Why Refusing to Punish Children is Actually Ungodly

Punishment. 

Ew.  

Who likes that word? 

Nobody, that’s who. Not even me, and I’m writing this post about it.  

Nobody likes punishment because we’ve all been there, and we don’t like it. There’s a mixture of anger, indignance, and probably a little bit of guilt.  

Nobody likes punishment. Consequently, we’ve decided that it’s something children should not have to experience.  

We’ve devised terms like “discipline” and “consequences” to take the place of punishment. And we treat them differently, don’t we? I see posts and infographics every time I get on Pinterest talking about how important it is to differentiate between discipline and punishment.  

Punishment is bad. We shouldn’t punish children because it’s cruel and unfair and unhelpful.  

Discipline is …sometimes… better. It’s more meaningful and less harsh.  

 
[related reading Who’s in Charge? Putting Authority Back into the Hands of Parents]

 

I’m a Christian. Not just an occasional one. I take my faith seriously, and I take the Bible seriously.  

As such, I am obligated to look to God as the ultimate example in parenting. He is our Father in heaven, right?  

And here is my issue:

What current trends say about punishment and what the Bible says about punishment don’t match up.   

See, we like to focus on God’s love, mercy, and kindness. We sing Jesus Loves You and Jesus Loves the Little Children. We read feel-good Bible stories to our little ones before they go to bed.  

And those are all great things to do! I am all for letting kids know from an early age that God loves them and wants what is best for them. That’s absolutely true.  

But should we stop there? Do we only show them only one side of the coin?  

We like to hide God’s “bad” side, right? We don’t want to tell children that sometimes, God gets angry. That sometimes God gets violent. That sometimes God has to punish those precious and beloved children of his because they are being naughty.  

But the truth is, good and bad aren’t determined by our perceptions. Good is what God is. Bad is what God is not. He determines right and wrong. Not us.  

He set the world up on a reward (heaven) and punishment (hell) system.

Humans have adapted that system as well. Think about it. 

If you steal something, you go to jail. Is that natural consequences? No. It’s human-made consequences. But it still helps keep law and order in the community. 

If you speed, you pay a fine. Is there a correlation? No. But it’s a deterrent to help keep our roads safe. 

We set up our society in a smaller, less perfect imitation of the way God set up the world. Because he knows human nature. He created us, after all.  

 

Deciding that punishment is bad goes against the most perfect example we have of parenting.  

You can argue and say that natural consequences are better. I’m not going to fight you on that. Natural consequences are certainly a necessary part of learning and maturing.  

But not every negative action has a perceivable consequence. At least not immediately.  

Your child might get away with having bad manners for years before he realizes that his friends don’t want to be around him because he’s rude.  

Your child might get away with the first few lies he tells, but eventually that habit is going to get him caught.  

Your child might get away with letting mom do all the work for him, but one day he’ll realize he’s an adult who doesn’t know how to wash his own laundry or cook his own meals.  

Refusing to punish is not kind. It’s selfish. It removes the obligation of negative duty from you while depriving your child of necessary correction that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.  

 

Good parents don’t enjoy punishing their children any more than our good God enjoys punishing us.  

But refusing to punish children goes directly against the best parenting advice manual we have ever been given.  

 

Trendy parenting dictates that punishment is a bad thing. But should you refuse to punish your children based on popular opinion? What does the Bible say? | Mom but not a Mom

 

What do you believe about children and punishment? 

10 thoughts on “Why Refusing to Punish Children is Actually Ungodly

  1. I totally agree with you and I can think of a few people that need to read this! My parents punished me and I’m thankful to them for it because it helped me grow into a responsible, smart, caring person. I feel like you’re actually doing harm to your child when you don’t punish them for misbehaving.

    1. Yep. Doing what’s right for your kids isn’t always easy, but definitely worth it.

      Thanks for reading, Tami. 🙂

  2. It’s definitely hard to know what levels of punishments and grace should be administered. I think the hardest part of parenting is choosing the right battles and finding meaningful consequences. Guiding kids under the age of 6 is really hard because they make both mistakes and sinful choices. Identifying the differences between mistakes and sinful or foolish choices is hard, and then knowing how to administer the appropriate punishments can be hard too.

    You’re right in this article – the strategy of punishment is important, but the difficult part comes in tactical application.

    1. Wise words, Rob. We definitely want kids to understand the meaning of grace, and the best way to do this is to model it for them. At the same time, we don’t want to be inconsistent in discipline.

      It’s a tough decision, and I think every parent handles it a little bit differently.

  3. I have to agree that not punishing children would have to be looked at as selfish, because the reasonings would pretty much tie back to making yourself feel better. And also the reason you stated about long terms effects. When there is not chastisement in the home, in any form, it can lead to embarrassing outcomes in public, later on.

    1. Yep, always gotta look at the big picture. Things that seem small and silly today can blow up in your face ten years down the road.

  4. Hi Dawn, what do you think about God disciplining his children as in Hebrews? I see it that Christ took the punishment for sin at the cross, so the Father isn’t punishing his children – he’s disciplining them to shape to be more like Christ.

    1. I don’t believe that punishment and discipline can be separated. Punishment is part of discipline.

      I also don’t believe that God stopped punishing his children after Christ died. Take Ananias and Saphira for example (Acts 5). They committed wrong in the eyes of God and they were punished for it.
      Whether or not they were saved eternally is a question I’m not able to answer.

      To answer your question, I believe that God continues to discipline and punish us, his grafted in children (I’m not Jewish) just as he punished and disciplined the Israelites. For their good.

  5. I appreciate and agree with your perspective. You are absolutely right. I have seen, as a pastor, that many young people are growing up with an entitled attitude because parents have not taken their role of parenting and punishing seriously.

    1. Yes, it’s not popular nowadays to punish children. But it’s still part of the job.

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