4 Truths to Lean on When Discipline Seems to Fail

If you’re like me, thoughts like “didn’t that sink in? Are we getting anywhere? Don’t you know that that’s wrong by now? Good grief!” command the attention of your brain directly after another seemingly failed attempt at disciplinary action. Any other exasperated parents out there?

I try, and try, and try again. It just seems like, more often than not, I’m not getting anywhere with my child. I feel so defeated. And trust me, I am so tempted to give up. Thankfully, I know where to find some encouragement. If you’re desperate like me, here are some solid biblical truths to lean on when you feel like discipline has completely failed.

4 truths

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6).

As a mom, I’ve been leaning on the Proverbs more than at any other point in my life, and this verse from the books of wise saying gave me some comfort the other day. The key words here are when he is old. Train a child – yes, I am doing that (or at least, attempting to). How many time-outs and lectures will it take before the lesson starts to sink in? A billion? That’s what it feels like, anyway. But Proverbs assures us that repetition and training yield results when our children are older. So, yes, it may – rather – it will, take a billion or so instances for the lesson to sink in and for our children to truly understand the gravity of the circumstance for which they were being disciplined. It will take unending work. But it’s the most important work we parents will ever do!

The next time I’m two milliseconds away from throwing in the towel or letting my anger get the best of me, I’ll try and remember to calm myself and think on Proverbs 22:6. Training children takes time.

“Honor your father and your mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3)

The fourth commandment is special. As Ephesians points out, this God-given instruction was the first one to have a promise attached to it: obey and love your parents and you will be blessed with long life. Basically, God is letting us know how important it is to honor our parents. When we do our best to follow their instruction and live according to their boundaries, we will keep ourselves safe and healthy. Isn’t that what every parent wants for their children? Of course it is!

God is reminding us to obey our parents, because they know what is best for us. And in a way, he might be reminding us to keep honoring and obeying him, too. God definitely knows what’s best for us. When we follow God’s will for our lives, or our parents’ will, we will be much more likely to keep our bodies – and souls – safe in God’s care.

So, how can this commandment encourage the exasperated parent who feels like their child does not honor as they should? Simply this: know that by enduring the administering of what feels like unending discipline, you are keeping your child safe and are doing the absolute best thing for your child. Even when it feels like you’re getting nowhere, you are still being faithful to God and to your child. Don’t give up! God has given special significance to the job of disciplining children. When you just don’t know what to do, take a moment to pray and ask for God’s help. He will certainly hear you and guide you. By disciplining again and again, you are being the best parent for your child.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). 

Amen? I mean, seriously, it doesn’t get more straight-to-the-point than this. Guys, our kids our sinful, too, just as we are. They are not perfect, and never will be. With that in mind, we can all muster up a little more compassion and understanding each time we enter the discipline ring.

Now, just because we can remind ourselves that our kids aren’t as perfect as we are (just kidding) doesn’t mean we can ease up on our discipline or even quit altogether. On the contrary, this little but powerful piece of truth can help us persevere and work hard, because it reminds us that our children desperately need correction, just as we do. This little but powerful verse also comes with a big promise: that we all need Jesus, and that he is there for us. He rescues us from our failings and gives us perfection in him, instead!

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

I’m starting to lose track of the number of times I think to myself something like “I hope my kids don’t remember that.” Because let’s face it: grueling bouts of discipline can bring out the worst in us parents, too. It’s so easy to let anger dominate the situation. I have felt the red-hot prickle of guilt way more often than I care to admit.

Thankfully, mercifully, God offers forgiveness to the defeated, exasperated, shame-ridden parent. It’s in our embarrassingly raw and guilty state that Jesus bursts through and renews our hearts, souls, and minds. When we are sorry, Jesus forgives. Not only that, but we are purified! A clean start? Yes, please! Thanks be to God.

4 Truths to Remind Yourself during those Desperate Moments

  • Rebuke. Correct. Repeat. Discipline takes consistency, and time. Keep up the good work, and when your children are older, they’ll know better. (Proverbs 22:6).
  • We discipline to keep our children safe and healthy. God encourages us to keep at it! Those who honor their father and mother will enjoy long (safe and happy) life on the earth. (Fourth Commandment – Ephesians 6:2-3)
  • Our children are sinful. Just like us, they’ll mess up again and again. Have compassion, but don’t give up. Jesus came for us all! (Romans 3:23)
  • Confess, and be cleansed. Start again from a clean slate! Jesus forgives. (1 John 1:9)

Keep up the great work, mom and dad!


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