Children need unconditional love and limitations

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 November 1989, Article 19 states: “States Parties shall take all measures to protect the child against all forms of violence, harm or abuse, physical or mental, abandonment or neglect, ill-treatment or exploitation… ” How does this affect teachers, social workers, educators? One thing is certain: as an educator it is illegal to corporally punish another person’s child; educators of children and young people must respect current professional standards and educate children without corporal punishment.

Many parents practice physical discipline, based on the book of Proverbs 23:13-14:

Do not withhold discipline from a child; though you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol.

These parents, in their love for their children and desire to bring them to the knowledge of God, use discipline, the rod, in order to make them understand the limits or standards they must follow. When a person was asked, “Do you think punishment is important in disciplining a child?” He replied, “I think punishment is very important for the child’s understanding of justice and the fact that he is a sinner.” 

If this understanding is lacking, the child cannot understand the grace of the gospel.

One mother said: “The child or young person must understand the consequences of disobedience, to realize that their actions have consequences and affect those around them. Punishment helps children understand that their behavior is not acceptable. This is how children can understand grace and the need for forgiveness for the things they have done, because they are accepted in love, even if they have made mistakes. Discipline helps them learn the limitations to take into account in their behavior. 

“He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” (Proverbs 13:24 NASB).

We learned from our parents what is good and what is bad; we learned what they taught us, but at the same time we learned from experience. We ourselves became parents and, by educating our children, we saw how God got involved in our lives, teaching us to get involved, in our turn, in the lives of our children.

Thus, we saw, specifically, how from an early age, our children expect us to teach them, but also to discipline them, making any disobedience an opportunity to learn discipline. I administered this discipline either by rebuke or by depriving them of certain favors. Sometimes, we have taken certain steps to make our children understand that we love them and do not want them to continue to disobey or do things that are not pleasing to God. Thus children learn that we love them unconditionally, but also the limitations we set to help them form a character according to God’s will. Discipline should not always be applied using the rod, but it should be done immediately so that they understand what is right and what is wrong. We discipline children out of a desire for them to get better. 

Discipline is not made in anger; its purpose is for them to clearly understand what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do.

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7 NASB).

This text presents God to us as a loving Father who disciplines his children. The purpose of discipline is to draw us to Him and, through the discipline received, to give due honor to our Father. Discipline is the school that produces a behavior according to His will, “the peace-giving fruit of righteousness.”

“Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.” (Revelation 3:19 NASB).

The purpose of discipline in love is to produce regret (repentance) and change; it shows the importance of discipline that brings direction and knowledge of God’s ways and will. Many times our children would tell us that their friends were allowed to do this or that thing. Then we explain to them that we are their parents and we are responsible for raising them in respect and obedience to their parents, so that they learn what is right. In this way you will honor your mother and father and learn to honor God so that you will be happy (Ephesians 6:1-3). When discipline helps children walk in God-given wisdom in obedience, they will understand that discipline is for their own good.

“My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His rebuke, for whom the Lord loves He disciplines, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12 NASB).

I understood that the purpose of discipline is character formation, directing the child to what is good and this is a proof of love for them. We teach children the way to follow until they become mature and come to understand that when we ask them to do something, they must listen. Discipline will protect the child from the dangers of life. If parents do not fulfill their duty to discipline their children at the right time and show them God’s love through discipline, someone else will have to do it. Bible values are useful when communicated through love and discipline. 

Translated by Liza Birladeanu