"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." ~ Hebrews 12:11, ESV
This verse popped into my head as I was talking to my beautiful sister on the phone a bit ago and we were discussing how obvious it is that man is depraved from birth. For instance, consider a new born infant. What is the first thing that baby does after it's gone through the birthing process and been poked and prodded, swatted and swaddled, and lets us know its displeasure? I mean after you get the baby home and the loving and doting attention it receives begins? The baby screams at you, makes its demands because its inherent inclination is to let you know it's hungry or needs cuddled; complains about its discomfort over a dirty diaper; throws a hissy fit when a toy is taken away, and I'm sure we can think of many more examples. And as the child grows, he or she begins to figure out that pouting, crying, or a temper tantrum will oftentimes get them what they want, especially in today's culture where parents are forbidden to immediately address such behavior, or have fallen for the ill advice received from "experts" who probably never raised children, or even from well-meaning parents.
So, when do we begin the godly discipline process to insure that our children become responsible, honest and, more importantly, respectful adults? Some of you may disagree, but it should start from the beginning. This is not to say that the discipline you mete out isn't different for an infant, a toddler, or a juvenile. The method varies in degree by age and maturity in understanding their offense and how well they are able to grasp the instruction and discipline we give them. It begins with words, then redirection and, if necessary, a good old-fashioned swat on the backside followed up by a heartfelt explanation why it was necessary.
You see, we don't give babies or toddlers enough credit for being as smart, manipulating, and conniving as they can be. Through careful study, it's determined a child develops their personality by the time they are 3 years old. That's one year after the dreaded "terrible 2's" so many parents suffer through. We all remember that stage of our child's life. We are only given a very narrow window of opportunity to set the stage and it's critical that we pay very close attention to them during that time and gently correct them when necessary. If we fail to do that, instead of the "trusting 3's" and "pleasing 4's," the "terrible 2's" are apt to become the disappointing 3's, the shocking 8's, or the horrific teens.
In other words, it's what we put into our children that spills out of them as they grow. If you teach your children they are the center of the universe, if you allow them to manipulate you, control you, and answer to all of their demands, they will continue that pattern throughout the rest of their lives and yours, and they will more than likely recreate the same attitude with their own children because that’s what they were taught. Once this behavior is established, there will be no turning back and undoing the grave errors parents made when they had the opportunity to make the right choices and choose the proper discipline.
Why did I add the above verse to this post? Most Christians would apply it to the discipline God finds necessary to dole out upon adult Christians who are straying from the truth, not heeding His Word, or discipline being used to draw them back into the fold. But it can also be applied to our children. If we faithfully train our children with the instruction God has given us, then the harvest we see when they are finally grown will be fruitful, righteous, and pleasing to the LORD, and to ourselves and everyone the child comes in contact with, whether it's with family, at school, in play, or at work. And society will be much better for it.
But if we fail to raise them as they should be, if we fail to teach them proper godly behavior and refuse to discipline them when they demonstrate the depravity they were born with, we not only have failed them, we have failed ourselves by creating the proverbial monster our society is being plagued with.
I’ll end with one of the most important proverbs relating to raising a child in the Word of God, Proverb 22:6, and I hope all young parents will take it to heart. I’ll be praying and trusting in God to make it so.
"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."