…but first, HOW HE DOESN’T.
HE DOESN’T YELL.
Parents often use volume. That is abuse, an attempt to control with intensity rather than with words. Imagine if God raised His voice. We only need sound if we lack character. My parents never raised their voice with me.
HE DOESN’T GIVE US A TIME-OUT.
Short time-outs can be helpful to let a child cool down and get a grip. It might serve as a chance for a child to think through his or her behavior and make some changes. A time-out is not discipline. A discipline is meant to hurt, and time-outs can be instructive, but they are not a typical disciplinary action. God draws near to us in discipline. He has never used anger to discipline, though He does get angry. But it doesn’t modify His style. Careful–when you go from a two to a seven in three seconds, YOU NEED THE TIMEOUT.
HE DOESN’T OVER-DISCIPLINE.
The correction fits the crime. The father who beat his boy for forgetting to feed the dog was not acting appropriately, making his son bitter, not better. A correction should endear a child to the parent, not distance him. My girls intuitively hugged me after discipline. The way discipline is carried out will decide whether the child is drawn to the parent or chooses later in life to check out. Some do, and the parent asks: “I always loved him–why this?”
HE DOESN’T WITHDRAW LOVE. Improper expressions of anger or chastisement are an illegitimate trading of love for punishment. Proper discipline is corrective, not punitive. It is a gift meant to stick in our minds, not to terrorize us but to instruct us. If we saw anger on the face of a parent, we probably didn’t get the lesson we were supposed to.
HE DOESN’T SURPRISE US
When Jonah found himself inside a fish, he didn’t say, “What’s this about?” He humbled himself and cried out for deliverance.
HOW HE DOES
HE HURTS US.
Discipline is like touching a hot stove: “Not going to do that again.” Pain hurts, making it a great teacher if administered properly. Vengeful discipline (“he’s getting to me”) is damaging. Calm down and remember you are the parent, not the police.
HE DISCIPLINES GENTLY.
Was being swallowed by a big fish gentle? I wouldn’t say so, but read Jonah’s prayer. It gave him courage to preach at risk of life. Discipline and punishment are not the same thing. One is judicial; the other is educational. It is a teaching tool, so it is done carefully, deliberately. If we are not in control, we are not disciplining.
HE SOMETIMES TAKES A STEP BACK.
In doing so, He lets cause and effect work us over. The father of the prodigal gave him his share of the inheritance. I wouldn’t have given the jerk any money. As a young adult I remember contemplating an action that would have been foolish and damaging. I sensed God taking a step back and saying, “Go ahead.” I trembled as I thought how easy it would be to leave the Father’s house for pleasure. The prodigal finally “came to himself.” The most powerful Person in the world is the least controlling–and the most convincing in His love!
HE THINKS LONG-TERM.
Discipline builds character. Some kids need more than others. A parent is doing it FOR the child, not TO the child. Discipline is one important aspect of that long-term teaching-training process. “Foolishness is wrapped up in the heart of a child.” Fifteen years of loving discipline turns foolishness to faithfulness. It’s all about love!