Mother's column – Discipline, how I struggle with one of the hardest aspects of parenthood


Christian Life

Chiara Lamberti, CNE.news

A girl standing in the hallway. Photo ANP, Roos Koole

One of the hardest things to do as a mother is to discipline children. And I am sure this is a feeling shared by many parents. How do you deal with disobedient children in a Christian way?

You only have to spend a few minutes with a child to realise that just after a few minutes of playtime, tantrums, sibling fights, or some form of defiance of the rules of the house begin. That's just the way it is. It happens to all children, and parental intervention is always necessary.

But the moment I have to intervene as a mother, doubts and fears of not exercising Biblical discipline rise up.

In some of the books and articles I have read in preparation of my motherhood experience, I encountered the relatively new philosophy of "gentle parenting" many times. I have learned much from it and found insights that are close to Biblical truths. Yet, many doubts remain.


Treating children with empathy, love, care, and concern for their emotions is the basis of Gentle Parenting. Punitive strategies are eliminated in favour of dialogue and discovery of children's needs. Children's emotions are held in the highest regard, and their decision-making abilities are given great credence.

This philosophy is in contrast to the old way of disciplining, where children absolutely did not have a say. Their needs were not considered, and parents had total control and power over the child's life. This way of seeing children often came with abuse. Therefore, it is good that interest in children's rights and needs has grown so much.

However, I still have doubts and concerns about this new parenting philosophy when it comes to understanding the root of children's behaviour. For most proponents of gentle parenting, children's tantrums or inappropriate behaviour all come from deeper needs that need to be welcomed, understood, and supported.

The underlying assumption is that children are innocent, and unable to control their emotions. They would only act genuinely without malice. Thus, when my child grabs a toy from his friend, it is not out of selfishness, but to satisfy his need to express himself by playing with that toy at that moment.


While this view helps parents take a more responsible, caring role toward children's emotions, it is based on Biblically unsound assumptions. It eliminates the reality of sin, which also involves the hearts of children, and leads to holding them fundamentally not morally responsible for their actions.

This is not how the Bible speaks of the hearts of children or of the disciplining responsibilities of parents. Rather, discipline should be an act of love toward children and toward God, a way to turn their hearts toward Him and to show children the reality of sin and the grace of forgiveness.

It would be nice if I could really carry out discipline like this. Unfortunately, I cannot, and sometimes I forget my real purpose in educating and disciplining my children. Yet, training my kids in His ways is the first responsibility the Lord entrusts to me as a mother. So as my children grow, I grow as a mother in learning how to use and administer good biblical discipline.



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