A consequence is “a result or effect of an action or condition.” Discipline is “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” Both are useful and necessary in shaping all of us. As parents, we have opportunities to utilize both consequences and discipline in raising well-adjusted obedient children.
Consequences may be natural or imposed. If we write a bad check, the natural consequence is that it will bounce. The bank additionally imposes a fine as a means of discipline so as to deter us from doing it again. Imposed consequences are most effective when explained in advance and then carried out. Empty threats cost parents their dignity and respect. Discipline can be added to natural consequences for training emphasis and may be required when behavior is defiant, rebellious, or dangerous.
Wisdom and discernment are both required to be able to respond to our children’s choices and decisions in a way that teaches them to choose better next time. The progression of raising children is that life teaches them to choose better and better as they learn more and more.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)
We don’t have to look far to see the results of an untrained child and the misery they bring to themselves and those around them. To benefit to the fullest extent in life, our children need favor and help from others. The untrained child’s behavior deflects both.
“Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul. Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.”Proverbs 29:17-18 (NKJV)
Revelation refers to what is learned when consequences and discipline teach our children restraint. John Phillips writes, “Our children become either a source of constant anxiety or a source of rest and contentment.”
Wise parents know their children should not get away with disobedience. A natural consequence is a powerful tool; i.e., if your child refuses to wear their coat outside when it is cold, the natural consequence is they will be cold. Being cold and uncomfortable ultimately teaches them to heed your advice the next time to wear their coat. The parent who runs behind their child with coat in hand mistakenly takes ownership of the problem caused by the child’s decision and the child does not learn responsibility; i.e., my being cold is my parent’s problem.
Let natural consequences teach when they can. Proverbs 29:15 (NLT): “To discipline a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child.” There come times when a parent will need to take a stronger position to deter behavior, such as disrespect, rebellion, and danger. Make sure that the discipline fits the child and the offense. The highest form of love is costly and is not always the easiest choice.