A Mother's Discipline Should Point Daughters to God's Truths
- Monday, May 22, 2006
That's why J. C. Ryle strongly warned parents:
Beware of that miserable delusion into which some have fallen,—that parents can do nothing for their children, that you must leave them alone, wait for grace, and sit still. These persons . . . desire much, and have nothing. And the devil rejoices to see such reasoning, just as he always does over anything which seems to excuse indolence, or to encourage neglect of means.2
Biblical discipline calls for a proactive approach. We must aggressively and intentionally steer our daughters in the ways of the Lord. This idea is illustrated by a television commercial that exhorts parents to oppose teen drug use with the slogan, "Action: The Anti-Drug." We would do well to apply this phrase to our biblical understanding of discipline: "Action: The Anti-Sin." Of course, action alone won't prevent our daughters from sinning. It takes a work of the Holy Spirit, but action is vitally necessary.
However, if our training is to be effective, unity between father and mother is essential. Now unity doesn't mean the absence of disagreement. Differences of opinion are inevitable between couples. What is essential, however, is that we seek to resolve our differences as quickly as possible and present a united front to our daughters. So if you and your husband are not of one mind on discipline, please seek counsel from your pastor or a trusted Christian friend.
To be active in our discipline, we must be watchful, attentive, discerning mothers. We need to study our daughters carefully, ask them probing questions, and maintain a constant awareness of what is going on in their lives. We must be on top of sinful patterns and tendencies (e.g., laziness, self-righteousness, lust, deceit, vanity, pride, and so on). We need to learn their "hot button" temptations.
We aren't simply collecting data on our daughters to file away. We seek to gain insight into their thoughts, temptations, and feelings so we can be poised to bring timely correction, hold our daughters accountable, and set boundaries to protect them from ungodly influences. From there, we want to help our daughters develop a plan to walk in godliness and make progress in biblical womanhood.
However, if our daughters do not show evidence of steady growth in godliness or are unresponsive to our training—dramatic action may be necessary. If a daughter is veering toward worldliness, we may need to cut off ties with an ungodly friend. If she has been dishonest, then maybe we need to remove cell phone or e-mail privileges. Her sin may require measures as drastic as taking away prized privileges or pulling her out of favorite activities. Proactive discipline may mean that you risk upsetting an otherwise "peaceful" situation in your home. It may initiate a conflict or trial. But there is too much at stake not to take action. We want our daughters to reap the sweet fruit of repentance.
But this dramatic action must be accompanied by explanation. Few things are more frustrating to a young person than the "because I said so" answer. This response is appropriate for the small child who does not yet have the capacity to understand our decisions. However, a teenager capable of rational thinking (most of the time!) will greatly benefit from an explanation. Effective mothering involves teaching our daughters to understand from Scripture why we've made particular decisions.
For this reason, C. J. and I had a long talk with Kristin about school, followed by several more conversations. As I had expected, she wasn't happy about our decision. We listened patiently to all of her objections and appeals and answered all of her questions. But then we carefully and thoroughly explained our reasons for bringing her home—our concern for her soul and our love for her. We told her that we wanted her life to bring glory to God and that sometimes that meant we had to make decisions she did not like. We outlined for Kristin the changes we hoped to see from her in the forthcoming year, and we concluded by reaffirming our love and affection for her. Although Kristin didn't agree with our decision, she was confident that we did it for her good. We didn't lose her heart.
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