Correcting Children (part 2) (part 1)
In terms of perceptions, discipline and correction are so similar the differences are barely discernible. Take a look at the definitions though.
Discipline [Strong’s #4148 – mûsār] is a Hebrew word meaning the wisdom and teaching involved in correcting errant behavior.
Correction [Strong’s #3198 – yākah] is a Hebrew word whose renderings open up a slightly different perspective: To reason together, to be vindicated, rebuke, discipline, punish, decide, argue, defend, judge, to be chastened, to lodge a complaint against.
Growing up I thought discipline was getting a spanking to correct my behavior… that is, to make me stop doing whatever “wrong” I got in trouble for. If I’m reading these definitions correctly, my child self had them flip-flopped. Correction carries the concept of punishment, among other things, and discipline is the wisdom and teaching that should go WITH the correction.
Let’s consider Jesus.
In the Luke 2 passage we find Mary and Joseph upset because what they expected about Jesus’ behavior didn’t quite work out. Instead of tagging along behind them he made his own choice to stay in the temple.
46 After three days they found Him [came upon Him] in the [m][court of the] temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
47 And all who heard Him were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at His intelligence and understanding and His replies.
48 And when they [Joseph and Mary] saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, Child, why have You treated us like this? Here Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You [distressed and tormented].
49 And He said to them, How is it that you had to look for Me? Did you not see and know that it is necessary [as a duty] for Me [n]to be in My Father’s house and [occupied] about My Father’s business?
50 But they did not comprehend what He was saying to them.
51 And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was [habitually] obedient to them; and his mother kept and closely and persistently guarded all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom (in broad and full understanding) and in stature and years, and in favor with God and man.
What Jesus was doing wasn’t “bad”. It was actually quite phenomenal. Everyone else was impressed. Mary and Joseph were… “amazed…distressed and tormented”.
As a parent I can understand that. Curve balls while parenting make parents just a little crazy.
It is interesting that Jesus had to point out to them that what he was doing was a good and natural thing. Apparently, Joseph was OK with that but Mary was not.
Take a look at Mary.
Even after Jesus returned willingly with them and was habitually obedient to them, his mother had to force herself to remember not only the temple event but that Jesus was an obedient child…always obedient (i.e. kept and closely and persistently guarded all these things in her heart).
Mothers are like that. It takes a lot out of us to worry and it is something we have all been cursed with. Only the LORD can obliterate the curse of sorrow and worry mothers live with. Once He does, we are enabled to trust God with our children and living of life becomes abundantly more peaceful.
Deciding about what, where, when and how to train up your child is both a learning process and a partnership. First, you must learn who God made your child to be… and keep reminding yourself of it just like Mary. Next you must always keep the goal in mind. God wants them to be the perfect them not the perfect you.
Mary’s first words, ” Child, why have You treated us like this?” are aimed at correction but incredibly self-focused and self elevating. Those driving forces will never bring about positive change in the child.
Again, the aim of discipline is to strengthen the child. Working with them instead of against them is the better way. Trying to train them to be other than who God has made them (even if you think it is “good” will always be troublesome … to one or all of you.
Back to Jesus.
He flip-flopped Mary’s attempt at correction calmly reasoning, “How is it that you had to look for Me? Did you not see and know that it is necessary [as a duty] for Me [n]to be in My Father’s house and [occupied] about My Father’s business?”
As a parent and a grandparent I’m not sure I would have responded well to that. Jesus’ active response to Joseph and Mary is exceptionally simple. He obeyed. All parents appreciate that.
Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered [3958- paschō:- to experience, suffer, endure (almost always in New Testament with reference to unpleasant experiences) ]. Is that suffering generated by discipline or correction? …Both or neither?
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. Hebrews 5:7-9 New International Version (NIV)
What I find Jesus always saying is that no miracle, indeed, no word, came out of him unless the One who sent him told him to say or do it. Suffering brought that about. It is really weird to think of Jesus being taught or learning through correction BUT he did.
The results were reverent submission, perfection [5048 – teleioō:- to perfect, complete, finish (pass.) to reach a goal, be fulfilled, completed, made perfect] and beneficial leadership. Isn’t that what we all want for our children?
Why else would we say things like, “Do what I tell you, and complete the task regardless of how you feel about it.” And by the way, attitude does count. You might not say that bit but that is a silent conversation in both directions that either hangs heavily in the air or is a refreshing breeze.
Children do not start out perfected, only with gifts ready to be perfected. Are your children artsy and or creative? That’s a God- gift. Are they athletic? That’s a God- gift. Are they social? That’s a God-gift. Are they nature lovers? That too is a God-gift. Embrace their God-gifts and make efforts at strengthening those areas of their lives. Children seldom reach their goals without encouragement and help along the way. Stack the odds in their favor.
None of us begin perfect, we grow into being complete within the context of community.
That may involve correction. It may involve unpleasant consequences or even punishments. Conversely, it may involve discipline which includes warnings as well as encouragement. It may even be fun for you and your child. (Correction fun?! Now there’s a new thought; build somebody up and see how much fun it can be.) The goal is to reach a glorious end….for everyone.
The wisdom taught that brings about proper realignment must be in agreement with reality. Children have been gifted by God with a “That’s total crap!” detector. They might articulate it differently but it’s there.
For example: All children everywhere know that the words – “It hurts me more than it hurts you.” – are false words. They don’t care about your emotional distress, nor should they. The child knows you are not feeling the pain you are inflicting; ergo you just lied. Worthless words are damaging.
Don’t talk worthlessly when sharing your wisdom and teachings. Use words during those events on purpose with specific goals in mind.
To quote Hebrews 12:11 again – colored for emphasis:
11 For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God]. Hebrews 12:11 Amplified Bible (AMP)
This double chain reaction catalyzed by discipline has a specific end game – right living and right standing. That is where our words become important; purposes, motivations, systems of thought and thinking skills, what our deeds say about us, etc. those then become the outline of sorts for those correction “conversations”…the discipline (wisdom and teaching) that counts as effective correction.
So what gets you into a position of favor (right standing) with God and man like Jesus was? It is possible. Check in again for “Correcting Children Part 3”.
Until then, may the LORD, Creator of all that is, bring your relationships with family into perfect alignment with His ultimate best for you. Amen