Parenting: on Discipline

Unless children are trained to recognize duty as more binding than inclination, they will suffer all their lives through from their lack of discipline in this direction.
-H. Clay Trumbull

Discipline Parenting

So far in this study on parenting, that is in the last two posts, I have done my best to unpack the largest premise in Mr. Trumbull’s book, which is this:

  • the training of a child’s will is a good way to bring them up.
  • Will training rather than will breaking, I have come to believe works along with the way God designed us. That is each with free will that no one will do well to take. And so this means always letting the choice of the matter remain with the child as to train their will to do what they should and not what they want.
  • I have come to believe that this matter of control over themselves is of the utmost importance to a child and all people. In Matthew 5:5 Jesus says “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Meekness is power under control.
  • The idea that power not under control leads to inheriting nothing is an important thing to consider. If we want to have things we need to stay under control. If we want to have a good reputation, wisdom, understanding, wealth or any measure of a thing desired we can not just do whatever we have the power to do. But we need come under control and do what is required. Do what we ought to do.

Discipline is Mr. Trumbull’s next topic. Discipline to the end of self control. This idea that discipline begets self discipline. President Porter of Yale said, “The chief advantage of the college curriculum is, that it trains a young man to do what he ought to do, when he ought to do it, whether he wants to do it or not.” Mr. Trumbull suggests that any course of training for a young person that does not accomplish this is a failure. Mr. Trumbull goes on to say, “Hardly anything can be more important in the mental training of a child than the bringing him to do what he ought to do, and to do it in its proper time, whether he enjoys doing it or not. The measure of a child’s ability to do this becomes, in the long run, the measure of his practical efficiency in whatever sphere of life he labors.”

So what is discipline then and how is a parent to go about it? A modern view of discipline can be found referred to as punishment. Here I am endeavoring to return to a Biblical understanding discipline, its place, purpose and how we are to go about it as parents.

Depending on the translation ‘discipline’ can be found as little as once and in other versions as many as eighty times in the Bible. Most of the occurrences deal with some sort of parental relationship. God to His children and men to their children, etc.  These relationships are different of course but much the same. Thank God for providing us thee example to when considering our steps.

Discipline begins with instruction

The word discipline appears only once in the King James Version. In Job 36:10 which reads: “He openeth also their ear to discipline, And commandeth that they return from iniquity.” It doesn’t read ‘he openeth also their backside’. The Bible tells us discipline starts with words. God’s word; also referred to as God’s law, precepts, commandments, statues, etc. These are instructions and warnings, meant to show us and guide us back in line with the creation. In Deuteronomy 4:36 we see that His word is instruction. “Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.”  2 Timothy 3:16 also reinforces this truth; “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

From this we get a much different understanding of the word discipline than that of today. In fact, in ‘A Dictionary of the English Language’ discipline is defined as the following: “1. Punishment. 2. [obsolete] instruction.”  Disappointing isn’t it?, our modern definition has proclaimed the Biblical definition of discipline obsolete.

In the Hebrew hă mȗ sār, our discipline, is found 51 times in the Hebrew Bible. 31 of those times it is translated instruction; 8 of those times it is translated correction; 7 of those times it is translated chastise.

Discipline’s foundation is leading by example

The word discipline itself comes from a Latin word meaning ‘instruction’ or ‘training’. As Christians we see this word in the core of what it means to be a Christian. To be a disciple of Christ. Christ patterned this for us in the gospels as He discipled the 12 apostles and it is clear in the great commission (Matthew 28:18-19) that at the center of discipline is teaching or instruction. When we look at how Christ taught his disciples it was first leading by example. One of the most incredible blessings we have is Christ’s example for us all to follow. One who learns by following is called a disciple. Interesting.

Discipline calls for physical punishment

Jesus Christ gives us the perfect example of how a man on earth should discipline those he leads. While the majority of the time Christ lead by example and served those He lead. He did rebuke and also physically discipline when needed. An interesting fact though is the proportion in these situations. While Christ was in a constant mode of discipleship, only once do we see physical discipline. Matthew 21:12-14: “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Notice how Jesus draws His authority from the Word of God. Proverbs 22:15 tells us plainly the importance of physical discipline for our children. It reads: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; But the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

Discipline is the duty of the parent

Deuteronomy 8:5 reads: “Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.” It does not read ‘as some men chasteneth their sons’. It’s not some, rather it is a given that all men chasten their sons because they love them. This is what parents do. If a parent does not do it they are not a parent.

Hebrews 12:7-8 reads: “I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:” God makes a promise to David and shows us what a good father will do.

Proverbs 13:24 reads: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: But he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Discipline is what a loving parent does.

Discipline is hard on the parent

Proverbs 19:18 reads: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, And let not thy soul spare for his crying.” In my estimation this is a warning to parents. Your very soul will be moved to spare your child of discipline, but you need overcome it for your child’s sake. Push through the short term pain and trust in God that disciplining this young precious child of yours is critical and it is worth it in the end. Hebrews 12:11 gives us understanding of how it will work out in the end. It reads: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”  A child knows their is love in discipline.  Some of the most precious times with a child are in the peace and restoration of relationship that occurs after discipline as been administered.


-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

-A study in discipline

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.