Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
I am often moved to share Saint Paul's guidance with parents, such as the mother who recently told me she had implored her husband to stop disciplining the children, not because he was overly physical, mind you - he had never spanked! - but because his manner of discipline "hurt their feelings."
Rather impulsively, I admit, I blurted out, "Well, that's the idea."
She stared at me for a few moments, mouth agape, before saying, "You're teasing me, right?"
"No," I said. "In fact, discipline does not have to hurt a child physically in order to 'leave its mark,' but it must always hurt the child's feelings, otherwise it is worthless."
Before she could respond, and knowing that she was conjuring up an argument, I continued, "I'm not talking about permanent damage, you know. A spanking should hurt, but never cause damage. Likewise, discipline should cause pain to a child's feelings, but not cause damage. Without that pain, a conscience will never form."
Many of today's parents seem to believe it is possible to talk a child into behaving properly. If that was so, then God would have made that attempt when his first children committed the first transgression. He would have calmly reminded Adam and Eve of the rule, explained why the fruit of that particular tree was off limits, restated the consequence, and like any parent who tries this approach, gotten no where. Eventually, after reminding and explaining and reminding and explaining to children who just didn't get it, he would have exploded.
"What do I have to do to convince you dimwits that you mustn't eat from that tree??? I've told you a thousand times, it's POISON!!! DO YOU HEAR ME??? POISON!!! You kids are driving me crazy!!! I don't know how much more of this I can take!!!"
That is, after all, the inevitable consequence of trying to talk children into obeying. They just don't get it. Why? Because by definition, talking is not discipline unless, that is, it is coupled with a painful consequence. Not necessarily painful in the physical sense, but - to paraphrase Paul - not pleasant. That's how God responded to Adam and Eve's disobedience, isn't it? He "hurt" them. Disappointed and angry, but without the slightest loss of control, he said unpleasant things and he assigned a consequence that was decidedly unpleasant, one that you and I are still suffering.
Many parents miss the "moral" of Genesis 3, which Paul reiterates in his letter to the Hebrews: When a child misbehaves, consequences are not only necessary, but to be effective deterrents, they must be memorable, and to be memorable, they must be decidedly unpleasant.
I am reminded of the parents who, when their 5-year-old son rode his new bicycle out of the neighborhood, ending up a mile distant from their home, they responded by taking his bicycle away from him for the rest of that day. Several days later, he ate the fruit of knowledge of the neighborhood again. It was not until they took his bicycle away for a month that he stopped wanting to taste that particular fruit. If they'd done that in the first place, they would have saved themselves lots of emotional wear and tear. Furthermore, the "pain" of their message would have saved their son the trouble of having to test their rule over and over again until he discovered they were indeed serious.
It is a kindness to children for parents to be serious about their discipline. No doubt about it, serious discipline is not pleasant. But, as Paul assures us, it eventually yields a wonderfully peaceful and righteous harvest - the everlasting "fruit" of a Kingdom Life.