“If you wouldn’t punish me, I wouldn’t be in trouble.”
This brilliant example of logic came from my lips when I was very young—maybe around four or five years old. The idea is basically true: if my parents did not administer punishments to me, I would not find myself in trouble.
In other words, if they were just more permissive, I wouldn’t be in trouble. My rebellion was not my fault, but it was theirs.
Perhaps you can imagine my shock when I heard my own children using these words to my wife (Patty) and me. It’s not like I told them. Children don’t need to be taught to be rebellious.
What amazes me, however, is not how my children also possess my brilliant logic (yes, that’s sarcastic!), but how many adults actually believe this same logic.
There are adults who use this same kind of logic I did at four or five. How many times have we heard that others are the cause for their lawlessness? How many times have we heard “society” blamed for someone breaking the law.
It’s the same logic: “if you changed the definition of illegal, I wouldn’t be breaking the law.” In other words, “if you wouldn’t punish me, I wouldn’t be in trouble.” The blame is on the law or the rule and not on rebellious attitude of the individual.
Not surprisingly, this isn’t new. Proverbs 19:18 teaches us:
Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.Proverbs 19:18
New International Version
Of course, we have seen rebellious people come from good homes with Christian parents, and this Proverb gives the indication that is a possibility. Yet, there is also the stronger probability of a good outcome when we discipline our children.
The Hebrew word in Proverbs 19:18 translated “discipline” has a double meaning. One of those meanings is “instruction.” We teach our children. We guide them towards righteousness. We point them towards Jesus in all we do. We model a life of worship of the Lord in the full view of our children.
The other meaning is the one we’re probably more familiar with: “correction.” We must avoid the overly-permissive approach of “lawn mower parenting.” A “lawn mower parent” is a parent who mows over all the obstacles in front of their children so they do not experience the natural consequences of life. More formally, we call it “enabling.” Scripture wants us that is setting up our children for excruciating pain later in life.
Disciplining our children is not unloving (as I accused my parents when I was so young). Guiding them and correcting them is actually the most loving thing we can do. Disciplining them drives rebellion from their hearts. Disciplining our children helps them cope with the realities of life.
Does a rule need to change simply because our children do not like it? Of course not.
Does a law need to change simply because a criminal does not like it? Of course not.
We can change the course of a culture if we raise the next generation with the hope of them enjoying their life in freedom and respect.
Parents, the outcome largely depends on us.