Raising and training children is one of the most important jobs on the face of the earth today. My wife and I had three awesome kids who somehow made it through preschool years, primary school, high school, college and then marriage. The test of parenting was always more about the parents than it ever was the children. We discovered that it was the grace of God that allowed us to make many mistakes and yet have whole and healthy adult children. Life was far from perfect in those days and our finances never seemed to go far enough, but that never stopped us from laughing around the table at mealtime, playing football in the front yard or going on low-budget vacations.
Honestly, the most difficult times were when I had to enforce a boundary for my children as their father. Providing the appropriate discipline in the appropriate manner was often a challenge. You see, children have this ability to bring the worst out of you as the parent. At my worst, I might have over-corrected or when angry dished out punishment rather than correction. Is there a difference? Yes, there is. (And by the way, seeing your “worst” is not such a bad thing.)
Punishment has to do with me preserving my right to be angry with my child and keeping my posture as the one in charge. It says that my child must pay for what he or she did wrong. Punishment is often done out of anger lacking any training toward change, just simply a more powerful parent enforcing his or her will upon the weaker child. Punishment is more about inflicting shame and pain for wrongdoing. Correction, however, is not just about reward and punishment, it is more about challenging actions and shaping a will in a life-giving method. It is training out of a spirit of love. It is more about guiding and forming the spirit of the child rather than reinforcing the will of the parent. It is less about anger and more about what’s best for the child. Correction takes time to administer because it includes instruction toward a different and healthier future. Punishment on the other hand is normally abrupt, more about reaction and often with little thought. Proverbs admonishes us to “train” a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6). That word train in the Hebrew is used in the imperative sense and literally means to dedicate. Are you as a parent dedicated to training your children through correction toward growth or simply punishing them for your own personal comfort?