitting at home on the couch watching the Super Bowl while eating chip and dip is a quarterback.

Parent is a not a status. Parent is an occupation.

Parent is not a role. Parent is a responsibility.

The truth is that while most people recognize that they are responsible for their kids, in a situation like the one at the park, they don’t know what to do.

So instead of intervening, they laugh nervously.

“Oh, Jimmy. Don’t do that.” The adult might say sheepishly and then look over at you and say, “I don’t know why he’s acting that way.”

I’ve had parents say that to me before, and it’s all that I can do to keep from saying, “I’m pretty sure I know why!”

What typically happens in a situation like the one in the park is that the parent will become embarrassed, leading to frustration, leading to anger, and then lash out at their child over something small… which, by the way is counterproductive because the child is no psychologist and can not intuit that what the parent is really upset about is the constant disobedience from the past day and a half…

It’s for this reason that Proverbs says what it does about discipline. Now some of you might assume that I’ve had you turn to the passage that says “Spare the rod spoil the child” and your wrong, because spare the rod spoil the child does not appear in scripture. However, I have had you turn to the passage that is likely the main inspiration for that quote.

Proverbs 13:24

He that spareth his rod hateth his son:

but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Parent is not who you are, parent is what you do and

Discipline is what loving parents do.

I know for some of you, that statement is tough- because what you are hearing is that “you don’t love your kids if you don’t beat them”

Discipline is more than punishment.

I want you to notice that the end of the proverb does not say, but he that loves his child whips him often or even punishes him regularly.

Rather it says, chastens him betimes.

NASB: But he who loves him [fn]disciplines him diligently.

NLT: Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

The idea of chastise is “correct or instruct them” and the idea of betimes is earnestly or persistently.

The proverb says, those who refuse to intervene in their child’s behavior don’t truly care about their kids, but those who do love their kids correct and instruct them early, often, and with purpose.

So discipline is more than punishment, it is directing the child onto the right path. It is getting them headed in the right direction.

This takes constant and diligent work.

How constant and diligent? As constant and diligent as driving a car…

My friend Daniel Webster and I once pulled a prank on some people we were riding in the car with. I was sitting behind him and the care was full of people.

I reached up and said, let me be your eyes, Daniel and I covered his eyes with my hands and proceeded to give him instructions.

Everyone in car was terrified because a moment of blindness while driving a car down the highway is dangerous.

What they couldn’t see from their seat is that I was gapping my fingers so that he could see just fine.

To be honest, I often feel like a passenger in that car who is not in on the prank, because I feel like there are parents all around me who are behind the wheel of a valuable and dangerous automobile and they’re not paying attention.

Discipline is more than punishment, but it’s not less than punishment.

Discipline is more than punishment,

but it often requires punishment.

Young children need to be taught boundaries of what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Young children need to be taught their place in the hierarchy of family and society.

If young children are taught these boundaries and roles, they will be served well when they are older and are able to reason, discuss, and rationalize.

Here’s the problem, kids need to learn these boundaries and roles long before they are able to have a logical conversation.

Have you ever tried to reason with a 2 year old?

Sure you have. I’ve watched you. It happens all the time.

It’s rarely successful.

2 year olds do not understand reason,

but they do understand action.

If you act to show them what is permissible and what isn’t, you will help them learn boundaries and their place.

By the way, they want to know this. The reason they act as they do is because they are trying to determine where the boundaries are, what is allowed, where they stand in the pecking order, and who’s in charge.

Because of our broken sin nature,

All of us are born thinking the world is all about us and that we should have whatever we want.

We struggle with this tendency all of our lives.

Unfortunately, because of the inaction of their parents, many toddlers have come to fully believe that they are indeed charge and nothing is off limits. That the law of the land is merely whatever they want… They demonstrate their belief that they are dictator of the world by refusing to go to bed, refusing to eat what they don’t like, demanding anything that they see that they may want, and so on…

They are absolutely confused when they enter into another adults care who doesn’t not submit to their demands, but its amazing how quickly they learn.

Discipline often requires punishment,

but never requires rage or abuse.

It’s interesting to me that the proverb so wisely places this instruction in the context of love. The proverb is guiding us toward loving discipline, which may require punishment, not retaliation or anger.

