Parenting is the hardest job on the planet…especially when our kids misbehave. We have to walk that tightrope of Punishment vs. Discipline when our kids require a consequence for something they have done. We want them to experience the effect of their behavior but in a way that coaches and corrects them.
Punishment is intended to inflict a penalty for an offense. In other words, punishment creates a temporary break in the relationship so that retribution can occur. Punishment is an attempt to make someone suffer for their mistakes. Punishment says, “I will get you back for the harm you’ve caused me”.
Discipline, on the other hand, is the practice of training people to obey a code of behavior. It is intended to train for correction and maturity. Discipline doesn’t sever the relationship, but rather comes alongside someone and trains them to make better choices in the future. Discipline teaches someone to learn from their mistakes. Discipline says, “I will walk with you through the consequences of your actions and show you a better way to live”.
As parents, we have a great opportunity to show God’s love every time our children misbehave. By walking with our kids through their bad decisions, we are modeling what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. The Gospel is that Jesus bore the full weight of our punishment for sin on the cross and, as God’s children, we are no longer condemned for our sin. Instead of punishing us for our sins, God the Father poured out the full penalty for our sins on Jesus at the cross. Now, God disciplines us to mold us into the image of His Son by training us in righteousness using grace and love.
The next time our children misbehave, we need to parent them the way God parents us…by choosing discipline over punishment. We need to provide appropriate consequences and instruction to help them mature and grow. I wish I had this all figured out but I don’t. By God’s grace, I am learning and growing myself.