Monday, May 11, 2020

Discipline Helps Children Feel Loved

We were watching Little House on the Prairie last night with the kids, and it was in the last season where the Olesons have a little girl named Nancy. Nancy is a spoiled little brat who throws a fit whenever she doesn't get her way. She wants attention all the time, and she gets it. But she's always saying how everyone hates her, even her parents, if they deny her the slightest thing she wants. She eventually runs away when her older sister, Nellie, comes back to town and takes up all the attention for awhile. She really believes no one loves her despite all the attention and gifts showered on her on a regular basis.

It occurred to me that this is very accurate. Nancy was suffering a huge lack of discipline. She wasn't being trained to behave herself and think of others. She was allowed to do whatever she wanted all the time, without consequence. This made her feel very unloved. 

It might seem counter-intuitive to a lot of parents today, but children who are spoiled do not feel loved and are not happy. Some parents try to make their children feel happy by showering them with gifts and letting them do whatever they want, but this does not work. Oh, they will feel happy momentarily when they get presents or get away with bad behavior, but they become more and more unhappy over time. 

Now, does a child know they need discipline? Of course not. They're children. They're immature. They don't like discipline as it is very unpleasant at the time. But God has designed children to feel safe and happy and loved when they are disciplined. They won't feel love if they don't get discipline. They need to know there are limits on their behavior. They need to be taught. If they don't get discipline, they can't feel love properly. And the reason they won't feel loved is because they aren't being loved properly. Parents who love their children discipline them. The Bible even tells us that.

Proverbs 13:24 He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. 

Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord Or loathe His reproof, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. 

Love doesn't just mean having happy thoughts about someone. It means doing what is truly good for them. It is good and necessary for children to be disciplined. They have to be taught to behave. They need consequences when they do wrong. They have to be taught that their own desires are not the standard and how to deny themselves for the sake of others. This will make them happy. Indulgence will not.

If you love your children, you will discipline them. It's not the easy road, but it is far better for everyone in the long run when children are trained to act properly and think of people besides themselves. Children also need training in how to control their emotions. A child who is constantly at the mercy of their emotions is an unhappy child. Parents have to give their children the tools of self-control and a moral compass by disciplining them. This is what love does. It provides for the spiritual and mental needs of the child. They can't feel your love if you don't.


  1. I have a need for practical advice on teaching children to control their emotions. Probably all my children have a degree of need in this area, though in my thinking, both my husband and myself are more practical than emotional people.

    Probably the most glaring example is my 6 year old son (second child of five) who bursts into tears or outright screaming over every stubbed toe, disappointment, or injustice from a sibling. It is his immediate response to anything he doesn’t like. We never put up with throwing yourself on the floor and screaming, though they all tried it once around age two. But this seems like the slightly older version of the same thing, and somehow we’ve “put up with it” long enough to grow something pretty ugly. Any advice in helping him break this habit?

    1. Require him to control his emotions before you deal with the problem he is fussing about. Command him to stop crying or screaming in a stern tone of voice, but very calmly. You have model calmness yourself for this to work. If he doesn't show signs of controlling himself within a reasonable time frame, apply consequences (e.g. spank him). Repeat the command, give him time to comply, and repeat the punishment if he doesn't attempt to control himself. It may take some time to develop self-control in this area, so you don't have to look for perfection. What you're looking for is evidence that he's trying to obey. Once you see evidence of trying to control himself, you can soothe him and move on like nothing happened. But what you're doing is showing him that you expect him to be able to control himself. Be consistent with this, and he should improve.