Here’s what happens to a parent to who doesn’t discipline, much less punish. They become frustrated with the child. Because the child has come to believe, based upon the submission of the adult, that the child is in charge, they become a tyrant. They break things, refuse to sleep, making it impossible for the adults to sleep.

The adults are run ragged like slaves, and they snap and they punish in anger.

The punishment is not motivated by love, it’s motivated by frustration or even rage.

Constructive punishment is motivated by love,

abuse is motivated by anger.

I like what Psychologist Jordan Peterson calls Minimum Effective Force. I’d recommend you use the minimum amount of punishment that will be effective. DO what is necessary to bring about a change in behavior in the child. Nothing more, nothing less.

Every child is different. Some children need only a stern look, others need a spanking, others need to lose privileges, but all children need parenting, active parenting.

All children need discipline.

Let me share with you the kind of discipline that I experienced when I was a kid.

My dad made this paddle. (Paddle Picture)

It was an extremely effective tool of discipline.

My dad was proud of it. He actually ended up making several of these for family friends. My dad was not super popular with my friends and cousins because he was the guy that had made their parents a paddle.

When I asked my dad to send me a photo of the paddle, he said oh man some of your people are going to think poorly of me.

I have many memories of this paddle. I never remember once being spanked in anger. I never remember my dad punishing me in a rage. Anytime that paddle was used, we first had a conversation about what I had done, why it wasn’t acceptable, and why I needed to be punished.

(btw, the first photo my dad sent me of the paddle was this one [second paddle picture] with a picture of me and my brother because he’d thought it would be funny for me to have to show you that…)

While scripture directs us to punish our children, scripture also makes it clear where our motivations are to be, and what our goal is…

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4

Literally, do not exasperate your children…

Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

Colossians 3:21

You see, to discipline well, you must have control of your own emotions. Your discipline must not be an emotional reaction, but rather an intentional, loving act.

University of Washington researchers Carol Hooven & John Gottman found that couples who were he most emotionally competent in their marriage were also most emotionally competent in their parenting. 

They had the child play a video game. 

They weren’t interested in how well the child did in the game, but rather how exasperated the parents got when the child failed at the difficult maneuvers of the game. 

Parents who remained calm and patient and helped the child stay calm. Parents who reacted emotionally provoked emotions in their children.

Though I’ve separated punishment from abuse, I’m sure many of you are struggling to wrap your mind around loving punishment, so let me close with 3 reasons punishment is loving:

  1. Children with firm parents have less fear.

Studies have shown that firm parents raise children who have less anxiety. When a child views his or herself as the dictator of the household, they are able to demand what they want, but they also know that their parents are pushovers- that their parents are able to be pushed around by a child, doesn’t give them much confidence that they won’t be pushed around in life.

If you raise your child afraid of hurting their feelings, you’ll raise them with weak emotional stability. You’ll raise them with no ability to respond to the difficulty of life, when a coworker or classmate disagrees with them, it will be devastating…

  1. Children with firm parents have more friends.

The researchers found that parents who are able to control their emotions raise children who are able to get better along with their parents, and also better able to get along with others

These children are seen by teachers as more socially skilled, have fewer behavioral problems, are more effective learners, had better achievement scores, and were even more likely to make friends among their peers in school. 

If a child does whatever they want, if they are the child who dumps mulch on other kids because their parents never correct them, they will be lonely. That socially unacceptable behavior will not be rewarded with friendship, it will be responded to by distance.

If your child is a mini-terrorist, they are less likely to be invited.

If I take my kids to the park and your child pours mulch on them, and you just laugh it off, I will not allow my children to play with your child unsupervised, that means even if you are there, because you don’t supervise…

Often parents will say, none of the kids are friendly to my child, that may be because the other children are mean and cruel, or might be because your child is quite difficult to get along with.

  1. Children with firm parents are predisposed to believe in a loving and righteous God.

We believe in a God who is both loving and firm.

For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Proverbs 3:12

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Hebrews 12:6

Conclusion

The cross, the greatest punishment of all time, is the ultimate expression of God’s love AND God’s righteousness.