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Ways Christian Parents Can Discipline Their Children

There is some surprisingly helpful parenting advice in the book of Leviticus. Here we take a look at a biblical model for discipline based on God’s relationship with the nation of Israel.

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Leviticus seems to gets a bad rap. If you are reading through the Bible and come to this book you may approach it with dread, boredom or both. But the word of God is complete and all of it is there for a reason. He must want us to learn something from it. If we look closely, we will find that tucked within the pages of Leviticus is a pretty comprehensive model for how Christian parents can discipline their children.

Take a moment to read Leviticus 26.

The points below are based on a helpful model for raising children based on how God raised His children – the nation of Israel.

Identify the BIG rules

(Leviticus 26:1-2) Right off the bat, God identifies the keystones for following Him: no worshipping of idols and show your commitment to putting Him first by observing the Sabbath.

Our children should know clearly what we value most and how those values inform the rules in our house. To see how you are doing, ask your kids, “What are the most important rules in our family?” You may be surprised at what the kids say because what you believe is most important and what you communicate (through words and actions) as most important might be quite different.

Identify the heart attitude and behaviors you want to see

(Leviticus 26: 3) God told His children what He wanted to see: people following his decrees and carefully obeying his commands.

Our kids may know what we don’t want them to do, but it is equally important for them to know what we want them to do. Just like a doctor gives you a prescription for medication when you are ill, Christian parents can give their children daily “prescriptions” for godly character and a soft heart. The best way to do this is to point out what you want to see more of when it happens. For example, “Hey – you set the table without being asked. I am sure there are other things you’d rather do. Thanks for putting others first.”

Talk about the blessings that come from obedience

(Leviticus 26:4-13) God was very specific in what would happen if His children obeyed.

How well are we communicating the blessings that come from obedience? We addressed that very issue here. The blessings we need to communicate to our children have nothing to do with treats and TV time, but include things such as a sense of belonging, joy and connection.

One way we can foster this focus is by simply pointing out what is going well when things are going well. For example, if your family is having an enjoyable dinner, you can say, “There is such a positive feeling in the air when we are all getting along.”

Identify the consequences of a hard heart

(Leviticus 26:14-39) God was very clear what would happen if His people disobeyed. So clear, in fact, that they could never go back to Him and say, “You never told me that!” He laid it all out before them and gave them a choice: “Choose my way or your way. My way ends well for you – your way will end in disaster.”

This is where some if . . . then statements come in handy. “If your laundry is on the floor instead of the hamper, then it won’t get clean.” “If you leave your bike in the rain then it will rust.” These are not threats. There is a difference between threats and warnings. You are simply stating what will logically happen if they continue to do (or not do) something.

Your children need to know what you expect and what will happen. God didn’t twist the Israelites arms to obey. He simply said what would happen if they didn’t and let them choose. We can warn and allow choice as well.

Show them a way out of disobedience

(Leviticus 26:18, 21, 23, 27) Throughout this passage, there are some notable transitional phrases such as “if after all of this” and “if you remain hostile.” The implication here is that God would always provide an off-ramp. Just because they had started on a disobedient path didn’t mean that all was lost. There was always a way out.

Sometimes our children are so discouraged by our discipline that there is no motivation for change. If, in a moment of anger, we shout, “No video games for three months!” we have sought to punish, not correct. We want to discipline to train and equip, not to discourage and deflate. Our children should always have the option to make amends, seek forgiveness and get a fresh start.

Encourage repentance and confession

(Leviticus 26:40) God tells them that all they need to do is confess and turn from their sins and things can go back to the way they were. No matter how far we stray from the Lord, He is right behind us, ready to receive us as soon as we turn from our way and embrace His.

There are three parts to repentance: admitting that you were wrong, turning away from that wrong and seeking forgiveness from anyone you have wronged. Walk your children through this process if they have done something wrong. Better yet, the next time you do something wrong, model it for them.

Offer hope and grace

(Leviticus 26:40-45) Despite the doom and gloom from disobedience, God wants His people to know that there is always hope of restoration.

We can love our children in the midst of disobedience and correction by offering the hope of forgiveness and restoration. We can use every corrective intervention as an opportunity to teach them that their ultimate hope is in Jesus.

Show love and compassion

(Leviticus 26:45) Here God says it is for “their sake” that He will remember the covenant with their ancestors. Not for His sake. Not for the sake of His name. For their sake. Why? Because He loves them. Plain and simple.

Why do we correct and discipline our kids? Because we love them! We discipline our children in love, with love and because of love . . . just like God does with His children.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

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