13: Will Discipline Cause Rebellion?

Some parents shy away from disciplining their children, because they are afraid their kids will rebel against the discipline. This is especially true of parents of children who are more prone to push the limits and challenge authority.

I’d be careful not to shy away from disciplining a child because you are not sure how he will respond. Obediently follow God in how God has led you to discipline, and then trust Him with the outcome. Most people who believe in spanking seem to recommend it for blatant disobedience. If you do not discipline for blatant disobedience, rebellion is sure to flourish. If you inconsistently discipline for disobedience, rebellion is sure to flourish. If you consistently discipline for disobedience, your child will learn that disobedience does not pay, and instead brings unpleasant circumstances. If you are consistent, firm, and loving, this type of discipline will greatly reduce rebellious behavior.

If a parent is not in the habit of setting standards and disciplining his child when those standards are broken, then sure, I’d expect a major flare-up of rebellion. When a cowboy tries to break a wild horse, my movie watching experience tells me that that horse is not going to like it. The horse is going to go absolutely berserk for a time, until it realizes that it is not going to win. Then it eventually calms down and behaves. I’d expect the same thing from a child who is being trained for the first time, or trained consistently for the first time.

Don’t waiver on this. If your child wants to challenge your authority, rise to the challenge. It’s time to go to battle. That is the loving and right thing to do. God has put you in charge, and expects that you can and will win. Don’t fear that engaging your child’s rebellion will somehow make him worse. I’d be much more afraid that your child’s rebellion will destroy him unless it is confronted, and I’d be quick to confront it and deal with it.

Dr. James Dobson put it this way in his book The New Strong Willed Child, “In a moment of rebellion, a little child will consider his parents’ wishes and defiantly choose to disobey. Like a military general before a battle, he will calculate the potential risk, marshal his forces, and attack the enemy with guns blazing. When that nose-to-nose confrontation occurs between generations, it is extremely important for the adult to display confidence and decisiveness. The child has made it clear that he’s looking for a fight, and his parents would be wise not to disappoint him! Nothing is more destructive to parental leadership than for a mother or father to equivocate [or waffle] during that struggle.”

Don’t get me wrong, our family has a very loving atmosphere. We hangout, hug, tease, and horseplay all the time. However, as parents, we also establish our God-given authority when they are young and we don’t let up much as they get older. I’ll look my 11-year-old in the eye and say, “Do you want to go to battle? If you want to go to battle I’m up for that, and I’ll win, but it’d be much better for you to just yield, here and now.” Sometimes he yields, and sometimes we go to battle, but in the end, the rebellion is put down, our child’s heart is restored, and peace is brought back into the home.

Have faith that as you follow God you’ll find the same blessing, and squelch those fears that somehow you’re going to mess up your kid. If you follow God’s leading, you will certainly not be worse off for it!

Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. NIV


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